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When to Apply Retinol in Your Skin Care Routine

We’re breaking down how & when to add retinol to your skincare routine, when you can expect to see results, and our favorite retinol skincare products.

Updated October 30, 2021 by Amanda Dixon

Skincare with Retinol

A hero ingredient for fighting acne, fine lines, and wrinkles, retinol is a vitamin A derivative that supports cellular turnover and the production of collagen. While a dermatologist can prescribe prescription-strength retinol (retinoic acid), over-the-counter retinol can still be very effective. In this post, we’ll break down when to apply retinol in your skin care routine, how often this ingredient should be applied, when to expect results and our retinol recommendations.


A pea-sized amount of retinol should be applied all over the face after or in combination with your nighttime moisturizer. Follow up with a facial oil if your skin is dry or sensitive. As an occlusive, face oils help seal in all the ingredients you applied and moisturize the skin as well 



How Often Should Retinol be Applied?

If you are new to using retinol, start by incorporating this ingredient once or twice a week in your evening skincare routine, gradually increasing usage as the skin adjusts to retinol’s effects. As your skin’s tolerance for retinol increases, this ingredient can be used every other night. Retinols should always be applied in the evening. Sunlight will degrade retinol.



When to Expect Results When Using Retinol

Through consistent usage of effective retinol, your skin will start to look smoother and more radiant. You will experience fewer acne breakouts and see an improvement in fine lines, pore size, and skin brightness. Consistency and patience are very important with retinol! It can take four to six months to see major results.



Best Retinol Serums & Creams

A few of our favorite over the counter retinols include: 


  • Algenist ELEVATE Advanced Retinol Serum: A lightweight, vegan serum, the ELEVATE Advanced Retinol Serum from Algenist is formulated with green algae and patented alguronic acid to help smooth, firm, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Vegan retinol has a gradual, timed-release effect and is safe for sensitive skin types.

  • Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM:  A powerful night serum, Retinol Fusion PM from Peter Thomas Roth is formulated with microencapsulated retinol at 1.5% along with vitamins C & E to help regenerate surface skin cells and renew the skin’s texture with minimal irritation. This retinol serum is a great option for normal to dry skin types.

  • Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum: A serum that fights against signs of aging and improves the appearance of congested and UV damaged skin, the A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum from Sunday Riley delivers a 6.5% solution of stabilized retinoids and retinoid-like botanicals for a clear, balanced complexion. CoQ10 helps decrease pigmentation, improving the appearance of aging skin. 

  • PCA Skin Retinol Treatment for Sensitive Skin: A gentle, creamy retinol treatment, PCA Skin’s Retinol Treatment helps reduce redness and visible signs of aging, without irritating the skin. The unique formula contains niacinamide to soothe the skin while InflaShield™, a patented ingredient, helps reduces irritation. This retinol is perfect for beginners and sensitive skin.

  • Dr. Dennis Gross Feurlic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer: An anti-aging moisturizer that helps smooth wrinkles and fine lines, the Feurlic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer from Dr. Dennis Gross contains ferulic acid, retinol, and ellagic acid to restore damaged skin while increasing hydration and elasticity. 

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