1. Know what type of retinol product you are buying
If you never use retinol products before, I would recommend you to have a little research first. Read some articles about retinol. There are different types of retinol in the market, such as Retinol esters, retinol, retinaldehyde, retinoic acid esters, and retinoic acid. All these types of retinol have different levels of strength in terms of how much it will affect your skin. Not only type but the percentage of retinol contained in a product also give a different impact on the skin. Of course, the higher the percentage, the potent it will be.
I am not a doctor nor esthetician, but based on what I read to be able to absorb to the skin, all type of retinol beside retinoic acid needs to be converse into retinoic acid to be able to be in its active state. If you go straight to use retinoic acid, then it does not need to go through conversion and will work right away. Meanwhile, if you are using retinol then it will have to converse to retinaldehyde then go through another converse to become retinoic acid. This is why retinoic acid being more powerful than retinol. Resulting in stronger side effects too like dryness of the skin.
Therefore, before buying any retinol product chooses what kind of retinol you are buying and if you just started, perhaps it is safer to pick Retinol esters or retinol product first. Not go for retinoic acid. It will less likely to irritate your skin.
2. Start small and build up as you go
Retinol is a pretty strong active ingredient that you need to proceed with care. Go easy on retinol, by using it once or twice a week then see how your skin will react. Please only use it during the night skincare routine, retinol product is not suitable for the morning routine since it makes your skin sensitive to the sun. Apply thin layers of retinol on your skin, don’t go overboard. A pea-size amount is enough to cover the face area.
If your skin shows irritation signs like dryness, redness, or itch, reduce the usage to once a week for maybe a month. Then slowly do it twice a week, then every 2 days depending on your skin condition. I personally don’t use retinol every day, since I have other skincare products with active ingredients like BHA and AHA.
3. Wear sunscreen is a must
Using retinol product or not, wear sunscreen every day is a must. It is especially important when you incorporate skincare ingredients like retinol, BHA, AHA, and Vitamin C. Because retinol works are by accelerating the formation of new skin cells to replace the old, damaged skin. This new skin can be more sensitive and is more prone to sunburn. Without using daily proper sunscreen, there is no point in using retinol products.
4. Try the different technique of application
There are 3 ways I know how to apply retinol-based what I have seen people doing:
· After double cleansing, your skin, wait until your skin completely dry then apply the retinol right away. I usually wait about 15-20 minutes to continue with the rest of my night skincare routine.
· After applying moisturizer. Do double cleansing – first essence – toner – Serum – sheet mask – moisturizer- retinol. This is to buffer the retinol product with your moisturizer, so your skin will not experience dryness. Suitable for those with sensitive skin.
· If you are using a strong retinol product, try the sandwich technique. Do double cleansing – first essence – toner – Serum – sheet mask – moisturizer- retinol- moisturizer. The idea is to sandwich the retinol with moisturizer so that the skin will be well hydrated despite the strong retinol effect. I find this technique is pretty helpful too when using retinaldehyde products, my skin will not be as flaky when I just buffer it with moisturizer.
5. The result is not instant
In terms of result, retinol product shows a rather slow result. With the inkey list retinol serum, the result can be seen in a month or so. But with Dr different vita A cream Retinal (0.05%), it took a bit longer, around 3-4 months. So, when you haven’t seen improvement on your skin yet, don’t give up. Continue using it as long as it does not irritate your skin.
6. Side effect
There was time when I experience the side effect of retinol such as dryness, flaky skin, redness, and itchy (due to dryness). Usually, it happens to me when I using too much or too often when I over-exfoliate my skin and when I don’t give a proper moisturizing product to buffer or “sandwich” the retinol product. I usually stop for a week, wait for my skin to calm down while keep doing proper hydration. After my skin return to its normal state then I will use retinol products again slowly. Everybody will react differently, so you have to pay attention to your skin reaction when the side effect appears.
If the side effect is causing acne, I stop and try to use it again then get the same reaction (acne pops up), I usually conclude that as not suitable for my skin.
7. Combining with another active ingredient
There are other active skincare ingredients that can get along while using retinol. However, I just don’t do it. I don’t want to an over-complicated routine when using retinol. For me, 1 active ingredient at a time is better. Prevent me from potential irritation. I am worried that I might cause over-exfoliation on my skin, it is a saver to not mix it with anything but hydrating products.