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Every so often, an ingredient in skin care becomes so buzzy that people feel compelled to incorporate it into their routine, even if they’re unsure about what it actually does. Right now, that ingredient is retinol. Also known as vitamin A, retinol is beloved by skin-care professionals for its ability to rejuvenate and regenerate the skin. It’s also used to treat non-cystic acne breakouts.

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SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3, $72 at select dermatologist offices and through

Because it is such a powerful ingredient, using a dosage or delivery method that’s not right for your skin can result in redness, irritation, stinging, flaking and visible sloughing. Some people, such as those with rosacea or psoriasis or who are pregnant, should avoid the ingredient altogether, says Dr. Diane Wong, owner and medical director of Glow Medi Spa in Toronto, who recommends seeking the advice of a skin-care professional such as an aesthetician or skin-care therapist to find out which product is right for your needs.

New products such as SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3 and Doctor Babor Pro Retinol Concentrate offer lower levels of retinol to gently introduce the ingredient to skin. “Start slowly, like once or twice a week and continue for a month, if it’s tolerated, before increasing slowly up to three times a week, every other day,” Wong advises. She adds that retinol should only be used at night and in combination with a broad-spectrum physical-block sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 in the day.

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