There’s a reason retinol is still a star of the skincare world and the go-to recommendation of derms everywhere, even after more than three decades in the mainstream market: It works. “I always say if there are only two things you’re going to use as part of your regimen, it should be sun protection and retinol,” says Peterson Pierre, M.D., a dermatologist in Thousand Oaks, California.
Retinol is the cousin of prescription retinoids, such as tretinoin. Both are retinoids and therefore both a vitamin A derivative. “Tretinoin was first used primarily to treat acne, until we saw that it also improved tone and texture and stimulates collagen, which helps with fine lines and other signs of aging,” he explains. Tretinoin and other prescription retinoids, however, aren’t for everyone; they can make skin extremely dry, red and sensitive, plus they require a derm visit to get an Rx. Retinol became popular and continues to be because it’s an effective alternative.
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