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Post in Skincare Aware

Upgrading retinol

I'm 24 with combination skin and have been using The INKEY List Retinol Anti-Aging Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL for about two months now to help with some mild hyperpigmentation from acne. I have already noticed a lot of improvement in my skin, and would like to gradually increase the strength of the retinol.  I haven't experienced any irritation or dryness at all, so I feel my skins ready to try a new retinol product! Any recommendations? 


Re: Upgrading retinol

I don’t know if it’s on here but I would try the Stacked Skincare EGF serum, it’s incredible. Love the Drunk Elephant retinol too!

Re: Upgrading retinol

@carlyw13 My guess is that The INKEY List Retinol Anti-Aging Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL is on the low end of retinol concentration.  The Drunk Elephant A-Passioni™ Retinol Cream is 1% retinol which is on the high end.  I found it to be esp drying.  You may wish to start with First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate 1 oz/ 30 mL or Obagi Clinical Retinol 0.5 Retexturizing Cream .  I use them both.  If you are committed to 1%, I like Paula's Choice - it was way more gentle for me than the DE.  Good luck!  🙂

Re: Upgrading retinol

@greeneyedgirl107 @carlyw13  Having used both First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate 1 oz/ 30 mL and The INKEY List Retinol Anti-Aging Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL on my mostly-dry combo skin, I can say The Inkey List Retinol is stronger than the FAB retinol serum. In fact, I moved up to The inkey List from the FAB serum. 


TIL contains 1% RediStar retinol (a stabilized combo of retinol, a vitamin C derivative, vitamin E, and castor oil) plus 0.5% HPR (granactive retinoid). Theoretically, HPR binds directly to retinoic acid receptors in our skin cells, thus it requires no conversion to retinoic acid—unlike retinol which requires 2 conversions before our skin can use it. HPR is also claimed to be gentler than retinoic acid. There aren't yet enough clinical studies on HPR to back the theory behind it, so using it is kinda like beta testing it. 😂 But I had very good results with TIL Retinol for the 1.3 years I used it, especially once I reached nightly use tolerance. 


If you want to stick with retinol + HPR: I moved from TIL Retinol to SOBEL SKIN Rx 4.5% Retinol Complex Night Treatment 1.7 oz/ 50 mL . The 4.5% sounds super scary, but it's not really 4.5% pure retinol. It's a blend of retinol and HPR, and the retinol is encapsulated for gradual time release. This stuff is pricy, but it increased the speed of my skin tone balancing in a noticeable way without drying out my skin. I used it for 5 months or so and still have a bit left in the bottle. Overall, I liked it a lot. If you try it, I recommend starting off with just a couple nights a week at first, even if you're already at nightly use with TIL Retinol—unless you're positive your skin can handle more frequent use of a stronger retinol product right off the bat. 


A retinol-only option: For a couple weeks (before I switched to the Sobel Skin serum), I tried a mini of Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform® 0.3 oz/ 10 mL . That's a 2.2% encapsulated retinol serum (no HPR). It also contains 2% lactic acid which is fairly gentle strength for an AHA exfoliant, but I don't like using AHAs more than 2 times a week. That's why I stopped using this Shani Darden serum: I'd rather control how often I use AHAs than have to use one each night I apply retinol. Also, at 2.2% retinol, this is not a low-strength serum: if you try it, slowly build your way up to frequent usage. This stuff can do some serious damage if you rush frequency. 


If you're open to other members of the retinoid family: I'm now using Avene RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream. The retinoid in this product is retinaldehyde, which requires just one conversion to retinoic acid. Studies show it works faster than retinol (thanks to needing one less conversion) with possibly less irritation. I've only used it for about a month and my skin's doing well with it so far. It'll be interesting to see how my hyperpigmentation responds to this retinaldehyde serum over more time, compared to the Sobel Skin retinol + HPR serum. 


A non-retinoid option to consider: Since you're targeting PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, aka dark marks/"scars" left by acne), I'll mention azelaic acid as something you can use while also using any retinoid product. Azelaic acid can address PIH and kill acne-causing bacteria, and can be used daily. You could even use it instead of a retinoid, if all you're really trying to do is lift PIH, but I find it pairs well with retinoids. A dermatologist can prescribe a 20% product, but I like The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream 1 oz/ 30 mL a lot. A couple times a week, usually when I have active acne, I use Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster instead because it contains a bit of BHA. 

Re: Upgrading retinol

@WinglessOne Wow!  That's really interesting to know.  THANKS so much for tagging me and for the detailed reply.  🙂  We can always count on you!

Re: Upgrading retinol

@WinglessOne thank you so much for the thorough answer and all the retinol options, that is exactly what I was looking for! I've heard so many people recommend Avene, have you found it to be more irritating or drying since it's a retinaldehyde? I will also definitely give The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream 1 oz/ 30 mL a shot! It seems right up my alley. 😁

Re: Upgrading retinol

@carlyw13  Glad I could help! I hope The Ordinary azelaic acid works for you! I forgot to mention a common side effect: minor itching or stinging. It does make my face a bit itchy for 30-60 minutes after application, though lately that's dropped to 15-30 minutes. You don't have to apply it to your whole face: I usually "area treat" with it, putting it only on the areas where I have PIH. (Example: if I have a dark spot on my left jaw, I apply azelaic acid to my entire left jaw area. You could apply it just on and immediately around the dark spot, though, if you want. I treat a larger area in case there's more bacteria nearby waiting to launch acne into action.) 


So far, my skin's doing well with the Avene retinal. They make it in two strengths: 0.05% and 0.1%. The one I use, 0.1%, contains evening primrose (oenothera biennis) oil which is a good emollient and hydrating non-fragrant plant oil. For me, this product's no more drying than Sobel Skin retinol was. And the only place I've had dry patches with either retinoid product is where I always get dry patches if I don't hydrate and moisturize well enough. I got impatient and boosted frequency of this retinal sooner than I should've, so I'm managing the resulting couple of irritated dry patches with Aquaphor or CeraVe Healing Ointment and I've reduced retinal frequency to every other day. In a couple weeks, I'll increase that to 3 days on, 1 day off, working my way up to daily use. Oh, and I apply it after my moisturizer at night for a bit of irritation buffering (and to make sure my skin's very well hydrated and moisturized beforehand). 


My dermatologist recommended retinaldehyde to me—and specifically, Avene's retinal products—last year, since neither of us were sure my skin would tolerate tretinoin. I think my retinal tolerance was definitely helped by the 2 years I spent on retinol + HPR. Heck, I still use The Inkey List Retinol on my undereyes, being careful not to bring it all the way up to my lower lash line. I think the Avene 0.1% retinal would be too harsh under my eyes, just as the Sobel Skin retinol would've been. Besides, I've got 2 backup tubes of TIL Retinol leftover from my days of daily use, so I might as well use 'em up. 🙂 

Re: Upgrading retinol

If you want a strong strong one, try the one by Drunk Elephant. To use, it says start out once a week and gradually build up the dosage. One that is trusting is the one by The Ordinary. They use a type of retinol that’s more gentle.

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