Retinol rules: Five things to know before you integrate it in to your skin care regime

14 June 2019, 10:29

Retinol is a powerful product that can have dramatic results
Retinol is a powerful product that can have dramatic results. Picture: Getty

By Nicola Bonn

Retinol is an amazing ingredient that helps to stimulate the production of new skin cells - but it should be used with caution says our Beauty Expert Nicola Bonn.

Retinol is an ingredient that we can trust, with much research to prove that it can reduce the appearance of fine lines, acne scars and pigmentation.

I'm a massive fan of retinol and have been for a long time.

With so many new skincare ingredients appearing what seems like on a daily basis, retinol is definitely one that we can trust because there is so much research to prove that it really does have quite dramatic skincare benefits.

But and this is a big but, it is a strong ingredient and if you're about to start using it, I would advise that you do so with caution.

Here are my five retinol rules:

This is a good retinol but build up to it gradually and combine with a moisturiser at first
This is a good retinol but build up to it gradually and combine with a moisturiser at first. Picture: press/brand

Rule one: Start with a small percentage and build up

You can get different strengths of retinol and if you are about to start using one, I would recommend starting small and building up towards the strongest non-prescription retinol which is 1%.

The Ordinary do a really good 0.2% Retinol is Squalane which is a great place to start your retinol journey. You can then build up to 0.5% and finally when your skin is ready go to 1%.

Buy The Ordinary Retinol here

An affordable and really great daily moisturiser
An affordable and really great daily moisturiser. Picture: press/brand

Rule 2: Combine with your moisturiser

My second rule when you start using a retinol is to mix it with a moisturiser. Your skin needs to time to get used to the retinol and by mixing it and lessening the intensity of the product, you should be able to combat any irritation, redness and flakiness.

I like to combine retinol with a non-fragranced, skin barrier enhancing moisturiser like this one from Dr Sam Bunting or this one from Cerave.

Rule 3: Build up slowly

As tempting as it may be, never begin by using retinol on a daily basis. I would start every three days, buffing out with my moisturiser and then perhaps do every other day. Gauge it as you go. If you start to feel irritation then do it less frequently. The slower you take it the better.

Eventually you may well be able to build up to using a 1% on a daily basis (this doesn't work for everyone), but I would probably allow myself two months or more to get to this point.

This sunscreen is suitable for acne sufferers and sits well under makeup
This sunscreen is suitable for acne sufferers and sits well under makeup. Picture: press/brand

Rule 4: Protect

There's no point in enjoying all the great benefits of retinol if you don't then use an SPF during the day. Retinol makes your skin far more sensitive to UV rays so always, even on a cloudy day, use good protection. (Makeup won't cut it I'm afraid as you won't use enough. You need to use an SPF over your skincare and under your makeup.)

My favourite SPFs for the face are Dr Sam Bunting Flawless Daily Sunscreen and La Roche Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Fluid.

Rule 5: Use as part of your PM routine

There's no point in using a retinol during the day as sunlight breaks it down and detracts form its efficacy.

Instead use at night time. I would cleanse, do a light tone and then apply your retinol either combined with or followed by a cream or serum.

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