When it comes to anti-ageing ingredients, retinol for skin runs laps around its competition.
The powerhouse pure derivative of Vitamin A, retinol is a dermatologist favourite worldwide, renowned for its impressive abilities to treat acne, fade dark spots, brighten dull skin and prevent wrinkles with unprecedented efficacy.
To paraphrase Samantha Jones in Sex and the City 2, retinol basically tricks your body into thinking it's younger.
By causing skin cells to turn over and die, retinol for skin is able to boost collagen production, keep pores clear and ensure skin is constantly refreshed and radiant.
But, as with many things that offer the world, with great promise comes great risk. In fact, retinol serum's reputation tends to precede it, as it's as widely known for the reactions it tends to trigger as it is for its tremendous results.
But honestly, the risk of a temporary period of flakiness, irritation and breakouts is worth it, especially when the best skin of your life could be on the other side. There's no right time to try it, so it's now or never.
We recommend you set your retinol-related reluctance aside and lean into the ingredient.
ELLE spoke to Dr. Joseph Hkeik of All Saints Clinic for tips on making the transition a smooth one.
What is retinol?
"My favourite molecule," laughs Dr. Hkeik. Fair. Favouritism aside? "Retinol is a [powerful] molecule that helps cells to turn over quickly," he explains.
What is the best way to ease into using retinol for skin?
What is the best retinol serum or retinol cream? And what percentage of retinol is best?
Of course it will all depend on your skin. Dr. Hkeik. says to opt for a traditional complexion courtship, and take the introduction slow.
"We test the water to see what it's like," says Dr. Hkeik. "Initially, we say, 'we would like you to use this product once a week.'" From there, you can gradually increase the application to twice a week and then, eventually, once your skin is completely adjusted, up your use to every day.
Are there precautions that should be taken with retinol topicals?
"Seeing as it's a powerful molecule, [retinol] is not good when you're pregnant or breast feeding," Dr. Hkeik explains. And for the love of clear skin, please only apply your retinol products at night. "It makes your skin photosensitive, so you can't wear it in the day time," confirms Dr. Hkeik. Got it? After dark only.
The best retinol serums to shop?
Looking for the best anti-ageing night cream? Here, ELLE lists the best retinol creams and retinol serums in Australia.
DNA Night Cream, $201 by Rationale
Retinol 1% in Squalane by The Ordinary, $13.10 at Myer
Retinol Serum by Skinstitut, $49 (currently $34.30) at Adore Beauty
Collagen and Retinol Serum by Pixi, $74.55 at Amazon
Retinol 0.5 by SkinCeuticals, $111 at Adore Beauty
A-Passioni™ Retinol Cream by Drunk Elephant, $111 at MECCA
1% Retinol Treatment, $87 by Paula's Choice
Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum, $21.99 by Neutrogena