Why Retinol Should Be Your Evening Go-To

There are some things that are just meant to go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Harry and Meghan. And of course sunscreen and retinol.  I learned years ago from Dr. Z. that while sunscreen prevents the sun from damaging your skin, retinol helps repair that damage, and more. 

I have been using topical retinol on and off for almost 10 years. While I certainly have had help from lasers and peels along the way, I credit most of what my skin looks like today to regular use of retinol. It stimulates collagen and elastin which give the skin it’s structure and support. Stronger skin means it is less likely for lines to set in, and nobody wants lines on her face if she doesn’t have to. 


Retinol does more than just prevent lines. It can actually improve the lines you already have. Now let’s get real, it’s not erasing those creases in your forehead, only Botox is going to do that (more on that here).  But, those fine wrinkles around your eyes, those are the ones where retinol can help. It also gives the skin a glow by helping you shed dead cells that otherwise make your complexion look dull. 

Now retinol is not for the faint of heart. It is really tricky to use, especially in the first few weeks or if you take a vacation from it. In the first 2 to 4 weeks, it can cause a lot of redness, burning, stinging, and even dryness and peeling. Your skin has to adjust to what retinol does, but if you can get over that hump, it is definitely worth it.  Dr. Z has given me the inside scoop on best to use retinol, so I will share these tips with you too.

1. Avoid any harsh exfoliators or scrubs when using retinol. Instead stick to gentle, hydrating cleansers.

2. Apply a moisturizer to the face first to prime and hydrate your face.

3. Use only a green pea sized amount, or for those of you who don’t like vegetables, it should be about the size of a chocolate chip morsel. Put a drop on your forehead, nose, chin, and each cheek then rub in.  

4. And here’s the most important part, don’t rush it. Start out every couple of days. Eventually you may be able to use it every day, but it took me months to be able to do that. Everyone once in a while I still get irritated and hold off a night or two until my skin calms down.

5.  Finally, retinol can make your skin sensitive to the sun so make sure to wear sunscreen every morning.

Here are a couple of products on the market that contain retinol that I have played with. Right now, I actually am using a prescription version, but I graduated to it after years of using over-the-counter versions. 

L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Cicaream.  ($13) This cream is a cross between a moisturizer and an antiaging product.  With natural fats and tiger grass, it helps keep the skin barrier healthy and hydrated and calm inflamamtion, while pro-retinol strengthens the skin. I found it ultra soothing without any irritation at all.  So I would say it is a great entry level product, and probably can be used even in people with sensitive skin.


Ren Bio Retinoid Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Oil.  ($69) This oil does not contain traditional retinol, but rather naturally derived botanical extracts high in Vitamin A.  Plus, it is formulated without parabens, phthalates, and sulfates for anyone who is a fan of natural skincare. 


Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer.  ($17) This moisturizer contains a patented form of retinol known as Retinol-SA which adds a sugar complex to the retinol to stabilize it.  It is in a moisturizing base which helps keeps dryness to a minimum.

RoC Retinol Correxion Max Daily Hydration Creme. ($23) Similar to the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair, this cream contains a stabilized version of retinol, but it is in a heavier cream.  It is has a light fragrance, which I liked, but be careful if you are easily irritated.


SkinBetter Science Alpha-Ret Overnight Cream Face.  ($110) I was excited to try this product out after reading all about it in the beauty magazines.  It has two ingredients that you normally never see together - retinol and an alpha hydroxyacid.  Apparently, in the past, the two would inactivate each other and could cause a lot of skin irritation.  But new technology has changed that. Now, we have a one product that uses glycolic acid to exfoliate dead cells from the surface of the skin and stimulates collagen with retinol at the same time.  I was pleasantly surprised that it was no more irritating than any other retinol cream I have used.


Hydropeptide Nimni Cream. ($110) This rich cream contains not only a time-released retinol, but also a complex of amino acids, specialized peptides, and antioxidants to support healthy collagen production. It is great even if you have dry skin.

Retin-A Micro.  While over the counter retinol products are a great place to start, at some point you may feel your skin has reached a plateau and is just not improving anymore.  When I got to that point, I moved over to prescription strength retinol, known as tretinoin.  I started using a low concentration, 0.025%, and have now graduated to one that contains 0.08%.  I definitely get irritated every once in a while, but as long as I follow my own rules, I am gerenally in good shape.

Because it can stimulate collagen, strengthen the skin, even out your skin tone, and make you look more radiant every day, retinol is #TheDermWifeApproved.