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The Best Retinol Serums According To Skin Experts

Finding the best retinol serums is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Sure, you can read reviews until the cows come home, but actually trialling them for yourself is a whole different story. First off, they’re not exactly the most affordable skincare product around – and secondly? You have to be super careful not to irritate and/or damage your skin when using them.

It seems as the world grows more and more obsessed with remaining ageless, attaining the glowiest of complexions and preventing dullness, retinols become more and more popular for their claim to achieve all of the above. Retinol was actually one of the most searched for skincare ingredients last year. But as we well know everyone’s skin type is different – so just because someone you know raves on about a specific retinol serum, doesn’t mean to say that you will.

The ironic thing about retinol is that, despite the fact that the revolutionary active is everywhere, not many people actually know how to use it or even when to start. Sound familiar? We’ve got all the answers.

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What is retinol? What does retinol serum do?

Retinol, which is often used as a term for topical products containing vitamin A, is a type of retinoid (of which there are several different variations that work at different levels). Confusing stuff. 

Retinoids work by increasing your collagen production as well as the rate of skin cell turnover, thus helping to treat things like acne and clogged pores and speeding up the rate at which your skin regenerates. Retinol is ideal for improving things like texture and minimising fine lines and wrinkles, but – as it’s such a potent ingredient – you’ll need to protect your skin during the day with SPF.

So where does a retinol serum come in? Sadaf Jaffari, a celebrity skin expert and Consultant Aesthetician, describes retinol serums as “a stepping stone to acne scar treatment. A retinol serum will resurface and rejuvenate your skin, as well as reduce fine lines and break down pigmentation.”

When should you use retinol serums?

Well, technically speaking, everyone can use a retinol serum. The thing is, not everyone is able to figure out how to make them work for them. Although 30 has long been the age for introducing retinol into one’s regime, many people are actually starting to use it before then. So if you’re approaching your mid-20s and feel as though you’d benefit from using a retinol serum, go for it.

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Can you use a retinol serum every day?

According to Sadaf, it depends on the individual’s skin quality and the percentage of retinol.

Retinol is an extremely potent ingredient and can be known to cause redness and dryness when used on sensitive areas or in too high of a dose. When using a retinol serum for the first time, always ensure that it’s a low percentage; if you don’t have sensitive skin, around 0.05% is a good place to start (lower if you do) and you can then build up to a higher strength over time. Sadaf says, “retinol should also only be used at night and it is very important for you to use SPF the day after to protect the skin, as retinol makes the skin more sensitive to sun damage.”

Which retinol serum is best?

Dr. Wassim Taktouk, Dermatologist and Medical Director of Taktouk Clinic in Knightsbridge, London, recommends REN’s Bio-Retinoid Youth Serum. “It’s an effective retinol alternative for those who are sensitive, pregnant or planning, or who face frequent sun exposure. It uses a plant chemical called phyntantic acid that behaves like a retinol but isn’t within the vitamin A family.” He says.

For Sadaf Jafari, it’s got to be Obagi Retinol 1.0. “This is a prescription brand but they only offer 1% retinol, so it’s not suitable for first time users unless under the supervision of a qualified skin care professional,” she says. “My second choice would be the SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3 Corrective Treatment, though.”

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For more from GLAMOUR UK’s Associate Commerce Writer Georgia Trodd, follow her on Instagram @georgiatrodd.

To find the best retinol serum that works for you, scroll down. We’ve rounded up 15 formulas of all different price points for you to choose from.

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