5 Ways to Make Retinol Work For You

woman applying retinol
Less is more when applying Retin A – only a pea size is needed!

I’ve been using retinol and Retin A on and off for years.  I would start to use it, then experience extreme dryness and flaking and quit using it.  Then I’d continue to read about how retinol is such a key ingredient for anti-aging (heck I’ve even written about it myself here), and I’d try again…. you get the point.  I’ve finally figured out how to use this ingredient consistently with little to no side effects and I want to share with you how I did it.

#1 – Start SLOW

Just like with dieting, sometimes we are so psyched to try something that we dive straight in – BAD IDEA.  You are almost certain to set yourself up for failure.  With incorporating any new routine into our lives, we need to make gradual changes or it will seem so overwhelming that one day we’ll say “Screw it,” and give up.   I don’t know about you, but in the anti-aging game I REFUSE to give up!  Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. You are looking to incorporate a skin care treatment for the long haul, so you need to ease in.

If you’ve never used retinol before, I’d recommend buying an over-the-counter product to start with, as they are not as strong as a prescription.  In addition, do not start out by using it every day!  Start with a couple of days a week (not consecutive) to see how your skin is handling it, and then slowly work up from there.  I personally like some retinol products that are in a facial oil form as it helps to maintain the skin’s moisture and keep flaking at bay.  Sunday Riley’s Luna oil is one I’ve really enjoyed using.  Also, Colleen Rothschild just came out with a new Retinol Supreme Night Oil  (the site is also having a sale so it’s currently 25% off with code FAM25)! On a budget?  Head to the drugstore and try the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle repair with Retinol.

Tretinoin cream is another name for Retin-A. It comes in varying strengths.

If you get a trentinoin prescription from your doctor, I’d start out with .025% strength first before building up to the higher strengths.  You don’t need the highest strength to see the best results.  Be gentle with your skin!

 

#2 – Apply correctly

A pea size amount is all that is needed to spread evenly over your face.  Yes, a pea!  Again, remember- marathon, not sprint.  More is definitely NOT better.  Also, make sure your skin is BONE dry before applying.  The product is not as effective on damp skin.  So, after you wash your face, go do something else for about 20-30 minutes before you apply this.  The drier your skin is, the less chance of irritation.  I wish I had known this years ago but trust me, this makes a huge difference!

#3 – Continue to Moisturize

I don’t know why when I started using retinol years ago, I didn’t think to add a moisturizer on top.  Hello, your skin can get dry and flake off as a side effect of the product!  I think that I was afraid to add anything that could compromise the efficacy of the product.  But I’m here to tell you that you CAN and SHOULD add a moisturizer to your face after applying retinol.  However, I would wait another 20 -30 minutes prior to doing that so the product has time to settle into the skin.  You’re probably thinking this is sounding WAY too complicated and that you just want to slap on all your products one after the other and go to bed.  Trust me, I get that, I do.  I’ve found a way to incorporate this into my evening routine to make it work.  For instance, I’ll wash my face after cleaning up after dinner.  Then I go and help my son with his nighttime routine.  After I tuck him in, I spread the trentinoin on.  Then I go watch a little TV and head back to the bathroom to add the moisturizer.  Done!  Trust me, the extra effort that this takes has more than made up for it for me personally with no side effects.  Once you’ve established a routine that works into your schedule and have been doing it for awhile, then you will enjoy the results on your skin!

#4 – Be EXTRA anal about sunscreen

If you are not good about putting sunscreen on your face every day, rain or shine, winter or summer, then I would NOT begin any retinol routine until you get good about it.  This stuff is no joke; remember, it is stimulating your skin cells to turn over rapidly to smooth your skin texture and reduce lines and wrinkles.  In that process, your skin is not only prone to the side effects we’ve talked about, but it is more sensitive to the sun.  If you use this and are exposed to the sun without protection, not only are you undoing any benefit the retinol will provide, but you are setting yourself up to have a bad skin reaction.  Please, please proceed with caution!

#5 – Be careful about other exfoliators you are using

Take a look at all the products you are currently using before starting your retinol.  If you have cleansers or toners with glycolic acid, I would stop using them in the evening before applying your retinol.  You want to use very gentle products with the retinol to avoid irritation.  You can continue to use exfoliating treatments, but avoid using them on the same day that you plan to use your retinol.

Hopefully you picked up a tip or two or five, that you didn’t know before.  Retinol is a powerful skincare ingredient, but that shouldn’t discourage us from using it.  With the right care, you CAN make this work for you and enjoy the results!  Good luck!  If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.

 

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One Reply to “5 Ways to Make Retinol Work For You”

  1. Excellent article! Thanks, Laurie!!!

    Differin gel is another over the counter product that is non-prescription Retin-A, but at a lower dose (it’s actually an acne gel). I really like it and it is not irritating to the skin, but yes — definitely use a moisturizer with it or even add a little argan oil with it if you are on the sensitive side.

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