How To Apply Retinol for the Best Results

If you’ve ever walked through the skincare aisle at your local beauty retailer or drugstore, chances are you’ve seen a retinol product. Retinol is truly on the cutting edge of skincare innovation, and for good reason. However, it is crucial to use retinol properly for best results. 


“Start slowly with retinol and alternate nights with other active products to minimize irritation.” 

- Shani Darden, Celebrity Esthetician

Let’s dive in and talk about why retinol is so beneficial for your skin, plus we’ll offer a few tips to help you make the most of your retinol products.


What Is Retinol, Anyway?

Retinol is one subclass of retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A. Although there are several subclasses of retinoids, retinol is one of the milder forms, making it one of the best options for skincare


Retinol has numerous benefits. It supports natural skin cell turnover, collagen production, and helps your skin retain existing collagen. In short, retinol can help your skin remain youthful-looking.


Retinol can also help minimize pores, combat blemishes, and even out the appearance of your skin tone. The combined effect of all these benefits is a power-packed, anti-aging product that will help keep your skin look refreshed, vibrant, and healthy. 


How Can I Start Using Retinol?

Retinol is a powerful ingredient that can cause dry and irritated skin if you aren’t careful. To prevent any negative side effects, start slowly to monitor how your skin reacts. 


Shani Darden’s Retinol Reform Anti-Aging Serum is a great way to kickstart your journey to healthy, improved, and youthful-looking skin. This vegan, cruelty-free serum is specifically formulated using encapsulated retinol, which gently releases the retinol over a longer period of time. In this way, you’re more likely to see many of the benefits of retinol without the same level of irritation you might experience from a prescription retinol.


Retinol is perfect for any skin tone or type. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to try a patch test first. The patch test process may take a few days until you find what works for you – so be patient! 


Once you’ve made sure the product works for your skin, start by using your retinol once per week. If you see any irritation, try layering it over a moisturizer to slow absorption. Once your skin adjusts, you may add a night each week, as much as your skin can tolerate. 


How Should I Incorporate Retinol Into My Routine?

Follow these five steps to start your anti-aging journey.


Step One: Wash Your Face 

Wash your face with a gentle cleanser. Clean skin is essential for proper absorption of your retinol. It’s important that you do not mix actives on the same night (do not use any chemical or manual exfoliants like AHAs, BHAs or facial scrubs prior to or directly after your retinol). 


After cleansing, you may apply a toner or essence to balance the skin if needed. 


Step Two: Let Your Skin Dry

Once your toner is absorbed, follow with a gentle serum such as Shani Darden’s Retinol Reform.


Step Three: Apply Retinol

Once your skin is dry, pump out a pea-sized amount of your retinol serum. You’ll want to work outwards from the center of your face, smoothing the product over your nose, cheeks, down the chin and onto the neck and finally the forehead. 


When applying, make sure to use an up-and-out motion – applying your retinol from the center of your face to the outer edges. Remember: gentle application is another key to avoiding irritation. 


Once your skin is acclimated to using retinol regularly, you may be able to apply under your eyes to combat fine lines — but check your bottle for instructions (not all retinol is recommended under the eye area). Shani’s Retinol Reform serum is formulated to work under the eye area with minimal irritation, which will set your skin up for the best success.


Step Four: Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

After applying your retinol, follow with a moisturizer to combat patches of dry skin. iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion contains active ingredients like hyaluronic acid for deep hydration, which makes it a perfect match for first-time retinol users.


The Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer is another option, and it combines hyaluronic acid with collagen and red algae for plump, smooth skin. 


You may also want to apply eye cream to your under-eye area to help protect the sensitive skin from dryness and enhance the anti-aging benefits. We recommend Shani Darden’s Intensive Eye Renewal Cream, which is clinically proven to reduce fine lines and hydrate the under-eye area, for smoother, firmer, more youthful undereyes. 


Moisturizing will help lock in your skin’s moisture and seal the retinol against your skin. You will want to apply your moisturizer the same way you applied your retinol, starting at the center  of your face and moving up and out. 


If you want to deepen your results on nights off from retinol, we recommend massaging your moisturizer in with our Facial Sculpting Wand. This award-winning wand uses vibration therapy and sound wave technology to specifically target wrinkles and fine lines, all while encouraging better circulation and smoother, firmer skin. 


Step Five: Sunscreen Is Key

Retinol will make your skin more sensitive to sun damage, so you’ll want to make sure you apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every morning. Most estheticians and dermatologists will recommend that you use a dedicated sunscreen — foundation or makeup with SPF will not cut it. 


Your skin is also more likely to burn, and retinol will react to immediate sunlight exposure. You’ll see the best results if you use your retinol with sunscreen. You’ll also want to make sure you apply retinol at night, followed by your moisturizer  — this way, the formula has a few hours to soak into your skin without interference from sunlight. 


Step Six: Use Other Products With Caution

One key to making the most of your retinol is to scale back on other products and skincare ingredients. Combining too many products with retinol or other active ingredients can do more harm than good and may keep you from seeing the best results. 


In particular, alternate nights with anything that contains benzoyl peroxide, alpha or beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs), or salicylic acid. Using too many active products at once may cause irritation, dryness, or overexfoliation. 


When Should You Start Using Retinol?

Start using a retinol in your early twenties.  Even if your skin is naturally glowing, retinol can help you keep it that way. Retinol can also increase your skin’s resistance to aging, which is a key to keeping your skin looking plump and youthful.


Whenever you decide to start, just make sure to be consistent. Retinol’s anti-aging benefits build slowly over time, which means you’ll see faster results if you make it a part of your nightly routine once your skin gets used to it.


The Takeaway

From combatting visible signs of aging to minimizing the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation, retinol is perfect for any skin type and any skin tone. But, as with all new skincare products, it’s important to give your skin time to adjust to it. 


Make sure you start slow and work your way up to daily nightly use. This will give you the best chance at glowing, healthy skin. It’s never too early to start pampering your skin with retinol. Your skin will thank you for it!