Topical retinoids are proven anti-aging powerhouses that can benefit nearly everyone’s skin. But retinol use comes with questions: What strength retinol should you use for wrinkles or other signs of aging? When and how should you use retinol products? Should you use a retinol cream or serum? What if your skin doesn’t respond well? As always, we’ve got the research-based answers for these questions, and more.

How Much Retinol is Best?
There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, or a rule for how to tell what strength of retinol to use. Basically, it depends on your skin type, skin concerns, and your skin’s tolerance for vitamin A (another name for retinol). To determine your tolerance, experiment with different strengths and application methods, and see how your skin responds—beginning with a lower concentration.

Lower-Strength Retinol Products

You don’t need a lot of retinol to see results: Published research has shown that concentrations as low as 0.01% retinol are effective for improving multiple signs of aging and minimizing pore size, along with improving skin’s healthy appearance. Low amounts of retinol, when paired with other antioxidants, also help defend the skin against environmental damage when worn under a broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day.

And, because Paula’s Choice retinol products are loaded with antioxidants, peptides, and superior hydrating ingredients, they provide even more benefits. They’re also ideal for combining with our boosters and targeted treatments. Our low-strength retinol products, for both new and seasoned retinol users, include:

Moderate-Strength Retinol Products

If you’re dealing with stubborn concerns like uneven skin tone, noticeable loss of firmness, deep wrinkles, and/or tenacious bumps and flaws, you may want to consider adding a higher-strength retinol product to your routine, either as a nightly step or 2–3 times per week, depending on your skin’s response.

Products with moderate levels of retinol (0.04% to 0.1%) will visibly improve signs of aging more quickly than those with lower concentrations. Research has also demonstrated they improve visible signs of environmental assault and the appearance of thinning skin. Paula’s Choice offers two such products:

Higher-Strength Retinol Products

If your skincare concerns are more advanced, it might be time to consider a higher-strength retinol treatment. These contain between 0.5% and 1% retinol, and can provide dramatic, rapid results. We offer two high-strength retinol products to deal with deeper lines and wrinkles, loss of firmness, and other concerns, including stubborn pores:

  • CLINICAL 1% Retinol Treatment—A powerhouse combination of 1% retinol plus vitamin C, peptides, antioxidants, and plant-based soothing agents, this sheer lotion formula tackles your toughest signs of aging and sun damage concerns. Suitable for all skin types, especially normal to dry.
  • RESIST 1% Retinol Booster—This smooth fluid has a light-as-water feel and can provide the same amazing results as our CLINICAL 1% Retinol Treatment. Its texture makes it great for normal to oily or congested skin, but because it layers beautifully with any moisturizer or serum, it works well for all skin types.

Note: When using moderate- to high-strength retinol products, pay attention to how your skin responds when used with your AHA or BHA exfoliant. If your skin shows signs of irritation, reduce the frequency of use until you find the right balance for your skin.

If you’d like to read more about why retinol works so beautifully with AHAs, BHA, and vitamin C, check out our article, 5 Retinol Myths Busted!

References for this information:
Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, March 2015, pages 271–280
Dermatology, May 2014, pages 314–325
Dermatoendocrinology, July 2012, issue 3, pages 308–319
Archives of Dermatology, May 2007, pages 606–612