Here’s Exactly How to Use Retinol Without Killing Your Face

Credit: stylecaster.com

By now, you’ve been told at least 3,000 times that retinol is the single most magical skin-care product ever invented and you must use it immediately lest your face shrivel up in a pit of wrinkles and dark spots and sadness. But has anyone really told you how to use retinoids (the umbrella name for all vitamin-A derivatives, like retinol) correctly? We’re not talkin’ “use as directed,” or “use until irritation occurs, then stop using,” but rather, easy-to-follow directions for how to use retinoids without your skin peeling off? Probably not.


So we’re fixing that today with step-by-step instructions so even the most scared and confused of retinoid beginners can hop on the anti-aging bandwagon without fearing that their faces will flake off. Keep reading to find out exactly how to dab on your favorite Benjamin Button product tonight.


products to avoid 3 Here’s Exactly How to Use Retinol Without Killing Your Face

Photo: ImaxTree


STEP 1: Start with a ridiculously gentle formula.


“But I want these wrinkles gone NOW,” you whine. We know, but trust us when we say that starting with a milder formula will still give you the same results over time. “You absolutely do not need prescription-strength retinoids to get the same effects in collagen production and cell turnover,” says dermatologist and badass Mona Gohara, noting that yes, you’ll probably see results from using an intense, high-dose prescription product a little faster, but, in the process, you could also irritate your skin to pieces (literally).


Instead, Gohara recommends starting with retinaldehyde (like Avene Retrinal .1 Intensive Cream), one of the mildest of all the retinoids, or the very gentle retinyl palmitate (like Exuviance Vespera Bionic Serum), both of which will still produce noticeable results within two or three months, without burning your skin off. But before you run away to slather it all over your face…


STEP 2: Only use a tiny amount on totally dry skin.


Unlike the way you approach margaritas and bottomless tortilla chips, less really is more when it comes to retinoids. After cleansing and patting down your face at night, wait a few minutes to guarantee that your skin is totally dry—“damp skin can interfere with how much retinol is absorbed, which can result in irritation,” says Gohara—then squeeze a pea-size dab of retinol into your palm. Using your fingers, smooth the retinol over your face, starting first with your forehead (the skin there is less sensitive, so it can take a stronger dose if you accidentally apply too much), then moving on to your nose, cheeks, and chin.


After a full 20 minutes has passed, smooth on your usual serums and moisturizers, making sure to avoid anything with BHAs, AHAs, benzoyl peroxides, or salicylic acids, unless you want to play fast and loose with irritation. If you’re already terrified that your sensitive skin will freak out and melt off, you can first apply a moisturizer, wait 20 minutes, and then apply your retinoid to water down its potency.


clear skin Here’s Exactly How to Use Retinol Without Killing Your Face

Photo: ImaxTree


STEP 3: Now wait an entire week until you use it again.


Hey, you wanted the real, no-bullshit guide to retinoids, right? Unless your skin is made of steel and has never felt sensitive once in its life, err on the side of caution and follow Gohara’s 1-2-3 rule: Use once a week for one week, twice a week for two weeks, then three times a week for three weeks. If, and this is a big if, your skin has had zero reactions thus far (no burning, itching redness, or irritation), bump up your usage to every other night, and then keep it there for a few months before attempting nightly usage. If your skin starts feeling overly sensitive at any stage of the 1-2-3 process, take a step back down (i.e. move from three times a week back to two times a week) and chill there for a while. This isn’t a race—you’ll ideally be using retinoids for the next 50+ years of your life, and studies have found that even super low-strength retinoids had the same anti-aging effects on skin as moderate retinoids over the same length of time. So take it slow and listen to your skin.


Guys, we wish we could say there were more steps, but it really is that simple. Just play by the rules, and nobody gets hurt…ideally. And if you’re still leery of using retinoids, a vitamin C serum (like Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Vitamin C) will help stimulate collagen production while also protecting skin against wrinkle- and dark spot-causing free radicals. It’s nowhere near as powerful as retinoids, but it will still improve your skin tone over time. And with this knowledge, you may now go forth into the word a shining young thing.


MORE: How to Apply Concealer for Dark Circles in 3 Easy Steps (with Gifs!)

Top Stories

Could your thoughts make you age faster?

Researchers are finding that your mental patterns could be harming your telomeres -- essential parts of the cell’s DNA -- and affecting your life and health. Nobel-winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn and health psychologist Elissa Epel explain.
  • 1 day ago
  • 57

Eurocraft’s 151-Foot Explorer Yacht Project Revealed

Federico Fiorentino’s design for Eurocraft’s 46-meter “crossover” yacht allows this explorer vessel to sit pretty in the Mediterranean or explore deep, remote waters of the Arctic…Michael Verdon
  • 2 days ago
  • 14

BMW M8 GTE could be BMW’s 2018 Le Mans car

Despite impressive success, BMW’s M6 GTLM car could be on its way out, as the brand is not looking for a replacement for the 6 … The article BMW M8 GTE could be BMW’s 2018 Le Mans car appeared first on BMW BLOG
  • 2 days ago
  • 12

Upcoming BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo spotted on the Autobahn

This Fall, BMW will unveil their first BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo, essentially the successor of the often criticized 5 Series GT, but with a … The article Upcoming BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo spotted on the Autobahn appeared first on BMW BLOG
  • 1 day ago
  • 10
farawayyachtingcharters - Easy Branches
botoxfillerveintheraphyinphuket - Easy Branches

Latest in Lifestyle

Report on Mercedes-Benz Classic Center Fellbach

Since 1993, the Classic Center in Fellbach has been the worldwide focus of Mercedes-Benz automotive authenticity.
  • 53 minutes ago

Jersey Boat Show is go!

It's the tenth anniversary for the Jersey Boat Show, which takes place in St Helier this weekend The 2017 Jersey Boat Show takes place this weekend It's the tenth anniversary for the Jersey Boat Show, which takes place in St Helier this weekend This article Jersey Boat Show is go! appeared first on Motor Boat & Yachting.
  • 2 hours ago

Lea Lange and JUNIQE: A start-up success story.

We spoke to founder Lea Lange about how the fairy-tale rise of Juniqe with her two co-founders began. Their recipe for success: keep it simple.
  • 4 hours ago

#DrivenBy: Marius Meier-Diedrich

Get to know Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM team member Marius Meier-Diedrich, Lucas Auer’s race engineer with responsibility for pit stops.
  • 4 hours ago

FIRST DRIVE: 2018 BMW 440i Coupe

With the 2018 BMW 4 Series, BMW enhances an already great car with a raft of very subtle changes that add up to a more … The article FIRST DRIVE: 2018 BMW 440i Coupe appeared first on BMW BLOG
  • 12 hours ago

The gentle gift of mercy

When we manage a flash of mercy for someone we don’t like -- including ourselves -- we experience a great spiritual moment, says writer Anne Lamott.
  • 13 hours ago

Why Organic Products Can Be More Expensive—But Are Worth It

The high cost of organic cosmetics explained.
  • 14 hours ago

VIDEO: Audi Q5 commercial fires shots at BMW X3

We all know that the current-gen BMW X3 is quite old and in desperate need of replacement, which will happen later this year. However, we … The article VIDEO: Audi Q5 commercial fires shots at BMW X3 appeared first on BMW BLOG
  • 15 hours ago

FIRST DRIVE: 2018 BMW 530e plug-in hybrid

BMW is serious about electrifying their future and next model to be electrified is the all-new 530e iPerformance. The BMW 530e sets a best in … The article FIRST DRIVE: 2018 BMW 530e plug-in hybrid appeared first on BMW BLOG
  • 15 hours ago

TEST DRIVE: 2017 BMW 430i Convertible Facelift

For 2018, BMW updates the 4 Series Convertible and BMWBLOG had the pleasure of driving in from Munich to Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps on a … The article TEST DRIVE: 2017 BMW 430i Convertible Facelift appeared first on BMW BLOG
  • 15 hours ago

FIRST DRIVE: The Fastest 5 Series Ever – BMW M550i xDrive

Is this the one? Is this 2018 M550i xDrive the M Performance BMW that finally pushes the performance envelope to far and steals sales from … The article FIRST DRIVE: The Fastest 5 Series Ever – BMW M550i xDrive appeared first on BMW BLOG
  • 15 hours ago

So—Are Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott Dating?

They've been spotted together twice…
  • 16 hours ago