The one ingredient derms recommend for healthy, youthful skin (& it's super accessible!)

retinol great for skin
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Ask any dermatologist how to take care of your skin to prevent aging and across the board, you'll hear that sunscreen is the most important product you should be using. But after sunscreen, dermatologists cite retinol as being incredibly important and useful because it can be used to treat dark spots, prevent wrinkles, help with acne, and the list continues.

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But what exactly is retinol? Retinol is a less potent version of tretinoin, a retenoid, which is a prescription vitamin A derivative that is useful when it comes to reversing the effects of sun damage and the signs of aging. There was a time when retinoid products could only be obtained with a prescription and were prohibitively expensive for many, but now you can find tons of affordable over-the-counter products that although less concentrated are still effective.

Here's what dermatologists have to say about them.

Good news! You don't need a lot of money to care for your skin.

In a recent interview, Dr. Sandra Lee, who you may know as Dr. Pimple Popper, was adamant that you don't have to spend a lot of money on your skin care routine and that sunscreen is absolutely the most important thing you can do for your skin. But, when pressed further, she did say: "I think using retinol is really important."

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Keep in mind that you should be using retinol at night.

Any vitamin A derivative breaks down when exposed to sun and air. Dr. Debra Jaliman says, "What worries me and many other dermatologists is that retinol is now used in foundations, lipsticks, sunscreens, and cleansers, especially those that are touted as 'anti-aging.'"

Unfortunately, retinol products can actually make your skin more susceptible to sun damage, so stay away from using them during the day and be wary of products with retinol that have SPF in them because you shouldn't be going out in the sun with them anyway. Remember: sunblock in the day, retinol at night.

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Don't be afraid to start early.

"Your mid 20s is a reasonable time to start using topical retinol--it stimulates collagen and increases skin thickness and elasticity," said Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center Dr. Joshua Zeichner in a recent interview. "For a young person, using retinol is like making sure the skin’s foundation is as strong as possible, so it can resist wrinkling as much as possible as you age. Over the counter retinol is an excellent place to start. It is less potent than prescription strength retinoids, and also less irritating."

Don't go overboard!

Dr. Emmy Graber, a dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine, speaking to HuffPost, warns that many people use too much retinol because they think it will work better. But resist the temptation to use more than a pea-sized amount for your whole face because retinoids can be drying.

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Always, always consult your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please ALWAYS consult your doctor before using or continuing to use products with retinol. Vitamin A derivatives, including retinol, are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.