Yeah, but skin-deep matters too.
February 19, 2012 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Image-conscious MeFites: Please recommend a retinol cream for my sensitive, sun-damaged, shiny, combination skin.

I'm a woman in my mid-30s and while I'm all about aging gracefully and naturally, I'd rather have good skin than good makeup.

I'm looking for a retinol treatment that won't make me break out (I know a few breakouts at first are par for the course with retinol). Bonus points for unscented and/or dye-free preparations.

This is something I'll probably use at night (I use sunscreen during the day--that plus powder is enough layers on my face for me), so shine reduction isn't so much of an issue.
posted by elizeh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I like Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream, but they have a couple of different formulations of Retinol treatments of various strengths. I believe they are also advertised as hypoallergenic. When I was younger, I used something they sold that was both anti-wrinkle and anti-blemish. Plus, they're not too expensive, so far as these things go.
posted by psycheslamp at 11:07 AM on February 19, 2012

Avene Eluage (which contains retinaldehyde) gets recommended a lot over on the MakeupAlley skincare board. It's hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic (although, of course, YMMV).
posted by LittleKnitting at 11:07 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Neutrogena Healthy Skin. I used it and loved it and figured that if a low dose was good, then a super-high dose would be awesome. I bought tretinoin cream online and I'm finding that I liked the way my skin looked much better using the Neutrogena. More is not necessarily better and if you haven't used a retinoid before, starting with a retinol is a good way to get your skin accustomed to it.

Here's a list of the various types of retinoids, and here's a list of Beautypedia (by Paula Begoun) "best products" containing retinoids. If you click on the "read more" in the top box she gives some great advice, including:

"Lastly, keep in mind that with retinol, more is not better. It doesn't take much retinol to prompt positive changes in your skin, but higher amounts (generally approaching 1% or greater) can tip the scales in favor of irritation, which is never the goal. Repeat after us: more retinol is not better and may make matters worse!"
posted by mireille at 11:15 AM on February 19, 2012

Thirding the Neutrogena. I have combination skin as well, and I love it. I'm not prone to break-outs, and it didn't cause any for me, even at the beginning.
posted by dotgirl at 11:18 AM on February 19, 2012

I like Green Cream. Not dye free (it's green, after all) but I am very shiny prone to breakouts and it doesn't cause them for me. After a year of using it, my skin has never been smoother, my pores look smaller, and my acne is amazingly improved. Many other retinol products break me out like whoa, particularly if they have silicone in them. I used the Neutrogena for a while, but I didn't like the texture and didn't see much improvement my skin at all. Green Cream has three percentages of retinol, so you can step them up. Since I'd used retinols before, I started with and still use the medium level, but for a first timer, the lowest concentration would be best.

I'm normally a Paula Begoun devotee, but this is a time when we disagree. She hates Green Cream. I tried one of her favorite retinol products and after three months was right back to the Green Cream because it was acne city and only getting worse.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:37 AM on February 19, 2012

I am not a doctor so I can't advise, but I am a very happy Retin-A user whose skin has done a 360 for the better since beginning its use. Your doctor can advise you best for your situation, but from my own perspective, I would recommend skipping the OTC creams and going straight for the good stuff. You can get it in a variety of strengths, and while some irritation is absolutely par for the course when you're just getting started, after that--HOLY WOW. My doctor started me at a lower concentration and leveled it up as my skin adjusted, so irritation was minimized.
posted by anonnymoose at 11:39 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

P.S. Retin-A does make your skin more photosensitive, so you only use it at night, which sounds like a plus for you. I use a moderate sunscreen every day and it is just fine.
posted by anonnymoose at 11:40 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that if you can get a prescription and get through the first couple of weeks of irritation, Retin-A is the way to go. It's really way better than OTC (and can be cheaper, if covered by your insurance.)

Mine is covered by insurance, but I'd consider paying out of pocket for the generic even if it weren't. A single tube lasts months and you see real results in skin quality.
posted by mercredi at 11:54 AM on February 19, 2012

I've used RoC Retinol Correxion deep wrinkle night cream (never had breakouts from it); best price is usually at Costco.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:34 PM on February 19, 2012

I'm a big fan of Neostrata. Awesome results, less irritation than Retin-A (which I hated, ow, peeling, burning, ow, ow). Neostrata did give me some irritation, but not unbearable and went away after a few weeks. Cleared up my chest acne, yay! I've also had dermatologist-administered peels on my face which really helped with pigmentation, fine lines and general, uh, 'glow'.

One other thing: I really had to amp up my sun protection. I've always worn 30+ sunscreen, but now have to reapply, stay in the shade and generally be super vigilant. When I lived somewhere with a high UV index all day everyday and a job that required me to be outside a lot, I had to stop using them. I turned red and burn-y in about give seconds, even with physical block sunscreen. YMMV though. It's fine where I am now. (I'm super pale and live in South Australia.)
posted by t0astie at 2:36 PM on February 19, 2012

Sigh. Them = the Neostrata products. Give = five.
posted by t0astie at 2:38 PM on February 19, 2012

Yep, I'm going to flog this product again, 10% Alpha Hydroxy Acid (glycolic acid) plus licochalcone from Dan Kern/

The price is incredible compared to the stuff I see at the pharmacy that usually only come in little tiny bottles.

For me, it helps with exfoliation and de-pigmentation and since I've been using it regularly, decreased mild acne (although I still get occasional cystic acne, leading to the scarring and pigmentation).

I started seeing the beginnings of fine wrinkles under my eyes about a month ago, so I've started treating that too. Saw rapid improvements.
posted by porpoise at 4:09 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I also use Neutrogena retinol creams (for acne). I find I get better results when I exfoliate once or twice a week with skin cleanser + baking soda, but the retinol cut down breakouts by itself. The bottles seem tiny, but one lasts me for about six months of almost-daily use.
posted by momus_window at 8:16 PM on February 19, 2012

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