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7 Tips on How to Use Retinol Effectively

7 Tips on How to Use Retinol Effectively Image
Written by Nurx
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Retinol is one of the skincare superstars worthy of a place in your skin care routine. With benefits ranging from skin clarity, resiliency, and evenness, people with nearly any skin concern should learn more about retinol. Plus, accessing high-quality products has never been easier. 

It’s important to know how to best integrate retinol into your routine so you get the best results possible. Product placement in your regimen, frequency, and best practices can all make the difference between complexion woes and major results. Here’s what you need to know:

1. What are the benefits of retinol?

Retinol, commonly known as vitamin A, is a skincare superhero that can be found in many modern beauty treatments, from over the counter adapalene to prescription-strength tretinoin cream.

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This product increases cell turnover and improves the skin’s ability to heal. By increasing collagen production, retinol has anti-aging benefits that can reduce the appearance of wrinkles over time. 

For acne sufferers, retinol can unclog pores, even stubborn blackheads. This topically-applied treatment can also improve skin texture, which is beneficial for acne-prone and aging skin.

Many over-the-counter products boast the inclusion of vitamin A, but generally, most users see the biggest skincare boost with prescription retinol from a trusted provider. 

2. When should you start using retinol?

Retinol is available in a range of potencies, so most people can consider adding it to their routine, regardless of age or skincare concerns. While those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid it, as well as other vitamin A products, retinol can typically be used long-term. Additionally, many postpartum individuals find retinol to be highly effective for treating pregnancy-related skin changes like melasma. Ask your provider which retinoid is right for you. 

Follow all product application instructions, paying special attention to sun protection. Use a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 as retinol may increase sun sensitivity. It’s important to take extra care and protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

3. How should you apply retinol for the best results?

The application, frequency, and order of using retinol will greatly impact your results. Follow basic skincare routine principles to lay a strong foundation for your retinol regimen. Because retinoids can be deactivated when exposed to the sun, they should be reserved for evening use.

First, you should cleanse your skin, removing all makeup, dirt, and oil. Next, apply serums and eye cream, if you use them. Then, apply your retinol treatment to your face and neck, avoiding your eyes, nostrils, and mouth.

Use clean fingers to apply retinol, using your fingertips to delicately glide the product across your skin. Make upward, sweeping motions from the middle of your face in small strokes for even distribution. Avoid tugging or pulling, especially near the delicate eye area and on your neck. Use the recommended dosage indicated on your product, as over-applying may irritate your skin and waste product. 

Wash your hands after application to reduce potential eye irritation or product contamination. Wait for 10 to 20 minutes to allow the product to sink into your skin. After the necessary time has passed, finish up with your favorite moisturizer and skin oils, covering the same areas that you did with your retinol. Locking in your retinol treatment can increase its effectiveness, preserving it behind a protective layer of moisture. 

4. How often should you apply retinol?

You may be anxious to start seeing results, but it’s important to start slowly. New retinol users may start with a three night per week regimen. Spacing the application gives your skin a chance to adjust to its ingredients. 

As a photo-sensitive product, retinol is best applied at night. Evening application also helps retinol do its best work without the interference of cosmetics or environmental factors. Establish an easy-to-remember routine that keeps you on track with your retinol application. 

5. What are the best skincare companions for retinol regimens?

Pairing your retinol with the right products can improve their effectiveness, and you’ll see the best results on your skin. Carefully assess the contents of your skincare stash to determine which products can be used alongside retinol. Some pair well. However, others can render retinol less effective, or worse, can cause irritation.

Daily moisture is essential in any routine, and it’s especially crucial for those using retinol. Look for moisturizers featuring ceramides to further improve skin texture and moisture retention. With the right skincare companions, your retinol can be its most effective and reduce the risk of irritation.

When visiting an in-office provider for your next facial, be sure to mention your new retinol routine. Product options and treatment methods can be supportive to your skincare goals, even improving their effectiveness. This important detail can also ensure your facial doesn’t include any non-compatible ingredients that can cause irritation and drying. 

6. What products should you avoid while using retinol?

Chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid offer a wide range of benefits, especially when it comes to removing dead skin. While they can be safe to use in a normal routine, their potent nature can cause irritation when used with retinol. Avoid creating new issues by choosing a lactic acid exfoliant instead. 

Antioxidant vitamin C offers anti-aging benefits, but its potency can cause irritation when paired with retinol. Instead, use vitamin C treatments on non-retinol days, after spot testing an inconspicuous area. Once you’ve determined that this approach does not cause issues, cycling vitamin C and retinol can be possible.

In addition to AHAs, BHAs, and vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide is another ingredient to be wary of when using retinol. While both products can help reduce acne, pairing benzoyl peroxide with your retinol treatment can neutralize both their effectiveness. 

As you begin to use retinol, you may want to assess your cosmetics lineup, too. Some tinted moisturizers and complexion products may include active ingredients that can cause a reaction. If you’re unknowingly applying cosmetics with incompatible ingredients, you may cause irritation. Carefully audit everything you put on your skin to ensure your retinol regimen can be its most effective. 

7. When can you start to see results?

While skincare miracles are often desired, they’re not always possible. Thankfully, retinol users can see the best and most lasting benefits with patience and consistency. 

Most users begin to see results within 12 weeks. When using a three times-a-week routine, this means that just 36 applications can make noticeable improvements. Resist the urge to over-apply to speed up results, as the active ingredients can be irritating. Follow your provider’s instructions on beginning your routine and stay consistent, even if results are slower than you’d like. 

Most users see the most significant results with retinol when they approach the six or even twelve-month mark. In a year-long study, researchers found significant improvements in photodamaged skin. Crow’s feet and hyperpigmentation were reduced, and study participants showed improved collagen levels as well. 

Caring for your skin’s changing needs with retinol

There are few skincare products with the range of effectiveness offered by retinol. Thanks to its well-researched applications across anti-aging, acne, and melasma treatments, retinol can become a lifelong component of your routine. Plus, its non-invasive application makes it accessible for those who prefer to age without in-office treatments.

If over-the-counter retinol isn’t quite addressing your skincare needs, there are more effective retinoids, too. Prescription options, like tretinoin, offer a stronger concentration of active ingredients.

If you’re ready to care for your skin’s changing needs, reach out to a trusted provider. Together, you can discuss the benefits of using retinol and retinoids, the right concentration for your needs, and even arrange for home delivery. With consistent use, you’ll see improvements in your skin’s overall appearance, allowing you to age gracefully. 

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