How To Up Your Retinol Dose Without Irritating Your Skin

by Gio

medik8 retinol 6 TR 01

So, you want to up your retinol dose but are scared of irritation?

I hear ya. Retinol is an anti aging superhero but use too much too soon and your skin will react with a bad case of irritation and flakiness. Ugh.

The fix? Go for microencapsulated, time-released products, like Medik8 Retinol 6 TR.

Have no clue what I’m talking about? Here’s the lowdown on this microencapsulated, time-released business:

Microencapsulated + Time Released Technology

When you hear an active ingredient (in this case, retinol) is microencapsulated, it means it’s surrounded by some kind of coating. This clever little technology does two things:

  1. Protects retinol: it keeps your retinol stable so light and air won’t degrade it every time you open and close the packaging.
  2. Makes retinol gentler: instead than hitting your skin all at once, retinol is delivered over the course of several hours, greatly reducing the risk of irritations.

Time-released is the technology that controls the delivery system for the gradual release of retinol.

In plain English, microencapsulated, time-released retinol is way gentler for your skin. It means you can use a higher concentration without worrying about side effects. Usually, it’s suitable for sensitive skin too (I say usually because a small minority of people with very sensitive skin may not be able to use retinol at all).

But why should you use retinol in the first place?


Retinol is my fave anti aging superstar. One of the very few things proven to reduce the wrinkles you already have and prevent new ones from forming.

It works in three ways:

  1. It destroys the free radicals that cause premature aging before they can give you wrinkles
  2. It speeds up cellular turnover, i.e., the skin’s natural exfoliation process, to give you smoother and brighter skin
  3. It boosts the production of collagen to keep your skin firm and elastic

By the way, keeping your skin young isn’t all retinol does. It’s a precious alley against acne too.

Medik8 Retinol 6 TR contains a whooping 0.6% retinol.

I know what you’re thinking. Gio must be sarcastic here. 0.6% is nothing. Shouldn’t an active be present at 10% or something at the top of the ingredient list to work?

Most of the time, yes. But every rule has its exception. Retinol is the exception here.

Retinol is so powerful, it works even at tiny concentrations. In fact 1% retinol is considered HUGE. That’s only for the pros who’ve been using retinol for years and years.

0.6% is for those in between. Not strong enough for the pros but not suitable for beginners either. Like I told you at the beginning of this post, it’s for those who are ready to up their retinol dose but without going all the way up just yet.

Related: What Concentration Of Retinol Should You Use?

medik8 retinol 6 TR 02

Safflower Seed Oil

I don’t need to tell you where safflower seed oil comes from, right? Yep, from the seeds of the small orange safflower plant.

Safflower oil makes up the base of Medik8 Retinol 6 TR. This oil is rich in linoleic acid, a fatty acid with many superpowers. It helps moisturise skin, reduces irritations and even helps treat acne. 

How To Use Medik8 Retinol 6 TR

The retinol here may be time-released and microencapsulated but that doesn’t mean you can use it every day.

Whenever you’re upping your retinol dose, you need to train your skin to put up with it. That means using it only twice a week for the first week. Every other day for the second week. And, if your skin’s happy, you can use it every single night after that.

FYI, I still use it every other day because I like to alternate my retinol with glycolic acid. If you use a gentler exfoliant or exfoliate less often, you can get away with using it every day.

One more thing: retinol makes skin more susceptible to sun damage (ironic, as it helps treat it!).  Use it at night only and pile up the sunscreen in the morning.

Related: Which Skincare Ingredients Should You Only Use At Night?

Let’s Put It To The Test: Personal Use & Opinion

First things first: Medik8 Retinol 6 TR contains only 15 ml of product so you’ll have to repurchase often. The small size has its perks, though. It’s easy to travel with and you can actually finish it (come on, how many half-used retinol serums do you have in your stash?).

Medik8 says to use 4 drops but I use 3. I find this is enough to cover my entire face and lets the serum sinks in even faster. If you have oily skin, using one less drop may be best for you, too.

The texture is indeed oily but fairly lightweight and doesn’t leave a greasy residue behind. After a couple of applications, I can already see a difference. My skin is smoother and my pores look tighter.

Did I see a reduction in wrinkles? Not straight away. You didn’t get those wrinkles and fine lines in a week so they won’t go away in a week. But with regular use, yes, they do get a little smaller.

And nope, from the first use, I didn’t experience any irritation or flaking at all. My skin’s kinda used to retinol so keep that in mind too. 🙂

Available at: £39.00 at Adore BeautyMedik8 and Zest Beauty


Ingredients: Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cyclopentasiloxane, PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer, Cyclohexasiloxane, Retinol, Topcopheryl Acetate, Lecithin, BHT

Have you tried micro encapsulated, time-delivered retinol? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

PR Sample. Affiliate links.

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kaido March 16, 2018 - 5:09 pm

Hi Gio, how does this compares with The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, retinol-strength wise? I want to up my retinol game but because the latter is hydroxypinacolone retinoate + microencapsulated retinol(%?), I am not really sure the actual strength. Any product suggestions?

Gio March 23, 2018 - 7:18 pm

Kaido, The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion contains two forms of vitamin A so you can’t really compare it with this one, which has only one. I’d say that if you’re happy with TO, there’s no need to switch.

Jean April 21, 2018 - 12:51 am

Hi. I am wondering if you can get to the bottom of what I have noticed in my first efforts to introduce Retinol into my skin routine. I am 48 and had never used it, so started with Neutrogena and ROC products (ie. not high % of Retinol). Although I experienced NO redness, burning, irritation or peeling, I did notice that my crow’s feet appeared significantly deeper/more noticeable while I was using the cream! It’s like the skin in the area was plumper in a way, but the effect was that the lines in that skin were deeper, if that makes sense. Once I stopped using the retinol cream things returned to normal. Very disappointed as I want all the benefits of this ingredient- but not if it has the opposite effect 🙁 Thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated!

Gio April 27, 2018 - 9:15 am

Jean, what you’re experiencing is very common. It means the retinol is drying out your skin and when your skin is dry, your wrinkles look way worse. It’s not that they’ve become deeper, but lack of moisture makes them look deeper. Were you using retinol every night? Even small concentrations can dry out skin when used every day in the beginning. Or it may be that your skin’s sensitive to retinol so even small doses cause this effect. My advice is to cut back usage to twice a week and moisturise skin well afterwards. You can try using a facial oil on top of the cream to counteract the drying effects. Hope this helps.

Sarah Wright June 17, 2018 - 11:05 am

I used this and had a reaction my face feels burned and so so dry my eyes are swollen and my wrinkles look so much worse than before !!! I’m worried my skin will never be the same again ????

Gio June 22, 2018 - 10:37 am

Sarah, oh no, I’m so sorry to hear this! Seems like you’ve had an allergic reaction to something. But your skin will go back to normal. Just keep a basic skincare routine (cleanser + moisturiser and sunscreen) for a few days and you’ll heal.


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