A Beginner's Guide on How to Use Retinol

You’ve probably heard about retinol and the anti-aging abilities it has become famous for. But adding a new product to your skin care regimen can be confusing. You may be scared of compromising your skin if something goes wrong.

Consider this article your beginner’s guide. We’ll discuss:

  • What retinol is
  • The benefits of retinol
  • How to use retinol correctly

What is Retinol and What are the Benefits?

Retinol is a chemical derivative of vitamin A. It is under the umbrella of retinoids, but unlike other retinoids you don’t need a doctor’s prescription for retinol.

Retinol is well-known for being very effective at gently exfoliating the skin, encouraging skin cell turnover, stimulating collagen production, and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.1

Retinol has also been shown to help prevent the negative effects of sun exposure by inhibiting Matrix Metalloproteinase (MMP), the enzyme that degrades the skin’s collagen and elastin and leads to photoaging (sun damage).2

Also, retinol is anti-inflammatory and can be used to treat acne and the scarring and hyperpigmentation caused by acne.

So overall, the benefits of using retinol are:

  • Reduced signs of aging
  • Reduced wrinkling
  • Reduced discoloration 
  • Smoothed skin texture
  • Protection from photoaging (sun damage)
  • Improved skin elasticity
  • Calmed acne

With all these benefits, it’s easy to see why retinol has become such a widely-used ingredient in skincare. But how do you use retinol correctly?

How to Use Retinol 

It’s important to know how to use retinol so that you can take advantage of all its benefits. Let’s go over best practices. 

When to Apply Retinol

First, apply your retinol serum at night because sunlight can make retinol less effective.

If you’re wondering where retinol fits into your skincare routine, the rule of thumb for skincare is to go from lightest product to heaviest. You should be able to place a retinol serum right in between your cleanser and your moisturizer. 

Here’s how to apply retinol product to your nighttime skin care routine:

#1 Cleanse – Always begin any skincare by cleansing your face of dirt, oil, and product.

We recommend: Our Gentle Cleanser gives a thorough cleanse without irritating your skin. In fact, it includes ingredients which actively calm the skin.

#2 Treat – Apply a thin layer of retinol all over your skin.

We recommend: Renewal Retinol blends the exfoliating effects of retinol with ingredients that nourish and hydrate your newly exfoliated skin. Our formula also is ideal for sensitive skin types because it doesn’t it doesn't cause the red, irritated look that can occur with most other retinol products.

#3 Moisturize – Be sure your skin’s barrier is strong enough to support the effects of the retinol by giving it the moisture it needs. 

We recommend: For a boost of collagen-building peptides try Ultra Nourishing Moisturizer with TriHex Technology®. It can enhance the skin renewal effects of retinol by stimulating the skin to produce more collagen and elastin. 

How Often Should You Use Retinol?

Retinol acts as a gentle chemical exfoliant, which is great because it accelerates skin cell turnover. More renewed skin cells leads to brighter, firmer skin. Uneven skin tone and skin texture can be combated with retinol. However, not everyone can handle this exfoliation on a nightly basis—at least not right away.

A beginner to retinol should start by applying the product two to three times a week. You can increase this gradually if your skin tolerates it well. Once your skin builds up a tolerance, our Renewal Retinol is one of the best retinol products gentle enough to be used nightly. 

Can All Skin Types Use Retinol?

If you have sensitive skin and you have been down the retinol road before, you may have experienced red and irritated skin, or even peeling. Renewal Retinol is designed to have the exact opposite effect. It is formulated with hydrating and soothing ingredients that are gentle enough for all skin types. Some of those ingredients include:

  • Oat extract – Oat is popularly used as an anti-irritant and calming agent.
  • Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone – Hydroxymethoxyphenyl decanone is an antioxidant that boosts skin-plumping hyaluronic acid levels in the skin.
  • Silver mushroomSilver mushroom packs a punch of hydration. One of the mushroom's benefits is that it is significantly more hydrating than hyaluronic acid. 
  • Ceramide-3 – Ceramides build and nourish your skin’s lipid layer which helps your skin retain moisture and elasticity.

Oily and acne prone skin can also use the Renewal Retinol. It has passed comedogenicity testing, meaning it does not lead to clogged pores.

Ready for Retinol with ALASTIN?

Now that you know how to use retinol, your skincare routine is that much closer to perfection. Take your skin to the next level by investing in premium, medical grade skincare that supports and boosts the effects of retinol. 

Skincare doesn’t have to be peeling, irritating, or pore-clogging to work. It just has to be backed by science. We always aim to be at the intersection of science, skincare, and self care with our products.


  1. Mukherjee, Siddharth et al. “Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety.” Clinical interventions in aging vol. 1,4 (2006): 327-48. doi:10.2147/ciia.2006.1.4.327

  2. Ibid


Article Reviewed by Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson//cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1504/4854/files/wendy_large.png?v=1588836438

Vice President, Marketing

Wendy Johnson brings to Alastin Skincare over 22 years of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and aesthetics industry experience in various sales, training, marketing and thought leader development roles.

After spending 10 years in gastroenterology at Tap Pharmaceuticals and Prometheus Laboratories, with sales and marketing oversight for in-line and pre-launch products, Mrs. Johnson transitioned to an aesthetic career at SkinMedica in 2004. While there, she was responsible for marketing one of the top 2 branded prescription hydroquinones, launching a leading branded low potency steroid, and oversight of the acne franchise line extensions.

In 2010, Wendy joined Merz North America where she developed and managed the Physician Relations department in support of injectable, topical and device business units under Medical Affairs, before transitioning into managing a Regional Aesthetics Marketing team.

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