Next to sunscreen, retinol is one of the best over-the-counter ingredients you can add to your skin-care routine. The vitamin A derivative has an entire laundry list of benefits, including treating and preventing acne, boosting collagen production, and brightening skin—but all of this (unfortunately) comes with some pretty annoying downsides. Retinol is known for causing dryness, irritation, inflammation and a weakened skin barrier—which can be especially pertinent if you have sensitive skin or are using a product that's too strong.
"Ultimately, the benefits of retinoids are in a tug-of-war with the negatives of inflammation," says Robert Anolik, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. While your skin will get better at tolerating the ingredient over time, there's no need to suffer for the sake of the cause. Instead of starting out with a super-strong formula, derms recommended starting out slowly with a low concentration and building your way up, which is where Fig. 1's retinol system comes in.
The brand offers its retinol formulas in three strengths: 0.15 percent ($38), 0.3 percent ($42), and 0.6 percent ($58) so you can level-up once your skin adjusts. The idea is that you can start with the 0.15 percent option, then work your way toward using one of the more intense formulations as your skin starts to adjust.
"There are different concentrations and formulations which consequently affect the strength of the product: For instance, a 0.025 percent cream is not as strong as a .5 percent cream," explains Jennifer Chwalek, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City.
Each of Fig. 1's formulas is made with "encapsulated" retinol, which means the ingredient is released into the skin slowly over time instead of in a sudden burst all at once, helping to reduce irritation. The retinol creams also include moisturizing and soothing ingredients like ceramides, squalane, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid. These are all emollients, which "are moisturizers that add oil to the skin to help soften, smooth, and repair the skin barrier," says Tiffany Libby, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Rhode Island. By strengthening the skin barrier and providing moisture, these ingredients can help to offset some of the side effects of retinol.
"It usually takes about three weeks for your skin cells to adapt to retinoids, and mild redness and irritation are a sign that it’s working," says Michele Green, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York. "But, if you experience extreme discomfort and diffuse redness, it may mean that you need to switch to a lower dose or use retinoids less frequently.”
So if you've been wanting to try retinol but are worried about potential side effects, the Fig. 1 Retinol Night Cream No. 1 is the perfect place to start.
Learn more about the benefits of retinol:
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