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As someone who has dealt with a number of skin insecurities — primarily uneven skin tone, redness and patches of keratosis pilaris along my cheeks — I’ve used and experimented with tons of different retinoids in many levels of strength.
Most dermatologists will tell you retinol is arguably one of the most important ingredients you can have in a skin care routine. This may be because, aside from combating the signs of premature aging, retinoids, which are forms of vitamin A that promote cellular turnover, can offer a whole host of skin-improving benefits from evening skin tone to managing acne to reducing the appearance of fine lines.
They will also tell you that retinol has a reputation of causing redness, sensitivity and flaking if not introduced gradually, allowing skin to build up tolerance over time. Because of this, I have found it difficult to find products with higher retinol percentages that will actually visibly address my concerns without destroying my already sensitive skin in the process — until now.
Sunday Riley’s A+ retinol serum initially caught my eye because it was advertised as an advanced strength retinoid that was suitable for both individuals with sensitive skin and experienced users of the ingredient that might be in search of a stronger product. The formulation contains a 6.5% retinoid blend, a relatively high percentage compared with other retinol products on the market.
The particular blend in question is composed of a retinoid ester, encapsulated retinol and retinol-alternative extracts derived from blue-green algae, all of which can impart the texture-improving wonders that retinol is known for, without overwhelming the skin and causing irritation. Additionally, an antioxidant known as COQ10 targets the appearance of sun damage while two different humectants soothe redness and draw moisture into the skin.
After using this product consistently for two months, I’m noticing a significant reduction of my keratosis pilaris in that the texture is smoother, less red and with fewer clogged hair follicles. I’ve also noticed less congestion in my T-zone, fewer sun freckles and an overall increase in skin plumpness — all without those telltale signs of retinol-induced irritation.
You may have heard of Sunday Riley for its Good Genes lactic acid treatment or C.E.O. Glow brightening serum, both of which have cult-like followings for their clinically driven formulas and positive results. Although this product is lesser known, I would say it is similarly very effective, making the price point a justified one. Plus, my 1-ounce bottle is not running out any time soon, and I imagine it will last me at least four months.
If you’ve lost some of those results that you saw from your old retinols or just want to up your percentage, the A+ serum might be worth the splurge and can be purchased just above. Ahead, you can read some testimonials from others who have seen positive results from the product.
Promising reviews for the Sunday Riley A+ Serum:
“I had never used retinol before this product. My sister bought a sample kit for Christmas and I was hooked! I have rosacea acne and this clears up any breakouts within days! And keeps them away! Best skincare product I have ever used!” — Leslie Rate
“I previously had a lot of sun damage on my face, manifesting in visible dark spots and freckles. After using one bottle of this, all of the freckles on my nose are gone, including one especially dark spot, the dark splotches under my eyes and across my cheeks are much reduced, and my complexion is visibly brighter. I ordered a second bottle right away! A word of caution, as this product can cause flakiness, redness, and irritation while your skin is adapting to it. I used a gentle glycerin-based moisturizer to help soothe my skin in between applications.” — Kymberlee Rose
“If you’re dealing with discoloration or rough spots on your face, this stuff is for you! It works, but be patient — it’s not overnight — but its the most effective [product] I’ve found for the dark spots on this 56 year old face!” — Tami Holmes
“The best retinol I have ever used. It’s been a week and I’m already seeing results. I’ve been using other retinols for years and decided to move to a higher strength one. I was worried about burning, but haven’t had any issues. I will definitely buy it again when my vial runs out.” — Michelle R.
“Wow, I’m pretty impressed with this serum. [I’ve] used many expensive and drugstore brands, this blew them all away. My skin texture, brightness and overall clarity have improved tremendously. Will definitely keep using.” — Amazon customer