Over the last few years retinol has gained popularity and has been hailed as the holy grail of skincare ingredients. Retinol, a Vitamin A derivative, has multiple benefits. In addition to reducing hyperpigmentation, retinol exfoliates the skin and boosts skin cell and collagen production. The increase in collagen plumps the skin from the inside out, reducing indications of aging such as lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin.

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With the increase of over-the-counter products containing retinol, many people tend to misuse the ingredient, further damaging their skin. The following tips will help you achieve the most beneficial outcome from retinol use.

Find a retinol that is good on skin and moisturizes

Retinol is a natural exfoliator that improves overall skin texture making it the perfect ingredient to treat a variety of concerns for all skin types. When choosing the best retinol product, start with the lowest concentration and gradually move up. Another important consideration is skin type – skin that is thick or oily will require a higher strength product to achieve optimal results.

Experiencing dry skin as you use retinol is common – especially if it’s your first time using it. Mixing retinol and a moisturizer or finding a product with a combination of the two can help with dryness. If you are unable to find one, apply retinol first and follow with a moisturizer to offset the dryness. Retinol also makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays, to avoid any damage, apply a daily sunscreen to maximize benefits.

Ease your way into it

Because sunlight decreases effectiveness of retinol, it should only be used at night and very sparingly as it is a powerful ingredient. Start by applying a pea size amount to your neck and face two nights a week. After two weeks you can add another night. As your skin adjusts and you move into a routine, every two weeks add another night. Retinol is powerful on its own, because of this you don’t need to use a lot of other acids or acidic products on your face as it could cause damage to skin.

Work with a dermatologist

Retinol is one of the least potent retinoids. If you are using a retinol product and you have yet to see results, working with a specialist may be recommended. Dermatologists can prescribe a retinoid which has a higher concentration of the active ingredient and can be more effective.

When used correctly and sparingly, retinol can be a valuable ingredient in skin creams and serums. It may take a few weeks to begin seeing results so do not feel discouraged. Your skin may also get worse before it gets better. If you have concerns, reach out to a dermatologist for advice and guidance.


Author: Dr. Karan Lal specializes in adult and pediatric dermatology and serves as the Director of Pediatric Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery at Affiliated Dermatology.