How to Use Retinol: A Complete Guide for Your Skin

Our faces tell our honest stories.


Oftentimes, our stories read, “I’m tired”, and while aging is a gift and our skin will naturally develop fine lines and wrinkles, who’s to say that we shouldn’t have a hand in slowing that process down? 


Smaller pores. Even skin texture. Radiant skin tone. This is one of those rare moments in life where it sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. 


We’re always on the hunt for a product that knocks out all three of these concerns, and more. Retinol, a specific type of retinoid, has earned its place among the Holy Grail crew of skincare products. Let’s break down its benefits and how to best layer it into your skincare routine.

retinol oil

What is retinol?

There are different types of retinoids and all come in varying strengths. Retinoids, derived from Vitamin A, can be ranked by strength starting with retinoic acid. This retinoid is prescription level and is often prescribed to folks who are navigating acne and aging. 


Next up is retinaldehyde, retinol and then retinol esters. Building up a tolerance and slowly introducing retinol to your skin can keep your reactions and breakouts to a minimum. 

 

What are the benefits of using retinol?

Retinol supports the production of collagen, elastin and destroys free radicals all in one fell swoop. And that’s just a fraction of what it’s capable of. 


Retinol speeds up superficial skin cells turnover rate and as a result feeds actinic keratosis spots, addresses hyperpigmentation and plumps up those fine lines and wrinkles by generating new blood vessels in the skin.


What contraindications are there while using retinol?

While using retinol, it’s important to be mindful of contraindications. 


Mixing retinol with things like vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide or AHAs & BHAs can further dry out your skin and potentially cause an unfavorable reaction.

 

How to use retinol for best results

The most important part of your daily skincare routine is knowing how to use the products effectively. There are certain circumstances, time frames, exposures and needs to consider.


What concentration should you use for your skin type?

Studies show that utilizing at least .25% retinol is the most effective. With that said, you’re going to want to begin with a small percentage and gradually increase as your skin adjusts.

 

Steps to using retinol

Retinol should be applied right after cleansing your skin. It’s best to use in the evening and a nice way to introduce it to your skin is through sandwiching. This is when you put a layer of moisturizer headfirst a small concentration of retinol on top and layer another bit of moisturizer to top it off. Because right now speeds up your skin cell turnover, it’s normal to see breakouts for up to two weeks when you start out.

 

How often should you use retinol?

It is suggested to use retinol no more than every other day for the first two weeks. For many folks, every third night is a great way to introduce retinol to your skin. 


After a month of little to no side effects, you could begin to use retinol every day if that feels appropriate. In general, retinoids do their best work when used daily. If you start to notice an overwhelming level of dryness or irritation, dial back your use.

 

What products can you use with retinol?

Now that we’ve got what doesn’t work covered, let’s talk about where retinol does its best work and who it loves to collaborate with.


Niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and other humectants love to feed off of retinol. Together, the overall theme is hydration and replenishment.


Best moisturizers to use with retinol

We know that balancing the newfound dryness of your skin while introducing retinol can be tricky. And when it comes to purchasing the right moisturizer, you want to ensure that it has a few key ingredients.


First, you’ll want to purchase a moisturizer that hydrates without causing irritation or redness.  

 

When to use vitamin C

Since vitamin C has a much lower pH than retinol, it’s best to use it in the morning, especially if you’re using retinol in the evening. Using them together may cause a reaction- so separating them into morning and evening routines is your best bet. 


When utilized adjacent to each other, you may notice your pores growing smaller, your skin looking brighter and uneven tone and texture starting to even out.

 

Why is sunscreen vitally important while using retinol?

Retinol will make your skin more photosensitive, meaning that sun exposure can penetrate and affect your skin much easier. This puts you at risk for sun damage, even if you’ve been wearing SPF since your teenage years. 


Utilizing a broad-spectrum SPF and attention moisturizer can offer you protection and coverage on a daily basis.

 

Where to purchase a retinol product

If you’re curious about making the leap to start investing in your skincare, we know just the place. Connecting with an esthetician guarantees you a resourceful guide as you dial in what skincare routine works best for your skin type. 


Working with an esthetician means you’ll have direct access to high quality, trusted skincare resources. At It’s A Beauty Ritual, you can browse a wealth of high quality skincare products, hand selected by our professional, licensed estheticians.