If you're reading this article, you're likely already familiar with the unparalleled benefits of retinol when it comes to achieving smooth, clear, radiant-looking skin. Since serums are so highly concentrated, they're typically the way to go if you really want to reap the benefits of retinol — but with so many formulas on the market, narrowing down the best retinol serums can be tough. That's why I did the research for you, and compiled a handful of the best over-the-counter formulas, ahead. I even got in touch with two experts — Zain Husain, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist, and Gary Linkov, MD, a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of City Facial Plastics — to find out how to use retinol safely and effectively.
Because retinol can cause irritation at first, start by only using a small amount of serum once a week, says Dr. Linkov. “Less is more with retinol, and one should only need a pea-size amount for the entire face." Wait 30 minutes after cleansing your skin before applying your retinol, Dr. Husain adds, and follow up with a layer of non-comedogenic moisturizer. Retinol serums should only be used at night, because, “retinol becomes inactivated when it interacts with UV light from the sun, decreasing its efficacy. It also makes you more photosensitive and prone to sunburns. This occurs because retinol products exfoliate the skin and reduce the thickness of the stratum corneum of the skin.” Therefore, it’s crucial that you use a broad spectrum sunscreen during the day. Equally important to note is that retinol serums should not be used by people who are pregnant, nursing, or considering pregnancy.