If there’s a grand taskmaster in skincare, it’s the class of ingredients known as retinoids. These derivatives of vitamin A, often referred to as the brand name Retin-A, do it all. They can clear acne by preventing clogged pores, and increase cell turnover rates and stimulate the production of new collagen to improve and even reverse symptoms of aging like wrinkles, age spots and dullness.
Any woman or man who is aging is a candidate for retinoids, including every skintone. Unfortunately, side effects like drying, flaking and irritation can make the ingredient difficult for many to comfortably incorporate into skincare routines. The good news: how you apply the retinoid makes all the difference.
Apply retinoid after moisturizer. Applying retinoid right after cleansing increases your chance of unwanted side effects. Instead, apply after moisturizing at night to create a nice buffer between your skin and the active ingredient. Studies show that you will still get the same benefits with a much lower risk of irritation.
Use a pea-size amount for your whole face. Very little goes a long way. Using just a smidge the size of a pea, apply to your forehead, cheeks and chin to ensure even distribution, and then quickly use your fingers to spread a thin layer over your entire face. Avoid the area directly underneath your eyes, as it’s too thin and sensitive for retinoid use.
Scale back if you’re sensitive. Even those with sensitive skin can benefit from retinoids! If you have skin that is prone to flaking or easily turns red, stop daily application and use on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. Very sensitive skin can downgrade to just once a week and still enjoy cumulative results.
Apply at night and wear SPF 30 daily. Sunrays break retinoids down, so they should only be applied at night. You don’t want to undo the effects, so it’s imperative you wear a daily sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day to protect your face, and reapply regularly. Wear a hat that shades your face if you’re exposed to sunlight for more than about 15 minutes.
Stay consistent and patient. Retinoids aren’t worth your time if you only apply the lotion when you remember. Whether you use it every day or once a week, staying on schedule is key to treating skin on a cellular level that produces visible results. And keep in mind that big changes don’t happen overnight; they could take up to six months.