As effective as retinol may be in reversing damage, the way you apply it can impact the results you see, given that it can dry out the skin and cause irritation. It requires caution and proper knowledge to safely harness its full potential. Whether you are a retinol beginner or a regular user, discover here the five most common retinol-related mistakes that you should avoid when incorporating it into your skincare routine and which could do more harm than good to your skin.
Retinol: 6 Mistakes to Avoid.
- Mistake No.1: Applying a retinol treatment in the morning
- Mistake No. 2: Applying too much retinol to your skin
- Mistake No. 3: Applying retinol on damp skin
- Mistake No. 4: Forgetting to apply retinol to the neck
- Mistake No. 5: Being impatient and not allowing enough time for the retinol to work
Mistake No.1: Applying a retinol treatment in the morning.
Direct sunlight can degrade retinol and compromise its activity. During photoirradiation, retinol absorbs light energy in the UVA and UVB range (315 to 400 nm) which leads to a redistribution of charges and a modification of bond order. This excitation of retinol or its esters by UV light generates a number of reactive oxygen species, including singlet oxygen and the superoxide radical anion. However, these by-products can have a pro-oxidant activity and damage a number of cellular targets, including lipids (lipid peroxidation), DNA, and proteins. Therefore, it is preferable to include retinol-based care in the evening, but it can be safely applied in the morning if the formula has been designed for this purpose (encapsulation of retinol, etc.)
The photodegradation of retinyl esters induced by sunlight is faster than that of retinol.
Mistake No. 2: Applying too much retinol to your skin.
Some may be tempted to use a large amount of retinol or a high concentration of retinol in order to achieve better results quickly. On the contrary, retinol requires careful application and gradual introduction. Using more than this will further sensitize the skin and increase the risk of dryness, flaking, irritation, and redness. Follow the instructions on the product label and stick to a pea-sized amount across the entire face, which is more than enough.
Another mistake is to exaggerate the frequency of use and the dosage of retinol. Your skin needs to become accustomed to this new ingredient. Applying high concentration retinol every night can compromise the skin barrier and irritate your skin. If you are a beginner, start with a product with a low concentration of retinol twice a week, then increase to three times a week after two months. Once your skin has developed a tolerance for regular use, you can use it every other day or even daily depending on your needs and adjust the concentration according to your skin.
Mistake No. 3: Applying retinol on damp skin.
While some products work better when applied to damp skin for better absorption, this rule does not apply to retinol care. Applying it to damp skin potentially allows the retinol to penetrate deeper into the skin, which could possibly lead to increased irritation, although this has not been proven.
What to do?
During the drying process, remove as much water as possible before applying a retinol treatment. However, it is not necessary to wait 30 minutes after cleansing to apply retinol.
Mistake No. 4: Forgetting to apply retinol to the neck.
Thinner than the rest of the facial skin, the skin on the neck is a delicate area vulnerable to external aggressions. Less rich in lipids, subjected to slower cellular renewal, and constantly engaged in movements, the neck region is one of the body areas most sensitive to skin aging and shows signs of aging more rapidly (horizontal wrinkles, loss of firmness, crepey appearance, etc.). However, some people only apply retinol to the face, neglecting the neck area. Yet, a recent clinical study revealed a statistically significant improvement in the signs of aging on the neck after 12 to 16 weeks of topical retinol application.
What to do?
Take a small amount of the retinol treatment in the palm of your hand and warm the product by rubbing your palms together. On clean, dry skin, start with your neck applying pressure with the palms of your hands and gradually move up to your face (cheeks, forehead, chin, temples).
Mistake No. 5: Being impatient and not allowing enough time for the retinol to work.
Everycosmetic product requires a minimum application time before seeing results, and the same is true for retinol. It will not transform your skin overnight. It takes time to see visible results. It is also not necessary to increase its use in favor of faster results, as this can do more harm than good to your skin.
With consistent use of retinol, you will start to notice significant changes generally within 3 to 6 months with over-the-counter products. Our advice: whether it's for issues of hyperpigmentation, blemishes, or skin aging, don't have unrealistic expectations, be patient, and don't give up too early.
VAHLQUIST M. D. & al. UV irradiation and cutaneous vitamin A: An experimental study in rabbit and human skin. Journal of Investigative Dermatology (1984).
FU P. P. & al. Photodecomposition and phototoxicity of natural retinoids. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2005).
HOWARD P. C. & al. Photoreaction, phototoxicity, and photocarcinogenicity of retinoids.
Journal of Environmental Science and Health (2007).
WAMER W. G. & al. Photodecomposition of vitamin A and photobiological implications for the skin. Photochemistry and Photobiology (2007).
LYNCH S. & al. Evaluation of a retinol containing topical treatment to improve signs of neck aging. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (2023).