How To Incorporate Retinol Into Your Skincare Routine Without Causing Dryness Or Redness


As I prepare to enter my 30s, I’ve reupped my retinol prescription in an attempt to rid myself of the acne that’s been my constant companion for years now, and, honestly, it’s been something of a rollercoaster. Of course, there’s a wealth of benefits associated with retinol, particularly when it comes to anti-aging. “Vitamin A stimulates the production of new cells and regulates their turnover, helps minimize the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and increases collagen and elastin synthesis,” Tracey Wilmot, international education director at Murad, explains. “The end result is firmer, plumper skin and a more radiant complexion.” And yet retinol can also make your skin incredibly dry when you first start using it, as I learned the hard way over the last six weeks. Now, though, I’m not only starting to see a reduction in my acne, but my skin is smoother in texture overall.

On the fence about whether retinol is for you? Read on for Vogue’s beginner’s guide to vitamin A, below.

What age should you start using retinol?

“Retinol not only smooths the skin’s texture but also strengthens its all-important barrier, helping to protect against future signs of aging,” shares Wilmot. “Studies have shown that we lose around 1 percent of our collagen every year starting from the age of 20, so I generally recommend people introduce retinol to their skincare routine at 25.”

How can you manage the side effects of retinol?

Nowadays, retinol formulas cause far fewer side effects, with many people experiencing minimal dryness or redness. If your skin is reacting, though, make sure to “counter it by keeping skin properly hydrated”, applying moisturizer after each and every time you use retinol. “Look for retinoids with encapsulated technology, whose gentle delivery helps reduce the chance of irritation or flakiness,” notes Wilmot. It’s also absolutely essential that you wear a broad-spectrum SPF every day when using retinol, as it makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays.

Is it okay to use retinol if you have sensitive skin?

If you know your skin is sensitive, make sure you incorporate retinol into your routine gradually. “Start by applying it two to three times a week, and build up from there,” suggests Wilmot, who recommends Murad’s Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream, which incorporates barrier-protecting ingredients such as niacinamide.

When should you switch from retinol to retinal?

When you reach your 40s and/or begin to experience menopause, consider increasing the frequency with which you’re using retinol, or switch to the more powerful retinal. “Retinal works to correct advanced signs of aging such as loss of volume, deeper wrinkles, jowls and drooping skin on the face and neck,” Wilmot advises.

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