By Josh Sim, Aesthetic and Better Ageing Specialist
Retinol is a powerful anti-aging ingredient that can help improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone, but when using retinol products, it's important to follow a few guidelines to get the most benefit without causing irritation or other side effects.
Always start slow and low. Retinol can be irritating to the skin, especially if your skin is already sensitive, and can cause the skin to break out, become dry, or inflamed. To prevent this, start by using it once a week, then gradually increase it to every other night or every night if your skin can tolerate it. Consistency is key when it comes to using retinol, and it can take several weeks or even months to see results, so it's important to be patient and stick with it. Retinol also comes in different strengths, ranging from 0.01% to 2%, so if you're new to retinol, I suggest starting with a lower concentration and working your way up as your skin becomes more accustomed to it.
Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it's best to use it at night rather than during the day, otherwise, you put yourself at risk of sunburn and skin damage that can lead to discolouration, scarring, and even premature aging. Even if you apply retinol at night, I always recommend applying sunscreen to protect your skin during the day just to be safe as your skin will likely still be sensitive.
You should only ever apply retinol to clean, dry skin, so I suggest applying it after cleansing and toning. Before applying your next product, allow the retinol to fully absorb - this is especially important with other potent ingredients like acids (such as salicylic acid) or vitamin C products which can cause irritation if used together. My advice is to leave a few hours between these products, such as using an acid-based toner in the morning, and your retinol at night to give the skin time to settle.