How to Use Retinol

By Ida Tolen

Retinol is a pure form of vitamin A used in many acne and anti-aging skin care products. Many over-the-counter anti-wrinkle and rejuvenation products that contain retinol tout the benefits of this ingredient. It may improve skin appearance by increasing cell regeneration and collagen, which can reduce fine lines, hyperpigmentation and wrinkles. Since retinol can increase skin exfoliation, it may also help people with acne problems. Although these products may smooth and refine skin texture, it is important to learn to use retinol correctly.

Close-up view of skin

Step 1

Buy a retinol product in cream, lotion or serum form from a pharmacy or drugstore. While retinol products may be sold over-the-counter, other retinoids like Retin-A require a doctor's prescription, as they are pharmaceuticals.

Step 2

Use your retinol product at night. Using retinol during the day may increase photosensitivity (sun sensitivity) or skin irritation in people.

Step 3

Cleanse your face and apply a pea-sized quantity of the retinol product to it. Using too much retinol can irritate the skin.

Step 4

Check your skin for signs of irritation or flaking. During the initial period of retinol use, there may be flaking of the skin. To remedy this, apply the retinol product every other night until the skin adjusts to the product, then resume using the product every night.

Step 5

Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher during the day when using retinol, to reduce the chance of photosensitivity. To counteract the overly drying effects of retinol in some skin types, it may also be beneficial to use a moisturizer during the day.

Step 6

Continue using retinol until you see visible results, which can depend on varying factors, such as the type and extent of skin damage. In most cases, there can be some visible results, like smoother skin, in about two weeks. It may take eight to 12 weeks to see a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles.