The Complete Guide to Where, When, and How to Use Retinol
Despite earning its reputation as a holy grail item in the skincare universe—known to fend off aging, smooth pores, clear breakouts, and more—the do’s and don'ts of retinol have caused many to shy away from it in fear of inadvertently using it incorrectly. Retinol is a powerful ingredient and it is true that most of its products should be handled with care, but let us put you at ease: Press Restart is formulated with first-timers and those with sensitive skin in mind. We use a duo of encapsulated retinol and natural retinol alternatives, arophira and bakuchiol, which are much gentler on the skin and won’t produce any of those rumored side effects.
Keep scrolling for your complete guide to where, when, and how often to use retinol:
When in my routine do I use retinol?Since retinol speeds up cellular turnover (leaving your fresh, renewed complexion more sensitive to the sun), it is best applied at night after your PM cleanse. Wear it alone, or apply it after using water-based serums but before moisturizing. And don’t forget to apply an ample amount of SPF in the AM to protect those new skin cells.
How many times per week should I apply it?Traditional retinoids can be too potent (a.k.a. drying and irritating) to use more than a few times a week, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Our Gentle Retinol Serum, however, can be used every single night (yes, even if you’re new to retinol) because it’s formulated with encapsulated retinol (which bypasses the surface of skin, where the irritation occurs) and plant-based alternatives that are much gentler on the skin. If you are super cautious, doing a patch test to see how your skin reacts never hurts. And there’s no rule that says it has to be used every night, if you like to mix it up—by all means, do!
Where do I apply it?Your face, of course (even up to your eyes, carefully), but don’t forget your neck and chest, too. Because the skin around your décolletage is thin, it tends to show signs of aging quickly. Smoothing retinol onto these areas will help keep fine lines and wrinkles in check.
What products can I use it with?Technically, the only ingredient that doesn’t mix well with retinol is benzoyl peroxide, because the two ingredients actually counteract each other. But we also advise against layering retinol and vitamin C (unless they’re formulated together in the same product) to avoid any potential irritation or sensitivity. If you're using Press Restart, opt to use the following products during your morning routine or save them for another night:
Can I use retinol if I'm pregnant?If you are pregnant or nursing, we recommend skipping retinol for now (and in the meantime, check out our guide to pregnancy-safe skincare). Instead, use pregnancy-safe alternatives such as green coffee extract or ferulic acid found in our Advanced Night Cream and Advanced Restoring Serum respectively.
What age should I start using retinol?Don't wait until you start seeing fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol—and any products for aging skin, really—can be added to a skincare routine at any time as a defense mechanism against premature damage. Plus, retinol isn't only beneficial for signs of aging; it can reform bumpy skin texture, treat acne, and repair dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
Shop retinol products (and alternatives) below.