How To Use A Retinoid

Retinoids are referred to as the holy grail, gamechangers, the magic bullet for acne and ageing…..but managing their side effects is still the biggest skincare hurdle and the most-asked questions many of you have for me.

So how do you avoid the dreaded reaction we’ve all heard about? Today’s post cover s just that topic so let’s get into it!


What Retinoid Should I use?


Now, just to recap retinoids are the family of vitamin A- derived molecules ranging from 

They switch on receptors we have in the skin leading to increased cell turnover, unclogging of pores, stimulation of fibroblasts so increased collagen and they sort acne, premature ageing and pigmentation. So they are helpful to almost everyone.

I’d always recommend starting at the gentler end of the spectrum and building up to a stronger one over the course of months, especially if you’re doing this by yourself. 


When Do I Use My Retinoid?


They’re always used at night - this is because daytime UV rays break most of them down. 

So let's start with a clean face. Choose a non-foaming cleanser that doesn’t dry skin out or disturb the skin’s pH. Skin should then be gently patted dry.


Now, depending on where you’re at in your journey, we can buffer - which means to layer  moisturiser all over first. Or we can apply our retinoid directly to cleansed skin. 


Now even if I’m doing it onto cleansed skin, I still use moisturiser strategically. I’ll protect the ‘vulnerable’ areas - areas, which if retinoid were to accumulate, it would cause redness and irritation. The danger zones are:

 

  • the eye area (“moisturiser goggles”)

  • In any creases - the nose, mouth lines etc.

  • the lips

 

  • The neck

How much retinoid do I use?


Let's look at dose first. I recommend using a product with a pump, so this can be accurately measured and a consistent amount used on a day-to-day to basis. Or use a pea-sized amount as your guide - don’t be tempted to use more, this is sufficient!!!


I developed the 13 Dot Technique to ensure that you achieve even distribution over the skin, respecting those danger zones and avoiding applying too much in any one area.


Massage in firmly to ensure product penetration. I use my 3rd and 4th fingers to ensure a precise, effective massage. 


What next?

 

Now, I may use a layer of moisturiser over the top - I call this my “moisturiser duvet”. Important things - you *must* allow your retinoid to  fully absorb first. Don’t go back over the eyes as you’ll just end up transferring retinoid where you don’t want it - you’ve applied moisturiser here earlier, remember (moisturiser goggles). An outward sweeping application style avoiding the eye area works best. 


How often do I use a retinoid?

 

Key fact - retinoid dryness doesn’t generally hit the next day. It happens 3-5 days downstream. 


So that’s why you *must* listen to me and go slow at the beginning even if it seems your skin is fine the day after your first dose or two. 


I recommend a check-in with your routine every 2 weeks. Literally, schedule it in your diary with yourself, like an appointment. Take selfies too. If all is going well, you can increase the frequency. Slowly build up to daily use - vitamins work best when applied daily - and I think its important to play with the strength of retinoid until you find the one that’s comfy everyday. 


So with all of these tools, we can now manage pretty much anything that your retinoid can throw at you! Do try my Routine Finder, which allows you to generate a plan for your specific concerns using the Dr Sam System, and shares all the insider tips I use to guide my patients in the clinic. Hopefully, your retinoid strategy just got easier! Please share this blog with someone who needs it so that we can all win the retinoid game!

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