How to Minimize the Side Effects of Retinoids
You may have heard horror stories about about retinoids making skin incredibly red and dry, but don’t throw away your prescription yet! There are plenty of ways to minimize the side effects of retinoids. Here are a few easy ways to reduce dryness, redness and irritation in the first few weeks:
Note: Over-the-counter retinol products are far less likely to cause irritation than prescription retinoids, but the suggestions below will minimize side effects when starting either.
Start with a Low Concentration
Some skin is just too sensitive to handle retinoids, but most of us can deal with a 0.25 concentration. Once your skin is used to that strength, you can work your way up to a higher concentration, like 0.5, if you and your doctor agree. If your skin is oily or accustomed to strong treatments, talk with your doctor about skipping 0.25 altogether and starting with an 0.5 strength.
Don’t Use Too Much
Even if your doctor recommends applying only a tiny bit, don’t use more than your doctor tells you to use.
Start When it’s Hot Outside
Consider waiting until spring or summer to start if you can. Starting a retinoid in the winter, when your skin is at is at its driest, will only exacerbate side effects.
Avoid the Sun
Retinoid products increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, so it’s important to wear an SPF rated 30 or higher every single day and avoid the sun as much as possible. My favorite drugstore sunscreen is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Daily Sunscreen. Paula’s Choice offers well formulated SPF products for every skin-type.Try the brand’s Skin Recovery Daily Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30 to reduce inflammation, Clear Ultra-Light Daily Fluid SPF 30+ if your skin is acne-prone, or Resist Youth-Extending Daily Fluid SPF 50 for anti-aging.
Use A Gentle Skin Care Routine
Make the rest of your skin care routine gentle, minimal, and effective. Be sure to use cover the basics, but use as few products as possible to minimize irritation (you can read my guide to creating a simple skin care routine here). Here are the products I’m using at the moment:
- Paula’s Choice Resist Perfectly Balanced Cleanser (morning and night)
- Paula’s Choice Clinical Advanced Redness Relief Toner (morning and night)
- Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment 2% BHA–I use this most mornings and Resist Weekly Retexturizing Foam 4% BHA in its place once or twice a week.
- Paula’s Choice Clear Ultra-Light Daily Fluid SPF 30+ (morning only)
- 1% Tretinoin Cream (night, prescription only)–read more here.
- Paula’s Choice Lip & Body Treatment Balm (morning and night)
The above tips should help, but if you’re experiencing side effects that you think are out of the normal range, talk to your doctor!