4 Tips to Use Retinoids the Right Way

Can’t tolerate your retinoid? You’re not alone.

I prescribe a lot of retinoids because they work. Originally intended to treat acne, we now know that retinoids are an effective anti-aging treatment as well, reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and spots. Yet, many of my patients who start on retinoids contact me within a week to complain that their face is red and peeling.

They’re not allergic or intolerant to the retinoid. In fact, redness and peeling are both signs that the retinoid is working. It’s actually sloughing off old skin to reveal new skin underneath. That doesn’t mean they or you have to suffer.

Here are 4 tips to use retinoids the right way:

1. Take a break. If your face is flaking like a Noreaster or looks wind-burned, then take 5 to 7 days off. When you resume the retinoid, use it every third or fourth night. You’ll get the same benefits without the discomfort.

2. Stop using all of your anti-aging and acne products, especially those containing glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide, unless otherwise directed by your physician.

3. Before applying a retinoid at night, be sure your face is washed and completely dry. This might require waiting a few minutes after washing. Apply pea-sized or smaller dabs of retinoid on your forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin and gently massage into the skin. Do not apply to your eyelids or lips.

4. Always wear sunscreen when you’re using a retinoid, even in winter, as it significantly increases your sensitivity to the sun.

Photo credit: FCC, Alyssa L. Miller

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