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Enjoy Smooth, Wrinkle-Free Skin With Retinol

We’ve long understood the importance of caring for our skin to maintain our health and a youthful look. But in the last few years, consumers have become more informed about the skincare ingredients in everyday beauty products. As our awareness increased, one item became the gold-star component of any anti-aging regimen: retinol. 

While retinol is becoming a household name, every anti-aging product is different. Let’s discuss how to use retinol, as it’s only effective if applied correctly. Thankfully, incorporating over-the-counter retinol products into your skincare routine is simple.

October 13, 2022
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Table of Contents

What is retinol?

Retinol is a member of the vitamin A-derivative ingredients known as retinoids. Retinoids also include retinyl esters, retinaldehyde, Retin-A, and retinoic acid (also known as tretinoin).

Retinoids kick-start cell turnover and speed up collagen production, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improving skin texture, and clearing pores of acne-causing debris. Rapid skin cell production also helps build up the epidermis’ uppermost layer, offering additional protection from harmful free radicals and other environmental stressors that hurt your complexion. 

The benefits of retinol

Dermatologists are enthusiastic advocates for retinol use because of the myriad of benefits that come from regular use, including:

  • Brightening and revitalizing skin’s character.
  • Evening skin tone and texture for a softer, smoother complexion.
  • Reducing dark spots and hyperpigmentation caused by melasma, sunspots, and inflammatory skin conditions.
  • Decreasing the severity and frequency of blackheads, blemishes, and acne breakouts.
  • Improving the appearance of facial scars from acne and other causes.
  • Softening the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Reducing skin inflammation overall.

How to apply retinol

Before running off to apply your new retinol cream, remember: Always incorporate new skincare products slowly, working up to daily use, to avoid dry, flaky, or irritated skin. 

We also recommend using retinol serums or creams as part of your nighttime beauty regimen. First, retinol is not photo-stable, meaning it breaks down when exposed to sunlight, reducing its effectiveness. Second, skin is more permeable at night, allowing retinol to penetrate and affect the deeper layers of the epidermis as you sleep. 

Step-by-step process

Here are the four most important steps for applying retinol effectively:

  1. Gently wash your face. Prep your skin by using a gentle cleanser to remove makeup, oil, and dirt. Pat dry and wait about 20 minutes. Any leftover moisture can interact with the retinol to cause redness and irritation, so skin should be totally dry before application.
  2. Protect your eyes. Apply a layer of moisturizer around your eyes to protect the thinner skin from over-application. We recommend using a retinol-based eye cream to get the same benefits without worrying about damaging the area’s delicate skin.
  3. Apply sparingly. Apply a pea-sized amount of retinol to your fingertips. Starting at your chin, massage it in using small, outward circular motions to your cheeks, forehead, nose, and under your eyes. Avoid getting it on your lips.
  4. Stay hydrated. Finally, moisturize your skin to combat any tightness you feel after application. For best results, consider using a night cream that incorporates niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, or ceramides, as these help lock in skin’s moisture. 

When starting your new retinol routine, apply it once and wait a few days to see how your skin reacts. If there’s no irritation, increase use to twice a week. If your skin tolerates it well, increase how often you use retinol after two weeks. 

Continue in this fashion until you feel ready for nightly application. If irritation ever becomes more than a hydrating lotion can relieve, take a step back and reduce application. If redness and irritation persist, consult a dermatologist.

Final tips

We know expectations are high — here are a few things to remember when starting your retinol journey.

Start early

Experts recommend starting retinol use in your mid-twenties or early thirties. Regardless of age, retinol reduces the signs of aging, so beginning later in life is still worthwhile. 

Take your time

You’re not going to become retinol’s before and after poster child overnight. Even the best retinol skincare products don’t show results for at least 12–24 weeks. Results might be slower for those with sensitive skin and a reduced application schedule, and you may need to choose a product with a lower concentration of retinol. Now’s the time to practice patience. 

No rough stuff

Because retinol increases skin cell turnover, your complexion may look a little dull at first. Resist the urge to use facial scrubs or exfoliating acids. These products may damage your skin when paired with retinol until you’ve settled into your routine. Avoid using them on the same days in your routine.  

Protect yourself

Retinol increases skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, so it’s increasingly important to protect your skin from sun damage. We recommend broad-spectrum SPF50. 

Know your products

If your other skin care products contain active ingredients like vitamin C, save them for daytime use. Combining the two products can lead to irritation. If you have any questions about product compatibility, consult a skin care professional.

Don’t give up

Initially, you may experience redness, dryness, and flaking. That’s a normal part of the adjustment process and should resolve after 2–3 days — apply additional moisturizer in the meantime.

If you have sensitive skin or inflammation persists, chat with a dermatologist to find a product and application process that works best for you. They may prescribe an alternative, like retinyl palmitate, that delivers the same results without irritation. 

Incorporating a retinol product into your skincare regimen is a great way to ensure your skin looks its best for years to come. If you’re unsure which product’s best, we love the fresh minty scent of Urban Skin Rx’s Retinol Repair & Dark Spot Treatment and The Ordinary’s Squalane Retinol 0.5%

Want to see how these products work? Check out the friendly and knowledgeable reviews on Flip. Our community is here to help you find the safest, most effective retinol product.

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