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What Is Retinol Sunscreen? Why You Should Consider the Skincare Multitasker

Instyle 3/16/2023 Audrey Noble

Here's why this skincare duo goes hand in hand.

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Nothing beats a multi-tasking beauty product. I mean, why settle for a select few benefits when you can have them all? For skin and suncare enthusiasts, one product just might be the holy grail for those spring and summer adventures: retinol sunscreen.

Retinol sunscreen is exactly what it sounds like. It's a formula that includes retinol, which is a skincare ingredient that provides your skin with a ton of anti-aging benefits, as well as SPF for sun protection. "Retinol may be formulated into a sunscreen to serve as a multitasking product which helps to deliver the benefits of a retinol," says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. "[It will help] improve skin tone and texture while also protecting the skin from UV damage."

As you can imagine, more and more sunscreens are incorporating this well-known anti-aging ingredient into formulations, and the results are pretty hard to beat. Interested? Well, you've come to the right place. To see how retinol and sunscreen are combined, what the benefits are for using a retinol sunscreen, and some of the best product recs around, read what the experts had to say below.

What Are the Benefits of Retinol Sunscreen?

As mentioned before, one of the biggest benefits of retinol sunscreens is the multitasking you get from one product. You'll get smoother skin and a brighter complexion (that's the retinol's job) while still protecting your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays (this is where the sunscreen comes in). Sun exposure is also linked to creating fine lines and hyperpigmentation, so there are preventative benefits, too.

Another plus is that it can cut your skincare routine in half. Dr. Garshick says that retinol sunscreen is especially great for those who are short on time and want to incorporate a retinoid without adding an additional step. She adds that someone who forgets to wear sunscreen but is consistent with their retinol application may find using a product that combines the two easier to incorporate into a regimen.

Why Should You Always Wear Sunscreen While Using Retinol?

Hadley King, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, explains that the regular use of topical retinol makes the skin thicker. At first, however, the ingredient will temporarily make your skin more sensitive. Therefore, you'll be more prone to sun damage while your skin adjusts to such a strong active. "It's important to wear daily SPF to all exposed areas for everyone, and especially if you're using a retinoid or hydroxy acid," she says.

Dr. Garshick adds that retinol can still be used in the summer or during moments when your skin is exposed to the sun, so it's best to protect the skin with SPF 30 or higher. Also, look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen to provide coverage against both UVA and UVB rays.

When it comes to choosing the best sunscreen to use, both Dr. King and Dr. Garshick say that it's all about finding one you'll use every day. Some of Dr. King's favorites include Isdin's Eryfotona Actinica, Charlotte Tilbury's Invisible UV Flawless Primer SPF 50, and the Beauty Pie Ultralight Daily SPF 30.

What Are the Best Sunscreen Retinol Products?

As for sunscreens that have retinol in them, Dr. Garshick lists some that are worth checking out. The first is Supergoop's Daily Dose Bioretinol + Mineral SPF 40. "[This] is especially exciting as it contains bakuchiol, a natural plant-based ingredient thought to have benefits for skin tone and texture similar to retinol. Unlike many retinols, bakuchiol is photostable, so it won’t become unstable when exposed to the sun. This makes it safe for daytime use and helpful when incorporated into a sunscreen product," she says.

Other options include the Strivectin Advanced Retinol Daily Repair Face Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30, which she says combines retinol with antioxidants to address signs of aging while also protecting the skin, and the RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer SPF 30, which contains protection from UVA and UVB while also improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Last, she says you can opt for something like the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Moisturizer. "This moisturizing sunscreen provides SPF 30 protection while also hydrating the skin using hyaluronic acid and retinol to improve the texture and tone," she explains.

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