Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, can be a tricky ingredient to navigate, especially for those with sensitive skin. However, it’s still considered the gold standard for tackling signs of aging, and many dermatologists recommend it to patients as the number-one active they should be incorporating into their routines. Fig.1’s Retinol Night Cream Level 1 (Claire Holt and Phoebe Tonkin are investors and partners in the brand) is a great option for anyone new to retinol for several reasons. Here’s my honest review.

The Benefits:

The entry-level step in the brand’s three-step retinol system, this vegan, fragrance-free formula contains 0.15-percent encapsulated retinol, which means it gets slowly released into the skin so that it’s more tolerable. Though it’s a lower concentration of retinol, it’s still effective for those looking for help smoothing lines and fading dark spots. It’s also a great option for those with large pores and/or acne-prone skin. Other benefits include 24-hour moisturization and skin barrier support via ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid and squalane, as well as skin firming thanks to the addition of bioactive peptides.

Developed by Harvard dermatologist Dr. Courtney Rubin, Fig.1’s retinol system lets users graduate from Level 1 (0.15-percent) to Level 3 (0.6 percent retinol) over time, depending on your specific skin needs. The airless pump packaging protects the cream and its active ingredients from exposure to air and light, which can make it degrade faster. It’s also refillable, and the refill for this formula is $37 (a $5 discount).

In a 12-week, single-blinded clinical trial on women ages 35 to 65, a dermatologist observed improvements in key attributes of skin aging such as fine lines, wrinkling, tactile roughness, radiance, and skin laxity. Findings also showed that transepidermal water loss was statistically significantly lower than the untreated area of skin for up to eight hours after the cream was applied. According to the clinical results, “there were improvements in key attributes of skin aging” over time, as the skin was assessed at four weeks, eight weeks and 12 weeks.

How to Use It:

Apply a thin layer of cream after cleansing at night. (With any retinol, and most formulas in general, more is not better.) If you’re brand-new to retinol or your skin is on the sensitive side, use this every other night to start and work your way up to every night when you feel like you’re ready.

I love the way this cream feels and it didn’t dry out my skin, but I did experience a little purging—tiny breakouts here and there—which usually happens when I start any new retinol product (I have combination skin). Consistency is key with retinol however, so be sure to stick with it and don’t give up too soon. Many dermatologists I’ve interviewed over the years have told me that it can take the skin a few weeks to adapt to retinol and retinoids. And as far as the retinol system goes, Fig. 1 recommends beginning with Level 1 for around 60 days before moving up to Level 2.

Price/Where to Buy: