Retinoid tips from a PA

Retinol is a powerful tool against aging skin and acne.

While it’s the second most important skincare ingredient in your daily routine (it’s the PM treatment step) after sunscreen beware it can definitely be used incorrectly and set you up for an undesired experience.

This happened to me the first time I was prescribed tretinion for breakouts so I always make sure I explain everything to patients. There are many types of retinoids available without a prescription and at the drugstore. 

Misinformation can really lead you on a wild detour if you aren’t careful. Never fear, I’m here to help you achieve the clear, radiant skin you want as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Tips from a board-certified dermatology PA for using retinoids:

  • The Retinoid Family consists of: retinol, retinaldehyde, and retinoid acid
  • You should be using retinaldehyde or a retinoic acid at night. Retinoic acid is the most active form of a retinoid. Retinals (like retinaldehyde) have to be converted to retinoic acid in the skin after application.
  • Retinol has to be converted TWICE to be retinoic acid.
  • ALL active forms of retinoic acid (adapalene/Differin, tretinoin/Retin-A, tazarotene) are prescriptions EXCEPT Differin Gel (adapalene 0.1%) at your local drugstore.
  • Every skin type can start with a retinaldehyde. My favorite one is Avene RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream
  • MOISTURIZE always when you use a retinoid. If retinoids are like lifting weights for your skin then moisturizers are like stretching/recovery. You need both for optimal health. Moisturizer allows you to continue to be able to use retinoids to improve your skin. CeraVe night cream is my absolute favorite PM moisturizer to use with a retinoid to replenish the skin.
  • If you’ve ever thought, “I don’t need to use my retinoid/retinol in summer,” you’re not alone. I hear it all the time! But here’s the truth, WINTER is actually when you should have that concern. The dry weather affects the protective skin barrier, which can be a double whammy with a retinoid, especially when starting or restarting one.
  • This is one of the 2 skincare ingredients that absolutely cannot be used in pregnancy or breastfeeding so if you’re in this stage of life, check out retinoid alternatives.
  • Dry, irritated, flaky means it’s time to show your skin some love and simply moisturize & skip other active ingredients- definitely the toner step. You need to adapt your routine based on changes in products, weather, and weekly treatments. Remember it’s never wrong to simply cleanse and moisturize only.

We’re in the skincare game for the long haul so it improves with time, and you can always add back active ingredients into your routine after letting your skin rest for a few days!

Pro Tip: An extra secret about retinoids you probably don’t know. Even though our entire face can’t tolerate every night all of the time...the most important areas CAN! Skin on the lower half of our face tends to be more prone to dryness, but most can apply a retinoid on his or her forehead pretty much every night from the start… and this is where we start to see fine lines and wrinkles first.

If you’re ready to start make sure to read How to Start a Retinoid.

Be sure to start slow and listen to your skin!

Want more free resources on Retinoids? Try our Free Resource Guide. Ready to get start your skincare journey or adapt your current routine? Voila! THE Instant Skincare Routine.

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