8 Proven Tricks To Make The Most Of Retinol (Even If You Have Sensitive Skin)

by Gio
8 ways to make the most of retinol - even if you have sensitive skin

It’s not just what you use. It’s HOW you use it.

Take retinol. It’s the gold standard for anti aging. It boosts collagen production, reduces wrinkles and even treats acne! You’d be mad not to use it.

But if you use it WRONG, it won’t work as well. Worse, it may turn your face into a flaky red mess.

So how to you use it RIGHT? Here are 8 scientifically proven tricks to make the most out of retinol (and all other forms of Vitamin A):

PS: they work even if you have sensitive skin.

peter thomas roth retinol infusion pm night serum 02

1. Keep It Hidden

We humans crave sunshine and fresh hair. Retinol hates them. Whenever it’s exposed to light and air, it slowly loses a bit of its effectiveness. Within a few short weeks, it becomes useless. That’s why you should opt for opaque and air-tight tubes and bottles that keep it hidden from its enemies. They’ll keep it effective until you’ve reached the last drop.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Retinol Products Packaged In Jars

2. Freeze It

No more storing your precious retinol serums in the bathroom girls. Heat makes retinol go bad faster too. If you want it last (and I guess you do), keep your bottles somewhere dark and fresh, like your air-conditioned bedroom. Or the refrigerators. Yep, that works too.

3. Use it at night

Remember when I said retinol and light don’t get along well? You can get around this by wearing sunscreen. But if you’re not religious with reapplication, save yourself the hassle and use it at night.

Related: What Ingredients Are Best Used At Night?

lixirskin night switch retinol 1% review

4. Start small

When you take up running, you don’t start with a marathon. You run for a mile, then two, then three. You work your way up to give your body time to get used to the bigger workload. It’s the same with retinol. When you first use it, it can be pretty harsh and leave your skin red and flaky. The best way to avoid the irritation is to start with a small concentration once or twice a week and increase both dose and frequency gradually.

Related: Which Strength Of Retinol Should You Use?

5. A pea is enough

I know you want to get rid of those wrinkles fast but don’t get carried away. A pea-size amount for the face is enough. Really. With retinol, less is more.

Related: How Much Of Each Skincare Product Should You Use?

6. Avoid other powerful or irritating ingredients

All the best skincare superstars – you know, vitamin C and glycolic acid – can be harsh and irritating too. If you’ve got pretty resistant skin, you may be able to use them together.

If you’ve got sensitive skin or are a retinol newbie, you need to give your skin time to adjust to the extra load. That means using them on alternate nights.

If even that is too much, you may want to consider taking one superstar out of your skincare routine for a while. You can always bring it back once your skin has gotten used to the new regime.

Related: 5 Antiaging Superstars You Should Include In Your Skincare Routine

medik8 retinol 6 TR 01

7. Tweak your skincare routine

Even if you follow all the tips above, retinol can still cause some trouble. It may dry out your skin or irritate it. Not as much as it would if you started with a huge dose every day but if your skin’s on the sensitive side, the risk is there.

That’s why it pays to be prepared. Follow up your retinol with a rich moisturizer full of soothing agents that’ll neutralise both its drying and irritating effects.

Best picks:

8. Choose time-released products

If you have sensitive skin, your best bet is to go for a time-released retinol products. Time-released means that the retinol is delivered into your skin slowly over a period of several hours rather than all at once.

Best picks:

SHOP THE POST

How do you make the most of retinol? Share your secrets in the comments below.

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26 comments

Laurie February 2, 2016 - 1:32 am

I’ve started using retinol on my chest and hands as well, since those areas are exposed to the sun. For the sun damage on my face, it’s made a big difference — that and Vitamin C serum!

For irritation, I’ve found that niacinamide really helps soothe the skin after retinol. Most of the moisturizers from Olay have it in a good amount.

Reply
Gio February 2, 2016 - 8:34 am

Laurie, it’s incredible how well they work, isn’t it? I adore niacinamide too. I think it’s a very underrated ingredient more people should know about. Although, from what I’ve read, this year more brands will start to incorporate it into their products. It’s one of the big skincare trends for 2016, apparently.

Reply
Janessa February 2, 2016 - 6:38 am

I’ve used retinol before but I don’t currently use any retinol specific product. These are great tips.
I do use PC’s super antioxidant serum which has some small amount of retinol in it.

Reply
Gio February 2, 2016 - 8:35 am

Janessa, you’re still so young, a small amount is all you need, really. 🙂

Reply
Marina (Makeup4all) February 8, 2016 - 1:13 pm

How do you like that LRP product? I am using/loving the eye cream from that range, so would love to hear your thoughts/review on this one..

Reply
Gio February 8, 2016 - 8:25 pm

Marina, I like it. It’s a pretty basic cream, and doesn’t contain as many antioxidants as I’d like, but it does what it says, reduce wrinkles. But I’d definitely use it together with an antioxidant-rich serum, otherwise your skin will miss out on so many other beneficial ingredients.

Reply
Marina (Makeup4all) February 10, 2016 - 10:56 am

Thanks for your feedback.

Reply
Gio February 10, 2016 - 3:29 pm

My pleasure.

Reply
Annette February 8, 2016 - 11:22 pm

I love my Glycolic Acids from Peter Thomas Roth and Alpha H. I also have a retinol product from Peter Thomas Roth but I don’t know when to use it – a few days after using Liquid Gold or before? Help!

Reply
Gio February 13, 2016 - 7:59 pm

Annette, if your skin can tolerate it, you can use them on alternate days. 🙂

Reply
Junie February 20, 2016 - 10:03 am

I am thinking of using la Roche posay Retinol.

Never used it before not sure if I have left it to late, in my fifties.

My skin is sensitive so was thinking to use just at night, can you suggest what is best and do I use moisturiser over Retinol at night.

What is best to use in the day?

Hope you can help
Junie

Reply
Gio February 20, 2016 - 6:46 pm

Junie, it’s never too late to start using retinol. It may not be able to undo all the damage, but it will definitely help your skin to look its best.

Using it only at night is a great idea. I’d also recommend to just apply it two or three times a week, until your skin has got used to it. Then, you can slowly start increasing frequency. Follow up with a moisturizer, preferably one that has soothing ingredients like oats or allantoin.

During the day, using a serum with vitamin c or glycolic acid. Again, you want to use them sparingly at first to give your skin time to get used to them.

Hope this helps,

Reply
Junie February 20, 2016 - 7:33 pm

Thanks for your help, can you suggest any brands I can get, there are so many and it is very confusing, I am in the Uk,

Would love a list of products to get so I can get started.

Thanks so much

Junie

Reply
Gio February 21, 2016 - 2:57 pm

Hi Junie, if you don’t mind buying online, I recommend Paula’s Choice. You can’t go wrong with their products.

Other good retinol products are Murad Time Release Retinol Concentrate For Deep Wrinkles and ZO Skin Health Ossential Advanced Radical Night Repair. The Olay Regenerist line is also good.

Hope this helps.

Reply
Eileen Lowe June 16, 2018 - 9:25 pm

Can you but zo skin advanced night on my chest as well as my face? My chest is wrinkly

Reply
Gio June 22, 2018 - 10:58 am

Eileen, yes you can.

Reply
Junie February 21, 2016 - 3:27 pm

Hi Gio
I was thinking of la Roche posay,
I tried Olay moisturiser some time ago and came out in a rash, is la Roche good??

Thanks for your time, you are very helpful

Junie

Reply
Gio February 21, 2016 - 5:41 pm

Hi Junie,

oops, sorry. Yeah, La Roche Posay is good, but fairly basic. Unlike the products I mentioned, which are full of antioxidants, La Roche moisturizers contain retinol and little else. If you want to go with them, try Redermic R Anti-Wrinkle Treatment. It’s basic but effective.

Reply
Junie February 21, 2016 - 5:48 pm

Oh just as I thought I have so much to learn about the products, Would rather have the antioxidants , will see what I can find in the Uk.

Thanks for all your help

Junie

Reply
Gio February 21, 2016 - 7:11 pm

Junie, my pleasure. Let me know if you need any more help.

Reply
Leah November 19, 2016 - 7:15 am

If your using a retinol cream, do you need an eye cream as well?

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Gio November 19, 2016 - 9:47 am

Leah, that depends on how well you eye area can tolerate the retinol cream. If it doesn’t get irritated or flake, then you can just use the retinol cream.

Reply
Kate June 19, 2018 - 4:27 am

Thanks for the tips, just one question, do you need to wait at least 20 minutes before you apply other products onto your skin? A couple of websites suggested it.

Reply
Gio June 22, 2018 - 12:25 pm

Kate, it does depend on what actives you use. For example, it’s recommended you apply makeup 20 minutes after putting on sunscreen. Some people also like to wait a few minutes between application of vitamin C, retinol etc just to get them the time to penetrate the skin better. But you don’t have to do it for every product and it doesn’t have to be 20 minutes exact every time.

Reply
Kathleen April 2, 2019 - 5:58 pm

Hello! I use Retin A from Curology. and my blend includes niacinamide and azelaic acid. I always follow with ceramides. It seems to keep me from burning & peeling. Also, I see you commented on using Vitamin C in the same routine. Can you? I use Ascorbic Acid in the morning, but I’d like to add it at night, too. (My skin is tolerant of L-Ascorbic) I always put my Vitamin C on first – should I do that at night, too?

Reply
Gio April 4, 2019 - 11:46 am

Kathleen, if you’re using it in the morning, you don’t need it at night as well.

Reply

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