If there was ever a skincare ingredient that’s been lauded a million times over, it’s retinol. When used properly, this complexion powerhouse can truly transform the look and feel of your skin. However, its potency is not to be taken lightly.
When incorporating retinol into your routine, it’s important to be mindful of what you’re pairing it with, as some combined ingredients can make for a gnarly cocktail of redness and peeling. Because retinol can be drying for some users, selecting a complimentary moisturizer is key. Read on to learn more about how to best use retinol against other ingredients, what to favor and avoid, and which moisturizer will help optimize your retinol experience for happy, healthy skin.
IN A NUTSHELL
Main Takeaways: Retinol is an incredibly effective and powerful ingredient. But its intensity mustn’t be taken lightly. When incorporating it into your routine, be sure to use a moisturizer that will support your retinol use and hydrate deeply for added protection.
Good to Know: Retinol, like any star-studded diva, is not the most agreeable. Pair your retinol use with complimentary products and ingredients to best protect your skin while getting the most out of your skincare routine.
Recommended Products: H2 Oh Yeah Hydrating Moisturizer
How to Use Retinol
Using retinol properly begs a delicate hand and gradual approach, as applying too much too fast can result in a host of issues, the least of which include irritation and redness. New users should test the product in a discreet location before applying to their entire face, then begin with no more than once every few days (or as directed by your skincare professional.)
As our skin acclimates to this new and potent ingredient, use can be increased to once every two nights, and ultimately to daily use. It is advisable that those with more pigmented skin should take it even slower, as increased redness from retinol use can potentially lead to lasting post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Respect the need for building a tolerance and give your skin plenty of time to adjust. Gradually work your way up, and do not attempt a daily dose before first experiencing incremental increases spread out over a month’s time.
Also, it’s important to always avoid the skin around the eyes when applying your retinols, unless the product is specifically designed for this ultra delicate and sensitive area.
The Best Time to Use Retinol
It is important to steer clear of supposed daytime retinol formulas or the application of your favorite retinol products in the AM. Retinols have the potential to increase one’s sensitivity to UV rays, creating a gateway to sun burns, photoaging, and a variety of associated dangers. Further, sunlight can decrease the potency of retinol, rendering even this powerhouse of an ingredient comparatively ineffective. Thus, we recommend reserving your retinol products for your evening routine, being sure to follow the standard order of skincare operations to get the most out of every ingredient in your regimen (i.e., 1. cleanser, 2. toner, 3. serum, 4. moisturizer).
Possible Side Effects of Retinol
When committing to all the necessary precautions, it is also important to note that even with proper use by the best candidates, retinol may still cause skin changes and “growing pains”. It encourages skin cell renewal. Your complexion may not look its best before it effectively regenerates. Redness, itching, and a shedding-of-skin is often regarded as signs that the retinol is working in what’s been termed as “retinization”. When in doubt, always consult with your doctor about when and how to incorporate retinol - or any other ingredient - into your regimen and follow manufacturer’s instructions. Have some extra patience when it comes to retinol and see if you can ride out the retinization wave.
Lastly, it is critical to understand that retinol doesn’t always play nice with everyone in the sandbox. Somewhat snarky, retinol’s propensity for volatility can be exacerbated by certain actives. Let’s take a closer look at which ingredients to avoid when applying retinol, and which ones get the green light.
Ingredients to Avoid with Retinol
AHAs and BHAs
Alpha hydroxy acids and Beta hydroxy acids (also known as AHAs and BHAs) offer exfoliating effects similar to that of retinol. Applying these ingredients in conjunction with one another can truly be a recipe for disaster, with painful redness and uncontrolled peeling. It’s generally best to keep these nemeses as far apart as possible, but if a product you are challenged to part with contains either of these ingredients, try using your AHAs/BHAs in the morning so that you are free to use your retinol at night.
Another potent ingredient, often indicated for the treatment of acne and persistent breakouts, benzoyl peroxide, tends to minimize the oils of the skin, which can be favorable by some physicians in certain cases. But combining it with retinol can not only strip the skin completely, causing extreme dryness and irritation, the two ingredients cancel eachother out with regard to their desired results, yielding a traumatized complexion that is neither clear nor revivified.
With opposing pH levels, these two ingredients tend to wear one another down, lessening their effectiveness and potentially aggravating the skin. While you shouldn’t ever use them both as part of the same routine, separating them by hours is totally appropriate and even beneficial for your skin. Apply your vitamin C products in the morning when a bright and healthy glow likely matters to you most. At night, enjoy using your retinol with peace of mind.
Best Ingredients To Use With Retinol
Humectants are basically moisture magnets that draw water from the environment into the deepest layers of your complexion for sustained hydration and a plumper, more youthful appearance. With their ability to calm the skin and counteract redness and dryness, they make a perfect match for retinol. Things like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and aloe vera are highly effective, hydrative humectants to look for when deciding to incorporate retinol into your routine.
With antiaging and skin-soothing properties, Niacinamide makes a great buddy for retinol. It can help to reinforce your skin's protective barrier and reduce water loss to counteract irritation and dryness like a boss.
The deeply moisturizing, skin barrier protecting qualities of the right oils can be great for retinol users, as challenges with retinol are often due to improper function of the skin barrier. Known for their ability to soften and moisturize the skin while imparting an array of vitamins and minerals, these gems of Mother Nature will keep your skin nourished and protected. Examples of these are jojoba oil, sunflower seed oil, and evening primrose oil.
Best Moisturizer After Retinol
In our opinion, the best moisturizer to apply after retinol use is none other than Fleur & Bee’s own H2 Oh Yeah. This hydrating moisturizer is a comprehensive cocktail of retinol readiness. Combining humectants, like hyaluronic acid and aloe, with niacinamide, it also features an array of skin-softening botanical oils, such as sea buckthorn oil, jojoba oil, and evening primrose oil. Designed for even the driest of complexions, but still lightweight enough to use with more balanced skin, this antioxidant-rich face cream and its soothing plant-based ingredients will provide all the support you need for a successful retinol regimen.
If you are interested in giving retinol a go, know that like most things, preparation is key. Read your labels and fortify your routine with the right ingredients - and the right moisturizer - and enjoy the bountiful effects of retinol for skin that’s both healthy and beautiful.