The Low-Down On Retinol According To Cult Facialist Shani Darden

You have your retinoids, prescription-grade Retin-A varieties, and countless retinol serums and creams that are sold over the counter. There’s also an extensive list of alternatives that brands are pushing which can make the mission to fight wrinkles seem even more confusing. If having too many options is leaving you overwhelmed and unsure of how to adopt a powerful anti-aging tool into your skincare routine, I’m right there with you. I’m new to the vitamin A-packed ingredient myself, and intrigued by the long list of championed benefits such as boosting collagen production, evening out discoloration, clearing up acne, and increasing cell turnover. To help us shed some light on the what’s what when it comes to preserving our precious skin, we’ve asked Shani Darden, one of L.A.’s favorite estheticians (with quite an impressive client list…ahem, Chrissy Teigen, Emily Ratajkowski, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Emmy Rossum) to school us on all things retinol and share her own routine.

What exactly is retinol?  “Retinol is a Vitamin A derivative that will boost collagen in the skin, minimize fine lines and wrinkles, smooth the overall texture of your skin, and decrease pigmentation.”

What’s the difference between retinoids and retinol?  “Retinol is generally available in a lot of OTC (or over-the-counter) products, whereas retinoids are available by prescription, as they can be stronger.”

Why is retinol important?  “Retinol helps to keep your skin smooth and plump with collagen. As you age, your collagen levels deplete which leads to skin that is less firm and wrinkled. Retinol helps to stimulate collagen production and also increases the rate of cellular turnover which brings new skin to the surface, faster.”

At what age should a woman introduce retinol?  “I generally recommend starting in your early 20s.”

Where does retinol come in when adding it to our routine?  “Retinol should be used at night on cleansed skin. Follow up with a hyaluronic acid serum and a great oil-free moisturizer. I formulated my Daily Oil-Free Moisturizer to work for all skin types. It’s hydrating, but it doesn’t clog your pores, so all skin types will love it!”

What does your personal skincare routine look like, morning and night?  “In the morning, I cleanse with my Daily Cleansing Serum for a gentle, but effective cleanse. I’ll use my Daily Toning Essence to balance my skin. Then, I apply iS Clinical’s GeneXC Serum for antioxidant protection. My favorite eye cream is iS Clinical’s Youth Eye Complex. If my skin needs a little more hydration, I will use Dr. Nigma’s Serum No. 1, which is an amazing Hyaluronic Acid serum that really plumps up your skin. After that, I follow up with Supergoop’s Everyday SPF. It’s oil-free and lightly hydrating which I love!

In the evening, I cleanse again with Daily Cleansing Serum to remove any makeup I might be wearing followed up with the Daily Toning Essence. Once I allow that to absorb, I will use Texture Reform, which is my gentle retinyl palmitate serum. I can’t live without it! I apply more of the Youth Eye Complex and follow with the Daily Oil-Free Moisturizer.”


What’s your number one piece of advice when it comes to taking care of our skin?  “Wear sunscreen every single day! The sun can damage your skin so much, and it takes decades for that damage to become visible. Sunscreen helps to protect your skin from premature aging and skincare.”

Written by: Tiana Lewis

Tiana Lewis is the 20-something Senior Managing Editor at The Bleu. She binge-watches reality TV on Bravo, throws a mean murder mystery party, and makes her bed every morning.

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