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  • Writer's pictureNatural Skin By Lynne

Retinol! What Is It & How Does It Work?

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

Are you thinking about adding a retinol product to your skin care routine? If so, you may be wondering how often you should use it: every day, once per week, sparingly?

Here’s your complete guide to adding retinol to your life and other things you should be aware of....

Retinol within a skincare routine with Natural Skin By Lynne

So, how often should you actually use retinol?

The short answer - Eventually, most people can use it every day or almost every day, if they like.

The long answer - It depends on what kind or product you’re using, how sensitive your skin is, and what percentage of retinol you’re using.

You’ll likely want to use retinol once or twice per week initially and work up to using it more than that.

This is because Retinol can initially be drying, especially if you have sensitive skin. So it’s a great idea to give your skin some time to adjust to the change in your night time routine...

The evening is a time of rest and repair for your skin, and cell turnover is at its peak. For this reason, I recommend applying retinol before bed to enhance activities that are already happening.

You’ll want to use it sparingly at first – I would recommend starting with 3 times a week for the first 2 weeks.

If, after the first 2 weeks, you don’t see any side effects, then consider using it 2 nights on, and 1 night off.

After a month or so with no side effects, you can likely use it every day if you wish to do so.

It takes time to transition onto Retinol - Your skin needs to adjust to it!

Back up for a second: What is retinol, exactly?

Retinol is a type of retinoid, that are derivatives of vitamin A.

Retinoids are a category that includes things like retinol, retinaldehyde, tretinoin, and more...

Retinol is commonly used in over-the-counter skin care products that treat acne and wrinkles, while retinoic acid is more commonly found in prescription products, such as isotretinoin.

Retinoic acid (aka tretinoin) is stronger than retinol, which is why products containing it tend to be available by prescription only. They’re also generally used to treat severe acne that doesn’t respond to other treatments. (Accutane, which was pulled off the market in 2009, is a brand-name example of isotretinoin.)

How does retinol work?

Retinol promotes cell development and turnover — that’s in large part what makes it so effective as a skin care ingredient.

Not only is it a powerful acne treatment, but it can also fade hyperpigmentation and red spots.

It may also prevent the breakdown of collagen. This in turn may help reduce wrinkles.

It may also smooth out your skin and promote a more even skin tone.

Is it safe to use retinol every day?

For most people, yes — once your skin is used to it, that is.

That said, there are some people who suffer with skin allergies, Eczema & Rosacea who may not want to use it frequently or at all.

This goes back to the fact that retinol hastens cell turnover. Although this is what helps treat and reduce acne, scarring, & hyperpigmentation, it also causes dryness and flakiness. So, if you have a skin condition that dries out the skin, you’ll want to speak with a skin specialist before trying out any sort of retinol product.

It’s also important to note that pregnant people should avoid retinols. Vitamin A can be damaging and increase your risk for birth defects.

Side effects to watch for....

While your skin is adjusting to retinol, it’s normal to see some side effects, including:




stinging feeling

skin peeling

However, they should be fairly mild and subside after 2 to 3 weeks.

Retinol and your skin type....

Generally, retinol works with all skin types. In fact, if you have naturally oily skin, you may find that using a retinol helps reduce overall oiliness thanks to its drying nature.

Have sensitive or extremely dry skin? Then I’d recommend looking for a product that contains a retinyl ester, which is a gentler form of retinol.

Again, speak with a skin specialist if you need any clarification before adding a retinol to your skincare routine.

How do you get started with retinol?

First, you’ll want to find a product that works for your skin.

If this is your first time trying retinol, start with a product that has a very low concentration of retinol, like 0.1 to 0.25 percent.

If you’re ready to move onto a higher concentration, then a Retinol with 0.5% is a good start.

I have clients who I transition onto a super retinol product, but there is the maximum of 3% active retinol in that product.

Make sure you use sunscreen before you go out and about, since sun exposure may worsen some of the retinol’s initial side effects.

Your step-by-step guide to using retinol in your skin care routine:

Here’s exactly how to start incorporating retinol into your regular routine:

Wash your face and wait until your skin is completely dry. (Certain products may work better when applied to damp skin, but, with retinol, damp skin may lead to increased irritation.)

Take a pea-size amount of your retinol product. Start applying from the chin and work your way up in an upward and outward motion.

Apply your night moisturiser on top of the retinol.

A pea-size amount might not look like much, but less is more when it comes to transitioning onto retinol.... You don’t want to over do it!

Does retinol work with all skin care ingredients?

Generally, yes. But retinol doesn’t get along with vitamin C or hydroxy acids, because those ingredients can also be irritating to the skin.

On the other hand, retinol products are fine to pair with moisturizsers or other serums that include things like hyaluronic acid or niacinamide.

How long does it take to see results?

With retinol, you’re playing the long game.

It can generally take at least 6-12 months (and sometimes longer) to see results with some products, though prescription retinol products generally work a little faster. It might be discouraging, but don’t give up.

The bottom line - When it comes to retinol, slow and steady wins the race.

Start by incorporating it into your night time skin care routine once or twice per week before moving on to everyday use.

For more information, help or advice on your skin please get in touch –

Your skin will thank you!

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