How and When to Use Retinol? A Guide To Get The Best Results!


Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is a type of retinoid used in skincare that improves the appearance of skin by promoting cell turnover. It also addresses various skin concerns, including acne, fine lines, and wrinkles. Retinol makes your skin look young and glowing. However, while retinol has immense potential for improving skin health, it's essential to understand that its efficacy and safety are closely tied to how and when it is applied. Incorrect use can lead to undesirable effects such as dry skin, redness, and irritation. 

Following this guide to retinol, you will explore the best practices for incorporating it into your daily routine, achieving your best possible result while minimizing potential side effects

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How To Use and Apply Retinol?

The first thing to do is to choose the right retinol product for your skin type. We have already written an article on this topic, so if you are still not sure how to choose the best type of retinol for you, we invite you to take a look at the following article before continuing: (add link). 

Once we are clear about which product suits us best, we will follow the steps below to include retinol in our daily skin care routine.

Retinol routine steps:

  1. Clean your Skin: Start your skincare routine by using a gentle cleanser to remove makeup, dirt, and oil from your face. From Lesielle we always recommend a non-iconic cleanser because they are more gentle and compatible, even with sensitive skins.
  2. Gently Pat Dry: After cleansing, gently dry out your skin with a clean towel, avoiding any aggressive rubbing.
  3. Apply Retinol serum: Take a small amount of retinol (usually a pea-sized amount is sufficient) and dot it on your forehead, cheeks, and chin. Avoid the Eye Area: Be cautious not to apply retinol too close to your eyes, as this area is sensitive. Gently Blend: Use your fingertips to gently blend the retinol evenly across your face, applying a thin layer. Avoid rubbing vigorously. Allow for Absorption: Wait for about 2-3 minutes to allow the retinol to absorb into your skin underneath.
  4. Apply the rest of the serums one by one.
  5. Moisturize: Apply a moisturizer to lock in hydration. Take into account that some retinol products are already included in moisturizers formulations
  6. Sunscreen During the Day: During the daytime, it's crucial to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Retinol can make your skin more susceptible to UV damage, so daily sun protection is essential.

If you are using Lesielle, simply add the retinol active refill to your device and apply your custom skincare after clenasing. All your treatments and moisturization in one dose. 

Closeup Shot Of Smiling Handsome Black Man Applying Over-the-counter Retinol Cream On Face While Standing In Bathroom, Touching Skin With Finger

Some precautions and tips to take into account:

  • Perform a Patch Test: Before applying retinol to your face, perform a patch test. Apply a small amount of the product to a discreet area of the skin (like the inner forearm) and wait for 24 hours to check for any adverse reactions.
  • Gradual Introduction: If you're new to retinol, first incorporate retinol into your skin routine at a low concentration (this concentration will depend on the exact type of retinoid you are using), and if your skin still reacts, do not apply every day but 2-3 times a week. Gradually increase the frequency as your skin becomes more accustomed to it. Once you apply it every day, you can start increasing the concentration. These steps will help you reduce the risk of irritation.
  • Not Recommended During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: It's generally not recommended to use retinol products during pregnancy, as they may pose risks to the developing fetus. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consult your healthcare provider before using retinol or any other skincare product with active ingredients. Take our test, and check the "pregnancy" question to discover alternative solutions to retinol.

When to Use Retinol? How Often?

The most common answer is that Retinol is specially recommended as a night skincare routine. This is because it can make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation from the sun. Using it during the day can increase your risk of sunburn and skin damage; applying to the skin retinol every night avoid this risk. Moreover, your skin undergoes a natural repair and regeneration process during the nighttime hours. Retinol helps with this process to enhance skin cell turnover and stimulate collagen production.

However, if your goal is to get the most efficacy of retinol, using day and night is the most recommended. You only need to protect your skin from the sun using a broad-spectrum +30 SPF sunscreen and reapply every 2 hours.

When starting a retinol treatment, especially if you're new to the ingredient, remember to start slowly. This means using it every other night or even just a few times a week initially. This approach helps your skin adjust to the retinol cream and reduces the risk of experiencing any side effects. As your skin gets used to retinol, you can gradually increase the frequency of use.

 It's important to avoid overusing retinol, as excessive application can lead to increased sensitivity, dryness, and irritation, which may counteract the benefits. Finding the right balance for your skin is essential, and it may require some trial and error. 

How Much Retinol Should You Use? 

The amount of retinol you should use depends on various factors, including the specific retinol product you're using, its concentration, your skin type, and your experience with retinol. Generally, a pea-sized amount of retinol is typically sufficient to cover your entire face. However, it's important to consider the concentration of retinol in the product.

For products with lower retinol concentrations (e.g., 0.25% or lower), you may be able to use slightly more than a pea-sized amount. Conversely, if you're using a higher concentration retinol product (e.g., 0.5% or 1%), you may need to use less than a pea-sized amount, as these formulations tend to be more potent.

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Where to Apply Retinol? Can You Use Retinol Under Your Eyes?

Retinol can be applied to various areas of the face and body, but you should use it with caution around the delicate eye area. Here are some guidelines for where to use retinol and how to use it near the eyes:

  1. Face: You can use it in most areas of your face, such as the forehead, cheeks, chin, and neck. These areas are where many people experience signs of aging or acne. Be sure to apply it evenly, avoiding any open wounds or areas of irritation.
  2. Under Eyes: Applying it directly under the eyes can be a bit tricky. The skin around the eyes is thinner and more sensitive, which makes it more prone to irritation. Some people can tolerate retinol in this area, while others may experience excessive dryness, redness, or peeling.

    If you want to use retinol under your eyes, here's how to do it cautiously:

    • Use a lower-concentration retinol product specifically formulated for the eye area. These products are generally milder.
    • Apply a small amount (a pea-sized drop) sparingly under the eyes. Avoid getting it too close to the lash line.
    • Start by using it less frequently, such as once or twice a week, and gradually increase the frequency if your skin tolerates it without irritation.
    • Be very gentle when applying and avoid any tugging or rubbing.
  3. Avoid the Eyelids: It's generally not recommended to use it on the eyelids themselves, as the skin here is extremely thin and sensitive. Using retinol on the eyelids can lead to irritation.

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When to Start Using Retinol? At What Age?

The ideal age to start using retinol or any other anti-aging skin care product can vary from person to person. Many skincare experts suggest that individuals can begin using retinol in their late 20s to early 30s as a preventive measure against the signs of aging. At this age, collagen production starts to decrease, and fine lines and wrinkles may become more noticeable. Using retinol can help maintain skin texture and prevent the early onset of these signs.

However, retinol is not only an anti-aging ingredient but also effective in treating acne. If you have persistent acne concerns, you can start using retinol when your dermatologist recommends it, which could be in your teens or early 20s.

young woman squeezing acne with skin problems on the face, Retinol comes for the treatment of pimples on the skin.

How Long Does It Take Retinol To Work?

The time it takes for retinol to produce visible results can vary from person to person, depending on several factors, including the specific skin concern you're targeting, the concentration and formulation of the retinol product, and your skin type. Generally, it can take a minimum of 8 weeks to a few months before you start noticing significant improvements in your skin. 

  1. Acne: If you're using retinol to treat acne, you may start seeing some improvement in your skin's texture and a reduction in breakouts within a few weeks, but it can take up to 3-6 months to see substantial results. 

  2. Fine Lines and Wrinkles: It is often used to address signs of aging like wrinkles. It can take several months of consistent use (around 3-6 months or more) to notice visible improvements in these areas. For deeper wrinkles, it may take longer.

  3. Skin Tone and Texture: Improvements in overall skin texture and tone, such as reduced roughness or improved evenness, can also take a few months to become apparent.

  4. Hyperpigmentation: If you're using retinol to fade dark spots or hyperpigmentation, it can take a few months to see a noticeable reduction in the appearance of these areas. However, it's essential to use sunscreen during the day to prevent further pigmentation.

It's essential to be patient and consistent with your retinol use. The continued use of it is the key to keeping your skin looking its best, as it can help reduce the signs of aging. Starting slowly, as mentioned earlier, can help your skin adapt and minimize side effects such as skin irritation or sensitive skin.

What other Active Ingredients Can I Combine with Retinol? 

While retinol is one of the most used retinoids and can offer various benefits on its own, you can combine it with other complementary products to enhance its effectiveness or address specific skin concerns. However, it's essential to be cautious when combining retinol with other active ingredients to avoid over-exfoliation or skin irritation. Here is a list of some skincare ingredients and products that can be safely combined with retinol:

  1. Hyaluronic Acid: It is a hydrating ingredient that can be used alongside retinol to lock in moisture and combat dryness. Apply hyaluronic acid serum before your moisturizer.

  2. Niacinamide (Vitamin B3): Niacinamide is known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. It can complement retinol by helping to reduce redness and irritation.

  3. Antioxidants: Antioxidants like vitamin C serum can help protect the skin from oxidative stress and UV damage. You can use vitamin C and retinol in the morning before sunscreen.

  4. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs): AHAs like glycolic acid and BHAs like salicylic acid are exfoliating acids that can help improve skin texture, unclog pores and remove dead skin cells. If you use Retinol and Exfoliants, is even more important the use of Sunscreen.

  5. Peptides: Peptides are amino acid chains that can support collagen production and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

  6. Ceramides: They are natural lipids found in the skin's barrier. They help to lock in moisture and strengthen the skin barrier, which can be beneficial when using retinol. Usually they are found in moisturizers.

  7. Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can complement retinol by providing additional protection against free radicals. Some retinol products contain vitamin E as an ingredient.

Frequent Asked Questions

For a better skin compatibility It would be best if you used your retinol at night. It can make your skin more susceptible to UV damage, so using it before bedtime reduces the risk. Additionally, nighttime is when your skin undergoes its natural repair and regeneration processes, making it an ideal time for retinol to target issues like fine lines, wrinkles, and acne. Remember to wear sunscreen during the day when using retinol to protect your skin from UV rays, as this is crucial for maintaining its overall health and appearance.

For greater efficacy, use it day and night. Remember to use sunscren.

Using retinol every day and every night is generally safe, but it may not be suitable for everyone. It depends on your skin type, tolerance, the concentration of retinol, and how long you've been using it. If you're new to retinol, it's advisable to start with a lower concentration and use it every other night or a few times a week to allow your skin to acclimate. See how your skin reacts and then gradually increase the frequency. Overusing retinol can lead to dryness, redness, peeling, and irritation. Consult a dermatologist for personalized guidance based on your specific skin needs.

Retinol is typically used after cleansing and before moisturizing.

  1. Cleanser: Clean your face to remove makeup, dirt, and impurities. Use a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser suitable for your skin type.

  2. Retinol: After cleansing use a pea-sized amount of retinol formula on your face and neck. Gently spread it evenly over the skin, avoiding the sensitive eye area. Allow it to absorb for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.
  3. Serums and Other Actives: If you use other serums or active ingredients (e.g., retinol and vitamin C), apply them before your moisturizer. Be cautious about using too many active ingredients at once, as this can increase the risk of irritation.

  4. Moisturizer: Apply a moisturizer to lock in hydration and prevent excessive dryness. Choose a moisturizer suitable for your skin type. If you're not quite sure which one is yours, you can check using the quiz below. 

If you use Lesielle, all the active ingredients are mixed and incorporated into the moisturizer, creating a personalized skincare formula with all steps in one.

5. Sunscreen (Morning Routine Only): If it's your morning skincare routine, finish with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30, but remember that it is best to use it on a retinol night routine.

Retinol may be used to dry skin. After cleansing, allow your skin to dry completely, and then apply retinol to your face and neck. Avoid applying it to damp or wet skin to reduce the risk of irritation, and wait a few minutes before applying any other skincare products.

Retinol should be before or in the moisturizer itself if it is contained in the same formula. In case you are using a custom skincare system like Lesielle, you will have all the steps in one.

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A,  is the most talked about active skincare ingredient on the market today, and as Dr. Karam explains here, that's for good reason!

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