Updated: Feb 13
It’s a love hate relationship. Retinol has helped improve my skins texture like crazy, but it can also make me feel like my face is on fire. Before using retinol, it’s important to know what it does and how your skin reacts to it. Remember, everybody’s skin is different. Mine is more sensitive, but yours may be able to take that extra dose. When you use it, and how much you use, is a key factor. Since I’ve been experimenting with retinol for years, I’m here to offer some clarity:
WHAT IT IS
Retinol is a form of Vitamin A. It was an ingredient used to treat acne back in the 70’s, but scientists later found that it also improves the skins texture; erasing lines, plumping up skin, and giving it a glow. Since retinol has been growing in popularity, more and more brands are coming out with their own type of “retinol” formula. For example: Skinceuticals retinol (one of my favorites) is just pure retinol, whereas Murad Retinol Night Cream has retinyl propionate, a less irritating form of vitamin A. I’m not bashing Murad, I’m actually a fan of their products, but this night cream should not be labeled as a retinol night cream. You can get a pure dose of retinol (ie: skinceuticals) and mix it in with your own night cream which will end up being more effective on the skin, all while saving you money.
WHAT IT DOES
Basically, retinol speeds up the process of renewing your skin. Your skin sheds naturally about every 30 days. The upper layer of your skin, the epidermis, sheds away to reveal the middle layer of your skin, the dermis. The thing is, once you hit 30, the skin shedding process starts to slow down. That’s where retinol comes in. You can still use retinol at any age, but it would be a lot more helpful after 30. You can also use retinol to help with acne scars, since it will help shed that layer of skin quicker. One thing that’s really important is to remember to wear sunscreen every single day when using retinol actively. Otherwise you are just damaging that fresh baby-like layer of skin.
I first tried retinol about 7 years ago. I didn’t listen to the instructions and used it every night. A few days later, my skin started peeling and I got terribly sunburned so I stopped using it. Fast forward 2-ish years: I try it out again. This time I mix it in with my moisturizer, using it 5x a week. My skin peels yet again and I give up. I say that retinol is just not for me. Little did I know it would literally change my skin. It’s September 2019 and I’ve decided to give retinol another shot. After all, I’ve heard so many great things about it. This time, I sloooowly introduce it to my face – like I should have from the very beginning. First adding it to my moisturizer 2x a week for 2 weeks. Then bumping it up to 3x a week – which is where I’m currently at. I have yet to go up to 4x a week, only because I don’t think I need to. But like I said, everybody’s skin is different. I gave my mom some retinol and she can use it like it’s no big deal. The takeaway here is it takes time. Introduce retinol to your face slowly and gently and then figure out how much of it you can take. Your skin will probably peel, but your face will thank you later.
Still not sure how and when to use it? I’ll write out a guideline for you, breaking it down in a 6 week period:
FIRST 2 WEEKS:
Introduce retinol 1x a week by adding it to your night time moisturizer.
SECOND 2 WEEKS:
Bump up your use to 2x a week, by adding it to your moisturizer
THIRD 2 WEEKS:
Continue using 2x a week, but this time using a it separately on your bare face, then layering your moisturizer.
After these 6 weeks, you can gage your skin and see if you are able to add some more, or stay as is. Remember, retinol is a very strong chemical and patience is key.
Hello to better skin.