The Best Retinol Products For A Well-Timed Skin Reboot

The long, dark days of winter are officially behind us, but the effects may linger in the form of dull, lackluster skin. Fortunately, the seasonal shift brings a sense of renewal, the welcome shedding of layers—and there’s no reason that should stop with your wardrobe.

“Spring is an ideal time of the year to start incorporating retinol into your routine,” says Onyeka Obioha, M.D., a dermatologist in Los Angeles. She joins a perpetual chorus of experts championing the ingredient as a means to brighter, smoother skin. Plus, she adds, “in warmer months, people are able to better tolerate it.”

For the uninitiated, retinol and other derivatives of vitamin A (together, they fall under the umbrella category of “retinoids”) count among the hardest-working ingredients in the skin-care realm. Vitamin A offers a multitude of benefits for skin: Thanks to its ability to speed cell turnover and spur collagen production, it can help smooth out wrinkles and fine lines, brighten dark spots and discoloration, and even quell breakouts. (The prescription-strength form called tretinoin—known by its brand name, Retin-A—originally launched as an acne medication before people realized its broader utility.) “When it comes to visibly improving the texture and appearance of your skin while preventing signs of aging, retinol is unmatched,” says Austin-based esthetician Renée Rouleau

There is a common downside. Because the ingredient is so powerful, explains Rouleau, “it can also come with unwanted side effects, like dryness, flaking, irritation, and sensitivity, for a lot of people, especially during the first four to six weeks.” (Retinoids are not advised for those who are pregnant or nursing.) Although over-the-counter forms of retinol tend to be milder than the derm-prescribed counterpart, it’s still wise to wade in slowly. Obioha recommends starting with a pea-size amount three nights a week, then gradually increasing from there. Following up with daytime sun protection is of utmost importance, since retinol can increase skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.

Even if you’ve had a touch-and-go experience with retinol in the past, recent formulations designed with tolerance in mind offer an incentive to dip back in. There’s no better time for a fresh start.

Shani Darden Retinol Reform Serum

Created by Los Angeles aesthetician Shani Darden, this cream combines retinol with lactic acid and anti-inflammatory niacinamide. It’s a strategic pairing, with the lactic acid delivering immediate smoothing and hydrating benefits while retinol gets to work from within.

Shop $88

StriVectin Super-C Retinol Brighten & Correct Vitamin C Serum

While vitamin C certainly has a starring role in many retinol products, it doesn’t always match the power of a dedicated vitamin C serum. Not so with this dual-action serum, which offers that dream team at high concentrations to improve skin tone and texture.

Shop $103

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Topical Retinoid Acne Treatment

If you’re experiencing acne lately, you’re not alone. “Warmer temperatures and an increase in humidity can cause buildup on the skin, which clogs pores and can result in breakouts,” says Obioha. This powerful treatment uses adapalene, which is the sole prescription-strength retinoid available without an Rx, to help maintain a clear complexion.

Shop $30

Dermalogica Retinol Acne Clearing Oil

As protective face masks are still de rigueur, so is maskne. Retinol can help. “It can work to increase skin cell turnover and unclog pores,” says Obioha. Salicylic acid in this oil offers acne-fighting benefits on the spot, while the retinol works to prevent future breakouts.

Shop $80

RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules

Concentration isn’t the only thing that matters in a skin-care formula—potency does, too. These sealed, biodegradable capsules keep the combination of retinol and antioxidants fresh and at peak efficacy until it’s applied to the skin.

Shop $25

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream

Why settle for one type of retinol when you can have three? This potent cream consists of a fast-acting retinol, a time-release version, and a retinol booster for peak efficiency. Lest your skin starts to feel dry just reading that, not to worry: Niacinamide gives it proper credibility as a calming night treatment, too.

Shop $82

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Oil

To amp up the power of this night oil, retinol is paired with salicylic acid, which is prized in its own right for its ability to gently lift dead skin cells. In practice, this ultimately clears the way for retinol to better penetrate—in turn yielding results in as little as one week.

Shop $23

IT Cosmetics Hello Results Wrinkle-Reducing Daily Retinol Serum-in-Cream

Retinol is uniquely equipped to handle signs of aging. “Retinoids actually build collagen and thicken the dermis layer of the skin, which makes the skin appear plump and healthy,” says Obioha. This hybrid formula pairs both free and encapsulated retinol molecules—the better to reach multiple layers of skin—with soothing niacinamide.

Shop $69

Clinique Smart Night Clinical MD Retinol Serum

Fine lines and deeper wrinkles can’t be blamed on a single culprit. Conversely, their treatment approach isn’t singular, either. That’s why this serum combines retinol with a collagen-boosting blend of peptides, vitamin C, and botanical extracts, which together work to firm and smooth skin.

Shop $70

VANITYFAIR article

The 13 Best Ceramide-Spiked Skincare Products To Nourish Dry Skin

Dermatologists explain why you should be adding this skin barrier-boosting ingredient to your skincare routine.

As far as skincare ingredients are concerned, ceramides are among the most worthy of opponents when it comes to battling dry skin — which, with winter rearing its head, may be something that you’re all too familiar with. Thankfully, ceramide-based products are not only a favorite among dermatologists, but are widely available at every price point.

“Ceramides are fatty acids in the skin that help to maintain the skin barrier and retain moisture and hydration,” Shereene Idriss, dermatologist of Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, tells Allure. “Extreme cold-weather temperatures, exposure to hot water, and dry heat can all deplete the ceramide stored in your skin,” Idriss explains. “Using products that are fortified with ceramides help to restore your skin’s barrier function and lock in moisture.”

It helps to think of ceramides as the building blocks in your skin; in addition to possessing hydration-boosting properties, they’re especially key for maintaining long-term hydration and strengthening the skin’s surface against environmental stressors. “Ceramides are found in high concentrations within cell membranes,” New York City-based dermatologist Ellen Marmur says. “They hold skin cells together on the top layer of the skin, forming a protective layer that plumps the skin and retains moisture.” With that being said, here are 13 ceramide-infused skincare products — rich moisturizers, whipped body creams, and even a hydrating toner — to treat your skin this season.

Cosrx Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream

A one-two punch of manuka honey and ceramides make Cosrx Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream a game-changer for boosting skin elasticity and protecting against irritation.

$26 (Shop Now)

Ceramedx Ultra Moisturizing Cream

Slather the emollient, rich Ceramedx Ultra Moisturizing Cream all over your body if you deal with chronic dryness. The plant-based ceramides, essential fatty acids, and hyaluronic acid instantly soothe and relieve everything from chapped elbows to cracked heels.

$18 (Shop Now)

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid

A moisturizing toner? It almost sounds too good to be true — but leave it to Dr. Jart to gift us with this lightweight, fast-absorbing fluid that balances skin and leaves your complexion feeling supple and hydrated.

$39 (Shop Now)

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum

Reduce the appearance of fine lines while treating your skin to ultimate moisture, courtesy of Elizabeth Arden’s Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum. Each ampoule features retinol and ceramides as the two hero ingredients.

$84 (Shop Now)

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream

Winter dryness doesn’t stand a chance against the Best of Beauty-winning First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, infused with soothing colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, and ceramide 3.

$30 (Shop Now)

Mario Badescu A.H.A. & Ceramide Moisturizer

“[Ideal] for those with sensitive skin, as well as dry skin, ceramides keep the skin hydrated and supple for the cold winter months,” says Marmur, who recommends Mario Badescu’s A.H.A. & Ceramide Moisturizer to patients. Its nourishing formula won’t leave you feeling greasy and doesn’t clog pores, making it ideal for those prone to breakouts, too.

$20 (Shop Now)

Orveda Eye Unveiler 422

Looking to brighten and revitalize a tired-looking undereye area? Try a ceramide-infused eye cream, like Orveda’s über-luxe Eye Unveiler 422, which contains a potent blend of bio-identical lipids, marine enzymes, and prebiotics to rejuvenate skin.

$234 (Shop Now)

Paula’s Choice Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Firming Moisturizer

Vitamin C, retinol, and ceramides team up to turn up the glow in your complexion, in addition to providing long-lasting hydrating and firming benefits, with the Paula’s Choice Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Firming Moisturizer.

$58 (Shop Now)

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2

SkinCeuticals’ Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 won a coveted Breakthrough Award back in 2016, and it’s easy to see why: The nourishing cream moisturizes, repairs skin, and gives a plumping effect thanks to its formula, which includes 2 percent ceramides, 4 percent cholesterol, and 2 percent fatty acids. (2:4:2.)

$128 (Shop Now)

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

The classic white tub (which took home a 2018 Best of Beauty award) is many a derm’s forever favorite for good reason. When it comes to offering lasting hydration to even the driest of skin, nothing beats the thick, hyaluronic acid-, ceramide-, and glycerin-laced cream.

$17 (Shop Now)

SkinMedica TNS Ceramide Treatment Cream

SkinMedica’s TNS Ceramide Treatment Cream is a go-to for Idriss, thanks to its peptide- and ceramide-rich formula. (Bonus: It’s a great option for treating post-procedure skin, too.)

$69 (Shop Now)

Tonymoly Master Lab Ceramide Sheet Mask

Get a quick hydration fix with Tonymoly’s Master Lab Ceramide Sheet Mask, which will leave your skin looking off-the-charts level of glow-y in 20 minutes flat.

$4 (Shop Now)

MDNA Skin The Finishing Cream

“MDNA Skin’s The Finishing Cream can be used alone or under makeup to nourish, hydrate, and impart a look of flawless illumination,” says New York City dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank. “It moisturizes, firms, and tones skin.”

$250 (Shop Now)

ALLURE article