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This anti-aging serum helps keep my skin healthy and smooth — and it’s less than $45

I saw results within a month of use.
Courtesy of Rebecca Treon

With 40 solidly in the rearview mirror and 50 right around the corner, taking care of my skin is part of my daily routine. A popular beauty blogger inspired my current morning and evening skin care regimen, especially serums, which I’ve been using for a couple of years. But for me, my routine is not just a desire to look younger and combat aging, it’s also to care for my overall health. 

In 2015, my dermatologist discovered some precancerous cells on my face and suggested I take a proactive approach to prevent more from developing by using a prescription-based retinol. Experts previously told Shop TODAY that this ingredient can provide many benefits, from skin cell turnover to reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. However, it can be harsh on the skin and requires working up to daily use. 

I gave the prescription from my dermatologist a try, but I didn't like the slightly goopy, sticky texture and the tingling sensation. And after all the time I spent using it, I started to see my skin flake and had to give it a break. That's why I turned to an over-the-counter serum and hoped it would yield the same benefits.

Sunday Riley's A+ High-Dose Retinol Serum

What does the Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinol Serum do?

Sunday Riley’s A+ High-Dose Retinol Serum claims it has all the benefits of a traditional retinol without the downsides. According to the brand, this formula has a different combination of vitamin A and an “advanced strength” retinoid that boasts a whopping 6.5% mix of retinol blends, including retinoid ester blend, liposome-encapsulated retinol blend and blue-green algae. Plus, it has added COQ10, which can help improve signs of aging or sun-damaged skin. Lastly, and most importantly, the brand says these ingredients combined with hydryoxypinacolone retinoate (HPR) can be just as effective as a prescription retinol without the irritation.

What I like about this product

Given my experience with prescription retinol, I was excited to see what the Sunday Riley serum would do for me. While the cost is on the higher end, my personal opinion is that you’re paying for the quality and the results, and it’s not as expensive as other well-known retinol serums.

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The warning label advises that people who haven’t used retinoids before start with every other day use. However, since I've used one before, I started using it every day and experienced no negative side effects. I started by applying it at night to clean and dry skin, followed by my usual night moisturizer (I stopped using the other serums I normally use at night to see what Sunday Riley’s would do in comparison). One pump was enough for my face, and what I love most about it is its texture, which reminds me of a moisturizer

What to consider

Some reviewers on the Sephora website complain about the way it smells. It does have a smell that is decidedly not scented and perfumed like most of the things we’re used to putting on our faces.

How long before you see a change in your skin?

I noticed a difference after the first use. My skin felt smoother and softer right away. After four weeks of consistent nightly use, my skin looks healthier, firmer, and has a fresh glow. I have even noticed fewer fine lines. Some Sephora reviewers who had adult acne have posted photos showing dramatic results after using this Sunday Riley serum, and while my results have been more gradual, I definitely see an improvement.

One thing to note from experts is that using a retinol can make your skin more photo-sensitive, so using a daily sunscreen is essential to protect your new skin from sun damage. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing further improvement from continued daily use, since dermatologists say that seeing the results of a new skin care routine can take anywhere from six weeks to three months.

I'm happy with the results

Overall, I didn’t expect dramatic results, but I’m happy with the healthy skin I’m seeing after a month of use, and I plan to continue using it. While I’m not expecting the type of results I’d get from a facial or a procedure, I feel confident in knowing I’m using a good quality product on my skin that will actively help me target aging and keep me looking my best as I approach 50. Now, if only I could find a body lotion that would reverse the years!