The tiny miracle ingredient

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In any drugstore, beauty boutique, or apothecary in America, you’re likely to find a surplus of skincare products with ingredients that read more like science fiction than scientific breakthrough. The latest side-eye-worthy ingredient? Dragon’s blood. Dragon’s blood (which actually comes from a tree), is purported to reduce redness, swelling, and repair collagen.

But before experimenting with exotic ingredients, you should know about one that will always deliver: retinoid.

Retinoid, the key ingredient in Retin-A (and its over the counter cousin retinol), is a synthetic form of vitamin A. First prescribed as a topical agent in the 1970s for acne, retinoid is the overachieving-valedictorian-varsity champion ingredient in skincare. Retinoid increases skin cell turnover (creating softer, brighter skin), stops the breakdown of collagen (keeping wrinkles at bay), and thickens the outermost layer of skin. It also treats discoloration and prevents the development of sun spots and hyperpigmentation.

A take no prisoners tool that improves any complexion, retinoid must be used correctly to work well without aggravating skin. Here are some important tips:

Do:

– Apply to dry skin—retinoid will irritate damp skin
– Use at night to maximize its effectiveness (sun exposure breaks down retinoid)
– Apply sunscreen everyday (see above)
– Begin using during the summer (to minimize the initial side effect of dry skin)
– Keep at it—Retin-A takes four weeks to deliver visible results, over the counter retinol takes up to twelve weeks

Don’t:

– Use products that contain alpha hydroxy acids (the acids inhibit retinoid from working its magic)
– Start by using retinoid everyday—let your skin adjust by gradually increasing the frequency of use
– Apply moisturizer immediately after retinoid—allow it to sink in your skin for a few minutes

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