The Right Way To Use Retinols


Retinols. Your skin will either love them, or hate them…but your skin can learn to love them as well. Really, if you’re on the anti-ageing (or getting rid of #mumface!) bandwagon you should at least try adding one to your skincare routine.

Then if you really hate them you can kick them to the curb.

I guess, I can only talk about the positives of retinols because my skin tends to err on the normal side of things these days (give or take my crazy pregnancy skin) and they’re pretty much the only skincare item I’M DYING to get back into my routine once I finish breastfeeding. Mainly because on my normal-esque skin they tend to work. And nope retinols (sadly) aren’t safe while breastfeeding or pregnant, but thanks for asking!

Anyway, whatever skin concerns you might have i.e acne, ageing, pigmentation if they haven’t been helped by whatever you’re using now, then adding a retinol to your skincare could be your jam.

But they can be confusing to use.

You see retinoids are a chemical compound related to vitamin A and are often used as a general term in skincare. While retinols are like a sub-division of retinoids. SO basically, retinols can be found in over the counter products while the term retinoids refers to prescription-strength topicals like tretinoin (Retin-A), tazarotene (Tazorac), or adapalene (Rx-strength Differin).

But for the sake of easy-ness/ un-boredom today we’re just chatting retinols.

Plus, if you have really bad skin and think you might need a retinoid you’re probably better off chatting to a Dermatologist and getting a prescription. Retinols are chemical exfoliants too so if you start using one, you need to be crazy about your sun protection!

However, I won’t waffle about this for any longer, because this week I sat down with Louise Williams Clinical Educator for Advanced Skin Technology to get the 411 on the right way to use retinols and how best to add them to your skincare routine. Like a fun cheat sheet for you all!

Ps. My fave product recommendations at the end XO

What is retinol and why is it good for your skin?

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that is commonly used for assisting in the management of fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol also works on evening out skin tone as well as smoothing and refining the skin’s surface. Retinol is ultimately known as the gold standard in cosmeceutical ingredients as it has the ability to work as a skin normaliser.

How should someone choose the best retinol product for them?

Retinol is an active cosmeceutical ingredient and so it should always be recommended by a qualified beauty therapist, dermal clinician, nurse or doctor. There are varying levels of retinol available and so it’s best to consult an expert on what level is required for your individual skin concerns. Generally a higher level retinol is advised for skin that is ageing and thickened whereas lower levels are recommended for finer more fragile skin concerns.

When is it best to use a retinol product and how much should be used?

It’s best to use retinol in the evening due to it initially being able to cause some sun sensitivity. This is why it’s essential to use an SPF during the day. A measured pump should generally be a sufficient. It’s important to apply the product to the outer face and then work it into the inner face.

What do you think of using a retinol in the morning? Should this be avoided? Why?

Retinol is generally always recommended to be used in the evening however it’s best to consult your skin therapist to discuss the retinol that you’re using & whether it is suitable to use in the day time. Some retinol formulations utilise a slow release delivery meaning it may be used in the day time but again it’s best to always discuss this with your skin therapist.

Is it ok to use AHA’s and BHA’s with retinol products? How would you recommend an exfoliant and retinol be combined? 

Yes it’s okay to use these ingredients in combination with one another. If your concerns are ageing, uneven skin tone and problem skin then a combination of these ingredients is ideal. Some products will utilise these three ingredients within the one formulation whereby other products will contain these ingredients individually meaning you would need to use a few products and either cocktail them or layer them. A more resilient skin would generally tolerate a product containing all three ingredients. Were as a finer more fragile skin would be better suited to use a retinol product and separate AHA product. Therefore, the products can be used on alternating nights to ensure over use is avoided.

Can you describe an ideal PM skincare routine that includes a retinol?

An ideal evening routine would include double cleansing the skin. Ideally the second cleanse would contain AHA’s and or BHA’s to not only gently but effectively cleanse the skin but also smooth the skin to ensure optimal absorption of the active serums that will be applied thereafter. An AHA and/or BHA serum would then be recommended, followed by a retinol serum as the next step and finishing the night time regime with a moisturiser. It’s important to always build up the skin’s tolerance to retinol by introducing it to the skin slowly. It’s also generally always recommended to use retinol every third night for two weeks. Building up to every second night for the following two weeks before to graduating to nightly use of retinol.


PCA Skin Intensive Age Refining Treatment 0.5% Pure Retinol Night – $109.00

The bees knees of retinols if ageing, fine lines, wrinkles etc… are your concern. Made with 0.5% pure retinol it’s quite strong for an over the counter, so I wouldn’t start using it every night. However also comes infused with power house ingredient Niacinamide (which I’m obsessed with) to help with redness, which can also be a side effect of retinol use. But it’s LOVE.


Aspect Dr Exfol A Plus Serum – $129.00

This vitamin A serum has been combined with vitamin C for the ultimate in brightening, cell turnover-ing for your face! The active ingredients Retinol H10 and L-Lactic Acid, refine and exfoliate the skin while Lanablue helps prevent the usual dryness and discomfort that some peeps find with retinol use. So a gentler option to try!


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Tell me babez, do you use retinols as part of your skincare routine? Why/why not?

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