The Ultimate Guide to Applying Retinol on Sensitive Skin
Retinol has been the anti-aging buzzword since it first appeared on the skin care scene. It’s ability to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as promote the skin’s collagen production has solidified the ingredient as a popular mainstay in anti-aging arsenals across the globe. However, retinol’s potency has spurred many a myth about its effect on skin. This is precisely why those with sensitive skin may feel hesitant to try such a powerful ingredient. But don’t fret sensitive skin types, you can still use retinol on your skin, so long as you do so correctly. Here we’ve outlined the ultimate guide to applying retinol if you have sensitive skin.
Step 1: Start with a Lower Concentration
Retinol use is all about taking baby steps. If you’re just starting out (and especially if you have sensitive skin), the golden rule of retinol is starting with a lower concentration and working your way up over time. Starting out too strong could irritate your skin since if it hasn’t had the chance to get used to the potency. This may cast further doubt on whether retinol can be applied to sensitive skin. However, according to board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Ted Lain (@DrTedLain), “At a very low concentration, anyone can benefit from retinol, with the benefits appearing slowly over time [with continued use].” Starting out with a smaller concentration and building up over time with retinol can still reap a ton of benefits across all skin types, sensitive included.
SkinCeuticals boasts a portfolio of three pure retinol creams at different concentrations: 0.3, 0.5, and 1.0. SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3, the lowest concentration, is great for retinol newbies. To learn more, read our full review here!
Step 2: Build a Resistance
It takes time for your skin to get used to any product. The same rings true of retinol. In order to get the most out of retinol, building a resistance is key. Think of it as learning a language: you have to start with the basics before progressing to fluency, otherwise you won’t be able to have a full understanding.
As soon as your skin has gotten used to that low retinol concentration, you can begin to move up in concentration and even to prescription strength with your dermatologist’s blessing. Also keep in mind that it’s completely normal to see a few side effects within the first couple of weeks of using retinol. Dr. Lain lists slight redness and dryness as two common ones, confirming that this abates as soon as a resistance is built.
Step 3: Use Retinol Solely at Night
While on the topic of side effects, one of the side effects of retinol is sensitivity to sunlight. This makes it essential to use retinol only during the night time. Should you expose your skin to sunlight post-retinol application, you run the risk of sunburns and sun damage. During daytime hours, always apply and re-apply broad-spectrum sunscreen, cover up with protective clothing, and seek shade where possible.
Step 4: Choose Coinciding Products Carefully
Sensitive skin types are generally cautious when it comes to incorporating new products into their skin care routines. When using retinol, make sure you’re following up with moisturizers and serums that are specifically designed for sensitive skin types and won’t exacerbate any irritation.
Step 5: Take the Proper Protective Measures
Even after an evening retinol application, your skin may remain sensitive to sunlight the next day. It’s vital, then, to apply products formulated with sunscreen in the morning, although we’re sure you’re following that skin care rule already. Be sure to also wear protective clothing should you know you’ll be out in the sun for a bit and limit your sun exposure by finding some shade.
We suggest the Kiehl’s Super Fluid UV Mineral Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ for this exact task. This Kiehl’s sunscreen is a great product that protects sensitive skin from harmful UV rays without clogging your pores.
To learn more on a full skin care routine created just for sensitive skin, click here!