Is Retinol Safe for Summer? We Asked Two Skin Care Experts to Find Out
Retinol is an ingredient that we hear dermatologists and skin care enthusiasts discuss and praise constantly, but if you have yet to join the retinol bandwagon, it’s normal to feel a bit apprehensive about adding it to your skin care routine. This is especially true during the warm summer months, since the potent ingredient can often cause skin sensitivity to sunlight. So, can you use skin care products formulated with retinol in the summer? We asked one of our consulting experts, and are getting to the bottom of this much-debated topic below.
What Is Retinol?
Retinol is, in layman’s terms, a form of vitamin-A, and is often found in creams, moisturizers, and serums that you can apply to the skin. The list of what retinol can do for your skin is equally as long. From fighting acne to smoothing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, retinol has quickly become known as a do-all ingredient for a wide variety of skin issues. You can find retinol in many over-the-counter skin care products, and there are also prescription retinoids with a stronger concentration or dose.
Retinol boasts many skin benefits, but the ingredient is not without its pitfalls. Like many other potent ingredients, retinol use requires an extra level of care. When adding a product formulated with retinol into your skin care routine, allow your skin some time to adjust before upping the frequency or concentration. As your skin builds up a tolerance to the ingredient, for the likelihood of irritation or negative skin reactions, be it dryness or redness, should lessen. However, like all products, if you experience these negative effects, consult your dermatologist and discontinue use of those products.
Sun protection is a daily must no matter your skin care routine, but it’s even more critical when using products formulated with retinol. This is because the ingredient is known to cause sensitivity to ultraviolet light. During the summer, many of us like to enjoy backyard bbq's, trips to the beach and/or pool, and other outdoor activities. Due to the increased exposure to sunlight, can you still use retinol in the summer, or is it better to hold off until winter? We asked board-certified dermatologist Arash Akhavan, and Maffi Clinics' licensed medical aesthetician Kari Denk, for the answer!
Can You Use Retinol in the Summer?
The answer is yes. In fact, both Dr. Akhavan and Kari Denk say you can use retinols year-round. "In winter, dryness is typically the toughest retinol side effect to combat, and we recommend increasing the use of moisturizers,” he says. “In the summer, patients are typically more sensitive to the sun, requiring diligent use of sunscreen products and other sun protection measures."
So while retinol can increase your skin’s sun sensitivity, you can keep those side effects at bay by being extra diligent with your sunscreen use. Kari Denk emphasizes the importance of finding an effective sunscreen when using retinol during the summer months. “Remember retinol works to improve signs of aging by boosting cellular turnover, eliminating dull skin cells, and bringing new healthy ones to the surface,” she explains. “The last thing we want to do is damage them.”
Reach for a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen that boasts an SPF of 30 or higher. (Need a rec? We share our favorite sunscreens here!) Apply about a shot-glass full of sunscreen on all exposed areas of skin, and reapply at least every two hours. Take your protection to the next level, and pair your sunscreen use with additional sun protection measures such as wearing protective clothing, seeking shade, and avoiding peak sun hours.
In the summer, patients are typically more sensitive to the sun, requiring diligent use of sunscreen products and other sun protection measures.
3 Retinol Products to Try Now
After discovering the ample benefits of retinol and the fact that you can use the ingredient year-round, we know that you don't want to miss out. Below, check out our picks of the best products formulated with retinol from the L’Oréal portfolio of brands. Have your pick, and don't forget to moisturize to combat any dryness and protect with sunscreen!
SKINCEUTICALS RETINOL 1.0
This high-concentration pure retinol cream can help improve the look of various signs of skin aging, minimize the look of breakouts and help unclog pores. It’s ideal for most skin types, but due to its potency, it’s important to check with your dermatologist first. Sensitive skin types are likely better suited to a retinol product with a lower concentration. To use, the brand recommends using this product once or twice a week, then slowly increasing frequency to every other night. If you’re new to retinol, consider starting with SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5 first to build up your skin’s tolerance.
SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0, $72 MSRP
LA ROCHE-POSAY REDERMIC R ANTI-AGING CONCENTRATE INTENSIVE
This anti-aging cream helps visibly reduce wrinkles and smooth the skin’s texture. The lightweight, non-greasy formula can be used daily, and is easily layered in combination with daily moisturizers and sunscreens.
La Roche-Posay Redermic [R], $56.99 MSRP
VICHY LIFTACTIV RETINOL HA CONCENTRATE
This is Vichy’s highest concentration of retinol, brought to you in a daily wrinkle-filler treatment. It helps to visibly reduce fine lines and plumps skin for that sought-after, youthful glow. Opt to use it on its own or layered beneath other products in your daily skin care regime. Don’t forget to combine it with sunscreen during daytime hours.
Vichy LiftActiv Retinol HA Concentrate, $45 MSRP
If you’re new to retinol and its bevy of benefits, be sure to bookmark our beginner’s guide to using retinol here!