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The One Drugstore Retinol We’re Obsessed With

By now, you’ve seen approximately one billion articles and commercials telling you to start using a retinol ASAP, lest your face shrivel into a raisin by the time you hit 45. And, honestly, we’re here to tell you the same thing, because retinoids (the umbrella term for all vitamin-A derivatives, including retinol) seriously, truly work. Unlike most products that just hang out on your skin to give you temporary results, retinols sink in and start triggering cell turnover and increasing collagen production for newer, fresher skin. Awesome, right?

Annoyingly, there are so many retinoids from so many brands in so many forms that the sheer number of options straight-up overwhelm people, resulting in total confusion and avoidance. So instead of giving you a roundup of our favorites from across the spectrum, we’re giving you just one: Our favorite drugstore retinol that won’t cost you a zillion dollars or melt your skin off. Yes, your life is about to be get a whole lot easier.

Trust us when we say we’ve tried almost every retinol on the market. We’ve slathered them on our faces until the skin around our eyes peeled in sheets and our cheeks felt like they were burning from the inside (note: don’t do what we did). But through it all, one winning retinol stood out from the crowd: L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Brightening Dual Overnight Moisturizer.

L'Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Brightening Dual Overnight Moisturizer
Image: L’Oréal

What? A moisturizer? Yes, a moisturizer. Well, a retinol-moisturizer hybrid. And before you wag your finger at us for trying to sell you on another night cream, hold up: This moisturizer—which comes in a dual-chambered pump, so no risk for bacteria growth or destabilization—is formulated with retinyl palmitate (one of the gentler retinoids), glycolic acid (a liquid exfoliant that slowly smooths skin and unclogs pores), and vitamin C (a skin-brightening and wrinkle-preventing antioxidant), so it not only hydrates skin, but also works to fade age spots, dark marks, acne scars, and dull, uneven skin tones. Plus, its consistency makes it practically goof-proof to apply (just massage it in as you would your normal nighttime moisturizer), so you don’t need to worry about going overboard and drying out your skin.

No, you won’t see results overnight, but that’s true of any retinol. Because your skin cells turn over every 5 to 7 weeks, it’ll take a few cycles before you see noticeable differences (think three months minimum), and you’ll need to use it consistently for it to work. If you have super-sensitive skin and are scared of flakes, start by applying the moisturizer every third day for three weeks straight, then every other day for two weeks, and then continue to use it every night for, well, the rest of your life (hey, nobody said staying young was easy). Now go forth into this world, a fresh-faced adult with a new mastery over retinols. Knowledge looks good on you.

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