Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quick Tip: Starting a Retinol Treatment

Photo: Brennan Vargas

I've used prescription retinol  for a couple of years now, and recently discovered an important factor in starting a new retinol regime that my dermatologist failed to mention. Sure, he told me to ease in by using it only every few days at first, and of course he reminded me to use sunscreen daily. What he did not tell me is that the difference between starting a course of retinol in January vs. starting in April? Freddy Kreuger skin!

Retinol generally has a 2-3 week break in period, so when I first began using it, I was quite surprised at how well my sensitive skin reacted. I had just a little peeling, and basically no irritation or redness to speak of. Fast forward to a week ago, when I finally renewed my prescription after being off for around 6 months. One week (2 treatments) later and my skin is peeling in fine sheets all over my face, complimented by lovely red splotches from forehead to chin. Mind you, I'm using the same exact form and concentration of retinol, so what gives? Well, apparently, the weather. Blame it on El Niño, climate change, or just ol' man Winter, but it seems January is not the best time to start a course of treatment.

Skin in temperate climates naturally has less moisture in the winter time- there's simply less moisture in the air for your skin to drink in. Thing is, you may not necessarily notice this shift if you have naturally oilier skin, or if, like me, you're using skin care products that address your dryness. But add some retinol into the mix and that lack of moisture will become more than apparent. My trial-and-error advice? If you're looking to start a retinol treatment program, wait until Spring hits. The increase in humidity will boost your skin's natural defenses (more moisture in the skin=healthier skin barrier) and you'll probably see less irritation as a result.


Monika @ RocailleWrites said...

I've just started using tretinoin a couple weeks ago, but luckily my skin's reacted really well to it (I've started slow and also have been using a lot of hydrating products). It still feels a bit dry and peels in places, but whenever I feel it gets out of control, I cut back for a day or two. Thanks for the tips, I'm currently thinking about buying a room humidifier!

Unknown said...


Your expereince sounds very similar to mine the first time I started using tretinoin, which is why this totally took me by surprise!

I've actually been thinking about getting a room humidifier too, so I think we're on to something.

In the end, I know the retinol is worth it, so I'm not terribly bothered by the adjustment, I just thought it terribly interesting how different my experience was considering the season!

jen said...

This article is really helpful to me. Some of my clients use retinols and this gives me a better base of knowledge to discuss it with them. You rock. :)

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