Retinol Tips You Can’t Live Without

Tips for Using Retinol YouGlowGal You Glow Gal Esthetician Sarah Payne Hiatus Spa Dallas Skincare Beauty Blogger

Retinol is the anti-aging star of ingredients. If you haven’t started using one by your 30’s, you should change that immediately. Retinol increases cell turnover helping with acne, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. It stimulates collagen and elastin production, thickening the skin and slowing down the aging process and filling in fine lines. It even helps your skin stay hydrated and increases that glow. A lot of people give up on Retinol products due to irritation and excess peeling. If you follow these tips and guidelines you’ll be less likely to have a bad experience and reap the benefits of having one in your routine!

I use Retinol as a blanket term for both over the counter products and prescription, even though it’s not PC. Technically prescriptions from your dermatologist are Retinoid aka Retinoic Acid, a chemical compound related to Vitamin A. Over the counter Retinol is a form of Vitamin A naturally occurring in the skin, and it may take several weeks for your skin to convert Retinol into Retinoic Acid.


0.5% Retinol is similar in efficacy to 0.025% Retinoid
1.0% Retinol is similar in efficacy to 0.05% Retinoid


Over the counter, Vitamin A isn’t the same strength as prescription but you can achieve the same results, it just takes a little longer. Although prescription works faster, irritation is more likely to occur. If you tend to be sensitive, you may find Retinol works better for you than a Retinoid. These products are usually blended with ingredients to soothe and prevent irritation but most of us need to apply a nourishing product afterward.




I never start a client on 1% Retinol. Starting at higher concentration means you’re likely to experience irritation. While there are some who can start higher without any issues, they aren’t the majority. Anyone who sees me starts on 0.5% Retinol and we build from there. The schedule looks like this:


First 2 weeks apply 0.5% Retinol 2x week.
Weeks 3-4 increase to 3x week.
Weeks 5-6 alternate every other night.
Weeks 7-8 increase to every night.


If you experience irritation, sensitivity, or excessive peeling… back off. You don’t have to increase your usage, most users are totally fine in using Retinol 2-3x week and leaving it at that. The ideal situation is finding a product and schedule that causes the least irritation. After 3 months of using 0.5% you can entertain the idea of moving up to 1%, but you shouldn’t consider it necessary.


The Routine

I suggest adding Retinol to your PM regimen instead of AM for two reasons: 1) it adds extra time to your routine and most of us aren’t willing to do so in the morning, 2) depending on what ingredients you’re using throughout the week the evening is the easiest way to remember where to fit in your Retinol. If you’re using AHA/BHA treatments avoid using them the same evening to avoid more sensitivity. As you build tolerance using AHA/BHA and Retinol in the same routine but I wouldn’t start there.

Apply a pea size to dry skin. Applying to damp skin allows the product to absorb faster increasing the chance of irritation, as does overusing Retinol. It can be applied to your face, neck, décolleté, and hands… just be diligent with SPF as photosensitivity increases! It can be applied around the eyes but not everyone can handle it, I personally don’t apply within the orbital bone. It should never be applied below the brow bone or eyelid.


1.) Cleanse, tone and wait for your skin to dry, ideally 20 minutes
2.) Apply pea-size to skin
3.) Wait 20 minutes to an hour for Retinol to absorb
4.) Apply serums, oils, and/or moisturizer


I highly, highly suggest applying a nourishing moisturizer or oil over your Retinol. Adding moisture back into the skin will decrease sensitivity. My absolute favorite moisturizer for my these nights is Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore, it’s great for combo, normal and dry skin types. I’m kind of obsessed with it…


Cream/Gel vs. Oil

Most Retinol products will come in gel or cream form, however oils are becoming popular since they have become the new flavor of the month in America. While I can’t find specific instructions on how to apply a Retinol oil, like Sunday Riley’s Luna, I would follow the same routine. The only exception is leaving out your water-based serums since they won’t be able to penetrate past the oil.



References: here.



28 thoughts on “Retinol Tips You Can’t Live Without

  1. Hi Sarah, I’m currently using a couple of serums at night (Biologique Recherche Amniotique and Placenta) before my moisturizer but looking to incorporate Shani Darden’s retinol (Resurface – Retinol Reform) into my PM routine – should I be applying the retinol or the serums first? I’ve read that retinol should go on first, but I think this retinol is slightly more viscous than the serums…

    1. Hey Christina! I would layer thinnest to thickest, personally–but play around with retinol first then your other serum next, see which works best for your skin 🙂

  2. Hello Sarah,

    Why do we have to wait for our skin to “dry”? (“Cleanse, tone and wait for your skin to dry, ideally 20 minutes”)



    1. Hi May! If your skin is damp it could pull in Vitamin A more quickly and cause adverse side effects like redness, dry skin, irritation, etc. Retinoids specifically work better when nothing is placed on top which is why we’re told to wait 20min to an hour, Retinol isn’t as strict. It’ll allow both forms to work better on your skin but you can still apply moisturizer shortly after if you need a buffer.

  3. I came back to re-read this one. I’ve been applying my Retinol after my hyaluronic acid serum- but heard that I should be applying after cleansing to a dry face? Just wanted to see what you thought. Thank you!

    1. There’s no right or wrong, just depends what’s best for your skin. Using it after your HA will allow the serum to act as a buffer for sensitive skin. I personally apply mine to dry skin.

  4. I just received Retin-A Rx from the Dermatologist but wasn’t given any instructions. I have no skin care regimine currently in place besides using face wash and tinted moisturizer. I turned 30 and feel like I’m looking old and tired especially on my forehead with uneven texture. It’s time for a change! I would love to implement a skin care routine but have NO idea where to start. Do you have any recommendations for products to use in conjunction with this Rx?

    1. Keep it simple while you introduce Retin-A. A nourishing cleanser for your skin type, a hydrating moisturizer, and a facial oil to apply a few nights a week will make the introduction easier on your skin.

  5. I just started a retinol and am trying to catch up- after reading this I now see I need to cut back! My skin was so dry- I already have dry skin and was confused!? Thank you for sharing all of your skin info. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again- I Love you blog!! Found it via Instagram 🙂

  6. Why retinol should not be used on eyelids? I do it for 8 months..I use LRP redermic R for eye area. Hope I didn’t do something dangerous to my eyes? Had no problems till now, actually my eyelids are much better, as they were slightly saggy and dry..

  7. This was helpful! I need to get back on it bc even at 0.025%, I can’t. But beauty takes dedication, time, and oils. Ok next week, I will try it again!! Thank you!

      1. I just ordered a 2.5% retinol cream! Yikes I didn’t realize that was so strong, so if I mix it with moisturizer it will be diluted?

        1. You can try it, or try buffering with an hylauronic acid serum underneath by allowing it to dry first. Every formulation is different, so even though it says 2.5% it may perform differently. Just air on the side of caution if you decide to keep it.

  8. Hi Sarah, I’m using hydropeptide power serum and eye authority at night. Sounds like I could add a retinol to my regimen? Is that right?

  9. Hiya I’m in the UK I’ve tried paulas choice 1% retinol but it honestly did nothing for me and I found it greasy and it sat on my skin. Could you suggest another good one I’m 38 I need a good retinol now lol

    1. Skinceuticals makes a great retinol! My dermatologist and others I’ve met approve of their formula, too. In the UK they have a 0.3, 0.5, and 1%

  10. Perfect timing for your post. I have prescription strength Retin A, .25% I believe, and I haven’t started using it yet because I wasn’t sure how to adopt it into my current routine. I am using a Vitamin C serum during the day, Drunk Elephant, but I am also using their TLC Glycolic serum. Should I stop using that while I’m using the Retin A at night?

    1. Leave out the glycolic serum the first week or two of starting Retin A and gradually introduce it back into your routine once you know how your skin reacts. That should help reduce excess irritation!

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