FAQ: Retinol

Retinol is just about everyone’s favorite thing. (Not mine; mine is cheap champagne, but I digress.)

At least one person asks every day about how to use retinol products. Retinol is one of the most widely-touted ingredients for keeping skin looking young and fresh. It’s also the only ingredient found in topical skincare products that will actually remove a fine line and lessen a wrinkle, not just minimize its appearance and stop it from progressing.

Q: I just found out I’m pregnant, but I love using my retinol! Is it OK to keep using it while I’m pregnant?

A: I’m sorry, but probably not. As I am definitely not a medical professional or any sort of expert on pregnancy, I will advise you to talk to your OB/GYN about it, but because retinol penetrates so deeply into the layers of skin, it is not recommended for use while you’re pregnant.

So what do I do now?

Though your body (and baby!) need you to take a little break from intense, active products like retinol, you can still use exfoliation and anti-aging products! I’d recommend making a temporary switch to some other exfoliating, anti-aging things like Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner and Dermalogica Skin Resurfacing Cleanser. These both contain active ingredients that are safe for use during pregnancy, so you don’t have to worry about both growing a brand new human and getting clogged pores.

Q: My derm just prescribed Retin-A, but I also love Dr. Dennis Gross products. Can I keep using the Ferulic + Retinol Peel Pads, or do I have to stop now?

A: Yes, but. Because these pads are also very potent, they are not for layering with prescription-strength retinol products.

So what do I do now? 

You could certainly alternate days for your retinol products, and that’s usually what I recommend doing, especially if your skin is already used to a particular product. If you are interested in switching your retinol entirely, discuss with your dermatologist the merits of cancelling your prescription in favor of purchasing a quality over-the-counter regimen. For example, Dr. Dennis Gross has an entire product family of Ferulic Acid + Retinol products. Skinceuticals has several products that complement the effects of their Retinol 0.5% or 1.0%. Dermalogica’s AGE-Smart line should all partner nicely with their Overnight Retinol Repair.

Q: Everyone talks about retinol like it’s going to save the world. Do I really need to use it?

A: Absolutely not. Your skin and your skincare regimen are all yours, my friend. Though I recommend a retinol for a lot of people, when it comes down to it, I currently only use the Dr. Gross F+R pads as my retinol product. That’s not to say I won’t use a retinol more regularly eventually, but I also know that I already use products that work for my skin and give me plenty of benefit. It’s more important to be taking care of your skin at all than it is to add in another active ingredient for the sake of adding another active ingredient.

So what do I do now?

If you’re not already using good skincare in a clear and consistent routine, you need to start there. Begin at the beginning, and when you get to the end…well, there isn’t really an end to good skincare. It’s more like a train you add boxcars onto as you pick up more years. If you are already using great skincare, keep doing so! If you’re feeling like your skincare has sort of stagnated, do some research into how to properly change it up. It’s never too late for great skincare…especially when retinol’s involved!

Retinol is meant to be used for treatment in the evenings, on clean, dry skin. Apply retinol before applying your other nighttime skincare products, and be sure to use sun protection the next morning.

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