The vitamin A–based product minimizes wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots by encouraging your skin to replace old cells with new, healthy ones more quickly, says Kautilya Shaurya, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. While this keeps your skin smooth, it can also cause dryness, redness, and irritation in the first few weeks as your skin adjusts to the high turnover rate.
Over-the-counter retinols tend to be less drying than prescription-strength options like Retin-A, Shaurya says. He recommends using an OTC option two to three times per week before asking your doctor about a prescription.
The bottom line:
For maximum hydration, choose a retinol cream over a serum. Look for one with moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and ceramides and always follow it with a lotion (Shaurya recommends this one). If the dryness doesn't let up, use retinol only once per week rather than every other night, the typical recommendation.
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