The Effective Skin Care Ingredient You're Missing

by Elena Hart

If you've been on the hunt for an effective skin care ingredient that helps with a ton of issues all at once, you've probably come across the term "retinol." For many women, understanding what retinol does for your skin is so important because your skin's needs differ every day. According To Dr. Gervaise Gerstner, an NYC-based dermatologist, retinol can change your skin — helping with everything from skin's texture to the size of your pores.

What is it in retinol that has these effects? It's all about the vitamin A, says Gerstner. "It's the active ingredient," she said, "and it's best tolerated when in retinol — as opposed the prescription strength Retin-A." Vitamin A assists in cell regulation, which is important for a healthy cell turnover.

If you're interested in preventing breakouts, Dr. Jennifer Linder, a dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon based in Arizona, says retinol can help with that, too. "It helps to minimize inflammation in the skin, which is one of the four main cases of acne," she said. A creamy retinol moisturizer can come to the rescue by decreasing pore size, eliminating brown spots, and giving your skin a smooth and silky texture. When trying out retinol products for the first time, though, it's important to use smaller amounts to see how your skin reacts. (And always remember to protect your fresh, rejuvenated cells with sunscreen!)

Exfoliating Retinol Complex Enhances Improves Cell Turnover

SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5, $47, Amazon

Recommended by Dr. Gerstner, this retinol exfoliant is her favorite. It stimulates collagen production and helps your skin shed dead, dulled skin cells, in order to enhance skin tone and texture. After using this algae extract-infused formula, you'll be flaunting a glow-y complexion that not only looks bright and refreshed, but is better equipped for defending itself against future damage. One fan of this retinol complex said, "My skin tone is more even, pores are a little less noticeable, and skin looks much smoother."

Gentle Retinol Cream Gives Sensitive Skin A Surge Of Moisture

Retinol Cream Moisturizer, $20, Amazon

According to Dr. Linder, "It is really important to have retinol formulas that are targeted for specific skin concerns." If your skin is sensitive to certain products or ingredients, snag this retinol-infused cream that gives you all the breakout eliminating and skin-smoothing benefits you want, without any unwanted irritation. It combines a serum and a moisturizer to combat pesky zits and dry skin, all in one bottle. Users give this product top ratings across the board, and one raves that she's seeing results in less than four weeks.

All-In-One Vitamin Enriched System Streamlines Routine For The Retinol Newbie

EasyComforts Skincare Cosmetics Retinol Anti Aging System, $40, Amazon

If you're just breaking into the retinol life, you may want to try an all-in-one skin care system that gives you everything you need to see the gorgeous effects that retinol has on your skin. This vitamin-enriched system includes a deep cleansing cream wash that stimulates cell removal, a brightening eye cream, a fine line-reducing face serum, a day cream with SPF, and a multi-action night cream. One user gave this skincare system five stars, saying, "it works better than the expensive creams that I have used at half the price."

Sunscreen Infused Retinol Cream Protects While It Nourishes

Retinol Ultra Skin Care Créme with Sunscreen, $30, Amazon

Everyone gets wrinkles at one point or another — it's totally natural. But if prolonged sun exposure is causing premature skin damage, it's time to reconsider your skin care methods. This protective retinol cream gets you the cell regenerating properties of vitamin A, in addition to a protective vitamin E complex. Plus, the formula is infused with sunscreen, which is always a very important step in your skincare routine, says Dr. Linder. The cream will smooth out your skin texture to keep your complexion looking and feeling great.

Antioxidant Packed Retinol Moisturizer Firms & Brightens Dry Skin

Retinol Moisturizer Cream , $29, Amazon

When it comes to determining how your specific skin type best uses retinol, Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care, says "oily skin can take it in lighter formulations, but dry skin will need to mix retinol with a moisturizer." If you have skin on the drier side, this renewing skin cream could be a great way to work retinol's healing properties into your skin care routine. Its antioxidant formula combined with retinol is able to wipe away the appearance of brown spots, improve your skin's texture, and reduce the size of your pores. Plus, the shea butter continues to nourish skin, so it won't feel irritated and itchy later. Pro Tip: Apply this product morning or night, after you cleanse and exfoliate.

Nighttime Retinol Cream Reduces Acne Spots & Stimulates Cells

SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 Maximum Strength Refining Night Cream, $45, Amazon

Dr. Tanzi recommends SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 as an awesome way to use retinol on a regular basis. Why? The acne spot-reducing cream can be applied before bed, so that while you're sleeping, it helps stimulate cell regeneration and build collagen. Those treatments mean finally waking up to a natural glow, which can save you precious minutes in the morning. One user says a little goes a long way with this product, and that it works almost "too well," suggesting a once- or twice-weekly application for amazing skin-repairing results.

Brighten Dark Spots With Deep-Acting Retinol Treatment

PCA Skin Intensive Brightening Treatment , $49, Amazon

Dr. Linder loves this brightening product because "it contains additional support ingredients to reduce discoloration and increase the skin's overall radiance." The nighttime skin correcting treatment uses a patented special delivery system that gets the retinol deep down into your skin. The results are a lessening of red and yellow skin tones, and its moisturizing formula helps keep your skin from drying out. Plus, one user said, "Great retinol product. I've been using PCA for years with great results."

Intensive Eye Cream With Retinol To Fight Dark Circles

RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream , $17, Amazon

If you have dark circles around your eyes, you're definitely not alone. An intensive and moisturizing eye cream with retinol will brighten up your eyes and make your entire face look like you just woke up from a glorious nap. Plus, it's formulated to be sensitive around the delicate area and promises results in four to 12 weeks. With an exclusive mineral blend, any puffiness or other signs that you haven't been getting enough sleep lately will be gone. Users with sensitive skin say the fragrance-free formula really works for them, and one even said, "So far I have consumed more than six tubes, and I just ordered another 4]four. I also share it with my friends and regardless what skin condition they have; they all have positive comments."

Sun Damage-Erasing Retinol Serum For Balanced Tone

Instanatural Retinol Serum , $18, Amazon

Suffering from the sometimes-harsh consequences of sun damage? This skin rescuing serum will come to your aid with brightening retinol, hydrating argon oil, and powerful antioxidants like vitamin C. One user raves about this product, saying she's seen incredible results after only one month.

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Images: Fotolia (1); Amazon (9)