This $82 retinoid serum helped get rid of my acne scars almost overnight - it's saved me hundreds on laser treatments
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- Retinoids are a family of vitamin A and its derivatives that help speed cell turnover and boost collagen, which is why they're commonly used to help improve skin texture, even out hyperpigmentation, and minimize the appearance of fine lines.
- I've been using Peter Thomas Roth Professional 3% Retinoid Plus for seven months, but I noticed a difference in my skin the very next morning after my first use.
- The high 3% percent of retinoid works with caffeine to penetrate deep into my pores for immediate results, and it also soothed and nourished my dry patches so I didn't need to add a heavy moisturizer on top to overcompensate.
Like any good beauty junkie whom the skin-care gods did not bless with baby-soft skin and air-tight pores, I've dropped thousands of dollars on facials, masks, peels, and elixirs that promise to firm, tone, brighten, and more.I suffered from about a decade of confidence-crippling acne when I was a teen and well into my 20s. But once I finally nailed an intricate routine that cleared it up, I was left with PTSD manifested in the form of blotchy scarring and discoloration, and the cycle of reading product reviews from Sephora and my favorite beauty bloggers started again.
I had almost given up hope on even being able to walk out of my apartment without makeup until I picked up a bottle of Peter Thomas Roth Professional 3% Retinoid Plus after seeing its 4.6-star review on Sephora (from nearly 175 customers).
Retinoids are a family of vitamin A and its derivatives that help speed cell growth and have been used to treat acne, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation. The collagen-boosting ingredient can be found most widely in serums, but also in primers, face masks, eye creams, concealers, and even lip balms.
Because my skin is so sensitive, finding a retinoid product with potent, fast-acting ingredients that won't cause my face to peel or flake is a balancing act. That's because retinoids essentially shed the top layer of your skin. Peter Thomas Roth's serum soothed my sensitive skin with a combination of allantoin, bisabolol, and ceramides. The allantoin helps heal and calm skin while bisabolol (a form of vitamin B) and ceramides protect from moisture loss.
"I tell my most of my patients that they can see results of improved skin smoothness literally within two to three days," dermatologist Dr. Julie Russak tells Business Insider. But Russak warns against using a retinoid during the day because it can make your skin more sensitive to light.
Read more: The best retinol products you can buyPeter Thomas Roth FacebookAt $82 for a 1-ounce bottle, Peter Thomas Roth Professional 3% Retinoid Plus isn't cheap but I've only used about half the bottle in seven months.
After removing my makeup, double cleansing, toning, and then using a peel pad, I press four to five drops of the serum into my skin every night. Though the serum comes out in a dropper like an oil would, it absorbs into my skin quickly. I follow up with a brightening eye cream and moisturizer, or an overnight mask if I feel my skin needs the extra hydration.
The real winning ingredient here is not just the retinoid - it's the combination of retinoid with caffeine that helps make the serum penetrate deeper into my large open pores. It's also the reason I saw results the very first time after I used it.
"The marriage of the high percentage of retinoid with caffeine is a dream team. The caffeine carries the retinoid even deeper within the skin to penetrate through to deep layers fast," said dermatologist Dr. Manjula Jegasothy.
As an Indian woman, I'm predisposed to discoloration, according to Dr. Jegasothy, and in my experience, this serum is well-curated for anyone with particularly deep-rooted scars or deeper skin tones. Of course, this is all from my personal experience, so definitely check in with your dermatologist before trying out new skin-care products or routines.
Dr. Russak warns that the new cells being repaired and created by retinoids become extremely sensitive to sun, making them highly susceptible to being damaged - making the discoloration I have even worse - so using an SPF in the morning was even more essential after I started using this product.
Read more: The best facial sunscreens you can buy
The $82 price tag hurt a little bit, but I've tried more expensive products and facials that have promised more and delivered next to nothing. I've been using the serum every single night for seven months and still have a little less than half the bottle left. True, there are many retinoid serums out there, but few have such a high percentage of retinoid or are paired with caffeine.There's also the fact that seven months in, I'm no longer spending money on heavy foundations. I even went on a date with only a bit of concealer on, so this one bottle has taken me pretty far.
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