Using Retinoids in the Summer

“Should I keep using my retinoid this summer?”

Here is the simple answer: continue using your retinoid in the summer. There is absolutely zero reason to stop using it. You already know that retinoids can possibly make you more susceptible to a sunburn because it is a strong exfoliator but we also know from scientific studies that, technically, retinoids do not change how your skin reacts to sun exposure; in other words, there is no change in how quickly you burn. And if you are serious about anti-aging then you won’t be looking to tan your face anyway of course. SPF 50 and wide brimmed hat at the ready, come summer holiday time or outdoor activity, right?

Just remember when it comes to using sunscreen on your face, spf 30 and above with a UV star rating of at least 3 or more plus reapplying every 2-3 hours while outside is your best defence against sunburn and photodamge (not to mention skin cancer!). I always recommend a mineral based sunscreen that is zinc oxide or titanium dioxide based because it sits on top of the skin and is less likely to cause any irritation. Finally, volume is as important as reapplying: aim for 2.5 grams of sunscreen to cover your entire face, which is roughly the equivalent of 1 teaspoon. And don’t forget your eyelids, around your eyes and your ears!

One extra thing to bear in mind: because retinoids are powerful exfoliators, you may notice that your facial self-tanner does not have its usual staying power. If you are using the fake stuff to get a golden glow (well done, btw! No point in using such a great anti-aging treatment and then getting a huge dose of sun damage when you can use a bottle instead to get a golden glow) for a holiday or a special event, consider stopping your retinoid after you have applied your self-tanner to give your fake tan a bit more staying power.

How to use a retinoid with your favourite skincare products (how to layer your retinoid with your other skincare products)

Skincare junkie? Just because you have now upgraded to super effective prescription skincare to deal with your primary skin concern, that doesn’t mean you need to ditch your entire arsenal of favourite skincare products. A retinoid can be used at the same time as most of your other over-the-beauty-counter lotions and potions, taking into account a few simple ‘rules’ to make sure your retinoid still gets the spotlight.

Some basics: never exfoliate with a harsh scrub or washcloth – retinoids are very powerful exfoliators in their own right so you don’t need to do anything extra. Plus scrubs and scrubbing can damage your delicate epidermis (that’s the top layer of your skin) so best avoided. In the same vein, consider stopping any acid products, whether leave on or in toners. Again, retinoids are powerful exfoliators so if you use an acid product as well you might dry out your skin too much and cause redness, flaking and irritation. Also, avoid hot treatments on your face, like waxing and lasers, because your skin is more light and heat sensitive. Threading and electrolysis are great alternatives for facial hair removal. Also, only use your retinoid at night because the product gets degraded by sunlight.

  1. Cleanse your skin, making sure to remove your makeup thoroughly. Pat your skin dry and allow it to dry completely.

  2. Apply any water-based serum – like hyaluronic acid - and/or use any ‘toning’ products. Be aware of glycolic, PHA or salicyclic toning type products as these can excessively dry your skin out when combined with a retinoid. Save these for the morning if you want to use them.

  3. Let serums absorb for a few minutes. Make sure your skin is completely dry before moving to step 4.

  4. NOW apply your retinoid

  5. Apply moisturiser or oil-based treatments

There is controversy about the order of applying products: some people advocate using your retinoid last and applying your moisturiser before you apply your retinoid. In reality, there is no right or wrong answer to this. If you find your skin is getting excessively irritated or dry when using a retinoid, apply your moisturiser before you apply your retinoid, but make sure that you give your moisturiser enough time to fully absorb (15 minutes is sufficient).

When using a retinoid, you should use acid-based products and vitamin C in you morning skincare routine only. But beware that even then using different exfoliators can lead to redness and irritation, especially when you first start using a retinoid, so consider sticking to a simplified skincare routine when starting out. For example, just cleanse and moisturise in the morning and do the same at night, adding in your retinoid product before or after you moisturiser at bedtime.

When starting a retinoid, a few simple tweaks to your skincare routine is all that’s required for you to get the most out of all your favourite products.

Until Next Time,

Dr. Natalia Spierings

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