Help Me! How Much Retinol Should I Be Using?
In this article you’ll learn:
1. What effect retinol has on your natural oil production
2. Why skin cell turnover can lead to irritation
3. What the proper amount of retinol is and how to apply it
4. What the lifecycle of acne actually is.
To finally tackle your acne, you’ve started the night cream with retinol, and maybe you’re not getting the results you want, or maybe you’re experiencing some redness and irritation, a.k.a retinol burn.
Two words: Read this — you’re not alone.
In my dermatology practice I see lots of guys who experience irritation or dryness when they start using retinol to treat their acne. I tell my guys two main things:
1) First of all, sebum, the oil you produce, is a key driver of acne, and what we're giving you with retinol is an ingredient that reduces that oil. The thing is, your skin's not used to that. It doesn't like the fact that it's not getting as much naturally produced oil. But that’s what is also causing your acne problems. Your skin will adapt, and the benefit you get will be less acne. Check here for more info on guys and oily skin.
2) The second thing to remember is that retinol is also increasing cell turnover. So we're getting these dead skin cells off your body faster, and that's causing some peeling and flaking. It’s also causing irritation and mild redness — the young skin is being exposed to an active ingredient. But, again, your skin will tolerate that and you will see the benefit with reduction in acne.
There are things you can do to help immediately if you’re experiencing irritation, dryness — or nothing at all.
1. Redness or irritation? Use the proper amount of retinol:
Many times, adverse effects like irritation or mild redness are the result of using too much retinol. If you apply too much, the skin cells will turn over more rapidly than they would if you'd used the right amount.
So, essentially what you're doing is you're getting all the side effects of retinol at once without any benefit. Put a dime-size amount in your hand, dot your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin, and then spread it around.
If you’re still experiencing redness, then apply the retinol night cream every OTHER night for the first two weeks. It’ll give your skin time to acclimate. Here's a blog post on how to ease into retinol.
2. Dryness and flakiness? Don’t skimp on moisturizer:
Because the skin cell turnover is happening so rapidly, and the amount of oil you’re producing has been reduced, you might experience dryness and flakiness. You can use your daytime moisturizer, the morning cream, on top of the night cream to mitigate the dryness. Many of our guys have had success with that. Don't worry, It'll be a short term thing, but it'll reduce the side effects and then after a while I promise you won't need to do that.
3. No reaction or response to the retinol? Know this:
It's important to note that acne does not form overnight — even though it feels like it. It's a four to six week — even eight-week — process from normal looking skin to clogged hair follicle, inflammation, comedone, pustule, and eruption. So it’s gonna take a little bit more time for your acne, once it’s been fully treated by our system, to really demonstrate results.
And think of it this way: Sometimes you’ll have a bad acne week, which could mean we’re kind of catching you off cycle. But without skincare you would have looked worse, right? You instead look about the same — that's still a win. That's why with consistent use over 90 days, you really get to see the benefit.
Ready to get started with skincare? Take the quick diagnostic — the best way to get going.