10 tips to get you started on your retinol journey

10 tips to get you started on your retinol journey

10 tips to get you started on your retinol journey

If there’s one thing that all dermatologists agree on, it’s that retinol has huge benefits for your skin. So what exactly does retinol do? Poko will you through how to use retinol properly.  This miracle ingredient promises to fade fine lines, reduce acne, and promote collagen. While this might all sound a bit too good to be true, it’s one of the few skincare ingredients backed up by lots of science - but it’s not for the faint of heart. If you don’t use it properly, you could land yourself with dryness, flaking, irritation which is particularly bad if you already have sensitive skin.

Here’s how to use retinol the right way, to get glowing skin.

1. Know the difference between retinol vs retinoids

While both retinoids and retinol are a derivative of vitamin A, how they work is a bit different. Retinoids are forms of retinoic acid, aka vitamin A. Most topical retinoids require a prescription from your doctor, and so they cannot be sold in over-the-counter products.

In the last few years, a retinoid called adapalene was approved for OTC sale by the FDA and can be found in some widely available skincare products. Stronger retinoids like tretinoin can be quite irritating to the skin, which is why they are only available on prescription. 

Retinol is a slightly weaker form of vitamin A, and does not require a prescription. It is used most over-the-counter products and by skin care brands. It requires your skin to do an extra step of chemistry by converting retinol into retinoic acid, which is then absorbed into the skin. As a result, it is a bit weaker than prescription-strength retinoids. While it may take a little longer to see results with retinol, they are usually less irritating than retinoids.

2. Go slow

Retinol has huge benefits and side effects for your skin, especially if you suffer from sensitive skin, but it requires a lot of patience. It doesn't matter your skin tone or your skin type. When it comes to how to use retinol or retinoid, slow and steady wins the race - especially with stronger prescription retinoids.

Start using retinol twice a week, or every other night at most. Stick with this routine for 6-8 weeks, and see how your skin is tolerating this frequency. If your skin seems happy enough, try using it every night. If you notice any irritation, scale back to every other night. 

3. Prepare for the purge

Retinoic acid works by increasing the skin’s cellular turnover. Your skin normally takes around 30 days to shed skin cells and reveal newer skin, however, a retinoid can speed this up to every 14-21 days. Since the skin’s cellular turnover is speeding up, you might notice a lot of new pimples, blackheads and whiteheads. 

Don’t freak out - this doesn’t mean the retinol is causing your break out. In fact, this acne was waiting deep in your skin the whole time. By shedding your skin cells more quickly, the retinol is simply ‘purging’ the acne that was already in your skin. This annoying step is only temporary, so don’t give up. When you start using retinol it can be pretty daunting to go through this step but just persevere.

4. Use SPF!

You should be using SPF daily regardless, but it’s even more important if you’re introducing retinol or retinoids into your routine.


This is because retinoic acid causes your skin to shed its top skin cells more quickly. With a thinner top layer, your skin becomes more sensitive to sun damage.

Even if you don’t burn or it doesn’t seem obvious, by not wearing sunscreen you’re seriously hindering how well your retinoid can work. So, if you are going to start to use Retinol please use some SPF with it.

5. Hydration, hydration, hydration

One of the most effective ways to get the benefits of using retinol without the irritation is by using soothing, hydrating factors in your skin care routine. Retinoids are best kept to your PM routine to minimise the chance of sun damage, so your AM routine should focus on hydrating and soothing your skin. 

Soothing ingredients like aloe vera and centella extract are excellent to use in your morning skin care routine to fight inflammation and potential irritation caused by retinoids. Aloe vera juice also provides much-needed hydration, as it is made up of 98% water.

The Light Hydrating Moisturiser was formulated to fight against dryness and keeps your skin moisturised for up to 72 hours. 

Light Hydrating Moisturiser


6. Apply to dry skin

If you apply retinoids to damp skin, you run the risk of the product penetrating deeper into the skin - which might sound like a good thing, but can actually cause more irritation. 

To reap the benefits of your retinol or retinoid while causing as little irritation as possible, use a ‘blanketing’ technique. Apply moisturiser to damp skin, and wait for your skin to dry completely. Then, apply a thin layer of your retinol or retinoid. To lock in more hydration, go over your retinol or retinoid with another layer of moisturiser.

7. Scale back your routine

On the nights when you use retinol, it’s a good idea to scale back your routine. Just use a cleanser, moisturiser, and retinol or retinoid of choice. Using a simple routine reduces the chance of your retinol clashing with any other products, which can lead to (you guessed it) irritation.

8. Cut back on exfoliation

On the nights you use your retinoid or retinol, it’s also a good idea to cut back on exfoliation. Since retinoic acid speeds up your cell turnover, using a chemical or physical exfoliant on top can lead to raw, over-exfoliated and irritated skin. 

If you’re using a retinoid or retinol three nights a week and still want to use chemical exfoliants, stick to gentler AHAs like lactic acid, using them once or twice a week. If you notice irritation, decide whether you want to cut back on your acids or your retinoid one day a week. 

9. Use it with other antioxidants

Since retinol is a vitamin A derivative, using other antioxidants in your skincare routine has huge benefits. During your morning routine, try incorporating a vitamin C serum or using a moisturiser with vitamin E. These antioxidants will work together to make each other more effective. 

The Ultra Hydrating Moisturiser contains vitamin E to condition and softens skin, as well as aloe vera juice which is rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C also helps your sunscreen to work better, which in turn benefits your retinol. It’s a win-win!

10. Protect your orifices

The skin around your facial orifices - eyes, nose and mouth - is particularly thin and delicate, and much more sensitive to irritation. To reduce the chances of your retinol or retinoid settling into these areas and causing irritation, apply an extra layer of non-comedogenic moisturiser or skin balm to keep these areas nourished and protected.


The Correcting Eye Cream is specially formulated with aloe vera, avocado oil and other plant oils to care for delicate under-eye skin without clogging pores. 


So now you should know how to use retinol. Retinol is a real game changer when it comes to beauty and skincare routines. You will never go back to not using it. Your fine lines and wrinkles will be history!

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