Avoid Irritation and Peeling With This Dermatologist-Approved Starter Retinol Serum

The niacinamide-rich formula is hydrating and soothing

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

derm approved starter retinol

Youth to the People

I spend at least 40 hours a week thinking, researching, and writing about beauty, so I frequently forget what is common knowledge and what is more niche and specialized information. I was reminded of this earlier this week, when a coworker told me that she had tried retinol for the first time and immediately experienced retinol burn, a type of irritation characterized by inflammation, redness, and sometimes peeling. 

When she showed me the product she’d been using, a very concentrated and potent 3.5 percent retinol, I immediately said something along the lines of, “oh no, that’s definitely not a starter retinol” but then realized that’s not universally known information. 

Best practice is to start with a low dose once a week to see how your skin reacts while building up a tolerance. I spoke with dermatologist Dr. Nava Greenfield of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City to get the stamp of approval on a retinol suitable for first-time users. Her pick? Youth to the People’s Retinal and Niacinamide Youth Serum

Retinal Niacinamide Youth Serum

Youth to the People

Shop now: $68; youthtothepeople.com 

Youth to the People’s serum contains hydrating ingredients as well as niacinamide that’s added to the retinaldehyde to create a product that performs multiple functions at once.” Retinol is paired with niacinamide to subdue the potentially irritating effects of the hero ingredient. Retinol “increases cell turnover to show effects that are apparent after only one week,” Dr. Greenfield says. Niacinamide is therefore a very complementary ingredient because it soothes redness and keeps moisture from leaving the skin by strengthening its barrier

Even if the retinol in this serum makes your skin red and dry, the niacinamide immediately counteracts it, making it a suitable product for beginners and sensitive skin folk alike. But, as always, start by patch-testing to avoid major irritation. 

If you’re still hesitant to try a retinol but would like to reap some of its touted skin-enhancing benefits, there is an entire world of alternative-yet-similar ingredients and products on the market. One that Dr. Greenfield recommends is Ren’s Bio Retinoid Youth Serum. “It contains bidens pilosa, a [plant-derived] retinoid alternative which is clinically proven to help reduce fine lines.” Like the Youth to the People product, Ren’s Serum also includes niacinamide and ceramides for “added hydration and antioxidant effect.” 

Bio Retinoid™ Youth Serum


Shop now: $75; usa.renskincare.com

Related Articles