lunchtime buy

A Retinol for the Most Die-Hard Exfoliators

Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum.
Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum. Photo: Courtesy of Sunday Riley

As a kid, I was teased for having “chicken skin” — also known as keratosis pilaris, those little under-the-skin bumps which aren’t pimples or zits. For me, it showed up on my face, arms and my cheeks. Motivated by the reminder of kids’s cruelty, I have tried more products than I can count in the quest for smooth skin.

Over the years, I scrubbed my whole body with St. Ives, slathered Amlactin on my biceps, and even covered one arm in a sleeve tattoo that at least served as distraction. I have tried prescription and over-the-counter strength retinols, AHAs, BHAs, Glossier’s Solution, and so much salicylic acid that it’s a wonder I have any skin left. Simply put, I know my way around an acid and when it works and doesn’t.

It is with this extensive background that I felt uniquely qualified to test out Sunday Riley’s new A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum, which boasts a 6.5 percent blend of retinoids and related extracts (compare that with the Ordinary’s retinoid, which is at 2 percent). Like most retinols, it pumps out in an off-yellow liquid and absorbs quickly into the skin. During application, I was often worried two pumps wouldn’t deliver enough product to my skin, so I opted for three.

After a few weeks’s use, my skin definitely seemed smoother and the zits that usually crop up above my eyebrows seemed less frequent. I suspected my nightly usage was exacerbating some dry patches on my forehead, but that might also be due to the winter cold and my aversion to wearing hats. In general, I’m a person who thinks dryness is the lesser of two evils (did I mention those kids in the fourth grade were really mean?)

If you made a resolution to listen to Frank Ocean and “throw a retinol on” at night, this is a good place to start. My skin is also prone to redness so I often have to mitigate my obsessive exfoliation with a heck of a lot of moisture. Be sure to slather a hefty sleeping mask on top, and plug in the humidifier. Oh, and use a sunscreen during the day, to protect your newly exfoliated skin. May I suggest Unsun, the brand developed by Frank’s mom?

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A Retinol for the Most Die-Hard Exfoliators