Top 5 Ways To Use Retinol Without Damaging Your Skin

Looking to diminish fine lines and wrinkles? Here's the right way to use a retinol to get anti aging results without drying out your skin.

Retinol is a consistent presence in skincare, revered for reversing aging signs. From diminishing fine lines and wrinkles to fading hyperpigmentation and acne scars, Retinol’s prowess is undeniable. Yet, understanding how to incorporate Retinol into your skincare routine can be overwhelming, even intimidating. So, when should you use Retinol? And how? Fear not, as navigating through the complexity of Retinol is worth the glowing, youthful skin it promises!

What Is Retinol?

Retinoids, a potent form of Vitamin A, including Retinol, are used in anti-aging products to enhance cell turnover and collagen production. With consistent use, they can minimize pores, fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration and acne scars. And yet, this wrinkle-fighting elixir is not without pitfalls! Misuse can lead to severe dryness, worsened aging signs and clogged pores, as dead cells accumulate.

It’s vital to know the options and select the best ingredient for your skin. There are various Vitamin A types to choose from. Here’s a quick breakdown:


This particular ingredient is exclusively found in prescription formulas that are prescribed by dermatologists, as it is deemed to be the most potent form of Vitamin A on the market. Some well-known brand names that use this ingredient are Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, and Renova (prescription is required).


Retinol, a cosmetic form of Vitamin A, is widely found in anti-aging over-the-counter products. While gentler compared to prescription strength retinoids, retinols are about 20 times less potent. However, despite its gentleness, it can still deliver identical results.

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Retinyl Palmitate:

Compared to retinol, this Vitamin A variant is much milder, making it a great choice for sensitive skin and an ideal starting point for retinol rookies.


Retinol is a popular anti-aging solution, but it’s important to start with the right product for your skin type. For those with sensitive skin or acne breakouts, a gentle version of Vitamin A, like retinaldehyde or retinyl palmitate, is recommended until the skin clears. Dermatologists suggest starting a retinol regimen in your late twenties, but not earlier, as using strong anti-aging products too soon can bring breakouts to the surface and disrupt the skin’s natural renewal process.

Many people rush to high strength products, but prescription retinol can actually dry out the skin and accelerate aging. To prevent this, it’s important to ease into retinol use. By taking a measured approach, you can prevent the signs of aging without damaging your skin.

1. Start With a Gentle Version

As soon as you spot wrinkles, it might seem smart to purchase the strongest retinol formula possible. However, using a milder solution can deliver comparable outcomes. Although prescription strength products might yield quicker results, they are more likely to irritate your skin over time, rendering the initial effects futile. Therefore, it’s sensible to use a retinol formulation that suits your skin type and needs, instead of opting for the strongest product you can find.

Start with an anti-aging product that contains Retinaldehyde or Retinyl Palmitate. You’ll get noticeable results in under three months without drying out your skin. Once your skin has adapted to using the gentler ingredients without irritation, you can switch to stronger products.

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2. Use a Small Amount on Totally Dry Skin

When introducing retinol to your skincare routine, remember that a little goes a long way. Damp skin may hinder absorption, leading to skin irritation and dryness. After using a gentle cleanser, pat your face dry and wait a few minutes before applying retinol. Using your fingertips, apply a pea-sized amount evenly starting from your forehead, then work your way down to your nose, cheeks and chin. Do not spot treat with retinol – it penetrates underneath the skin even in areas where it’s not immediately applied.

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3. Wait 20 Minutes Before Applying Other Products

For maximum impact, wait 20 minutes after using retinol before applying other products to your skin, such as serums, creams, moisturizers, and acne treatments. Alternatively, if your skin tends to be dry, consider applying a moisturizer first to keep your skin healthy.

Remember to wear sunscreen during the day as retinol can increase sensitivity to sunlight and lead to redness and peeling without proper protection.

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4. Wait a Week Before Applying Again! 

That’s right! If you’re new to retinol, go easy on your skin to dodge drying it out. It’s better to be safe than sorry, even if your skin isn’t finicky. Start by applying once a week and gradually increase to twice a week for two weeks, and three times a week for three weeks. Once your skin adapts, it’s all set to use daily, or you could try alternating every two nights to stave off dryness.

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5. Work Up To Higher Strength Retinol Over Time

Starting with a retinaldehyde or retinyl palmitate product is an excellent way to introduce retinol into your skincare routine. Follow up with a higher strength product containing around 0.2% retinol and stick with it for at least a month before graduating to a stronger one. The Ordinary is my go-to brand as they offer affordable and effective products. Once you’ve used over-the-counter high-strength retinol products for six months, you can consider prescription-strength options.

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Looking for hydrating products to use after your anti-aging products? Here are the Top 5 Products to Help Hydrate Skin During Winter.


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