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How Much Retinol Should You Be Using?

Retinol is finicky. You want to use enough to fully unlock the benefits, but at the same time, overuse can put you at risk of experiencing aggravating side effects. In this quick guide, we’ll discuss how much retinol you should be using when you apply it, as well as how often. 

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a skincare topical with decades of research behind it that back up its benefits. This vitamin A derivative has been shown to boost the production of collagen and elastin, which in turn helps soften fine lines and wrinkles and improve firmness and elasticity. It also increases skin cell turnover, which is great for fighting breakouts and reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Given its wide range of benefits, it’s no wonder retinol is such a sought after treatment. 

How Much and How Often Should You Use Retinol?

One of the biggest mistakes people make when using retinol is applying more than is necessary. Retinol is potent, and a little goes a long way. All that is needed for your face and neck is a pea-sized amount, which will create a thin, even layer over the skin. 

The answer to how often you should use retinol will depend on the strength of the specific formula you’ve chosen, as well as your skin’s tolerance for the ingredient. When first adding retinol to your routine, it’s essential that you work it in gradually to allow your skin to adjust. Start off by applying it twice per week in the evening, and sticking with that routine for a few weeks. If your skin is tolerating the treatment, you can begin to slowly increase your usage. 

Some people may find that they can work up to applying it every night, whereas others may find their skin is best suited for every other night (or less!). Pay attention to how your skin reacts, and cut back your usage if you're experiencing intense side effects. 

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What Are the Side Effects of Retinol?

The most common side effects that people experience when using retinol (especially when working it into their routine for the first time) include dryness, flaking, redness, and aggravation. Retinol also increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, which means your skin may be more prone to burning. Those with acne-prone skin may also experience purging at first, but this typically will get better in a few weeks. 

What Happens If You Use Too Much

If you apply too much retinol at once – or apply it too frequently – you’ll greatly increase your risk of experiencing some of the negative side effects mentioned above. While most will experience some side effects when their skin is first adjusting to the treatment, you can dramatically decrease your risk by taking a more conservative approach to your application. As tempting as it may be, avoid over applying retinol (both in terms of frequency and amount), and cut back your usage if the side effects are becoming too extreme. 

Best Products to Use with Retinol

In order to minimize dryness caused by retinol, consider using it alongside a  hyaluronic acid serum. This gentle hydrating formula will draw water to your skin, helping to counteract the drying effects of the treatment.

Since you can only use retinol in the evening, you may also want to use a complementary serum in the morning. A  vitamin C serum is an excellent choice, as it will provide anti-aging benefits while also brightening the complexion. 

Last but certainly not least, always be sure to wear sunscreen during the day. Since retinol will increase your skin’s sun sensitivity, it’s crucial that you do your part to keep your complexion protected.