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How to Plan Your Retinol Routine Like a Pro

Retinol can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Once it starts working, you can’t imagine your life without it. But, even we can admit that retinol serums can sometimes be a bit of a beast to tame if you’re using it in the wrong place, at the wrong time, or not planning your skincare routine as well as you think you could.

Here are some of our best tips and tricks for ensuring you keep on loving retinol as much as the first time you saw its amazing results on your face. 

Use no more than a pea-sized amount

Anything more than a pea-sized amount of retinol can risk irritating or drying your skin. Remember those reams of button candies from childhood that came on wax paper? You should be able to dab four of those button-sized flat dots on each quadrant of your face from the pea-sized ball you’re balancing on your finger. 

Ensure your skin is dry before applying retinol

Any form of moisture has the potential to inhibit the retinol from penetrating your skin. Now knowing this, wait seven minutes after cleansing to apply retinol and wait seven minutes after applying the retinol to continue on with your skincare routine. 

Start off sparingly 

Less is more when you’re starting retinol, to ensure you’re in control of testing your face’s unique tolerance and not immediately overdoing it. In the beginning, use it every other night or three times per week. Eventually, you’ll feel comfortable enough to use it up to five times per week.

Be patient, it’s better than drying your skin out

If you’re not immediately seeing a reaction or change after starting retinol, that’s a good sign! You’ll start to see gradual results over time. If you’re experiencing a tolerable bit of peeling or redness, that’s also a good sign that it’s beginning to work. Your skin will adapt and adjust as you continue to use it regularly. 

If you’re irritated, reduce use by one day

Redness and peeling is par for the course, but in small amounts. If you’re using retinol four times per week and the slight irritation is becoming intolerable, reduce use to three times per week. If you’re using it three times per week, try reducing use to two times per week and so forth. 

If you’re irritated, moisturize before and after using retinol

Again, if you’re experiencing slightly intolerable irritation - shift your skincare routine a bit. Cleanse, then moisturize - wait for the moisturizer to dry on your skin, then apply your retinol. After applying the retinol - wait a few minutes for it to penetrate, then moisturize again. This strategy will enhance your skin’s moisture barrier until you have the irritation under control.

Stop using retinol for a week prior to your peel or microneedling appointment. 

While both treatments are great at reducing wrinkles, combining retinol with a chemical peel and microneedling can lead to skin irritation. Retinol makes your skin barrier more penetrable, which means ingredients in the chemical peel will get deep into your skin increasing the risk for burning and irritation.


Explore the collection of our all-time favorite retinol serums on Shop JECT: