Retinol is a potent skin-care ingredient since it can help with a range of skin issues, including acne, fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. The component is also conveniently available in over-the-counter skin care products at nearby drugstores and cosmetics shops.
Dermatologists say that one drawback of retinol is that it’s a very powerful chemical that many people find unpleasant or drying. Users on TikTok are recording videos of an application technique known as the “retinol sandwich” in an effort to benefit from the famous component without experiencing any of the associated adverse effects. To help lower the possibility of dryness, flaking, and irritation, it entails putting a layer of moisturizer prior to your retinol and another layer afterward. But does it work? A simple search for “ retinol sandwich ” on the app returns hundreds of videos with eight billion total views.
The “retinol sandwich” technique does, in theory, guard against any skin irritants brought on by retinol application. Dermatologists claim that the reason behind this is that the first layer of moisturizer serves as a barrier, preventing the retinol from reaching the skin and reducing its effects. Learn more about retinol below, along with advice on how to use it to your skin’s greatest advantage while avoiding sensitivity.
DESCRIBE RETINOL According to Anat Lebow, M.D., F.A.A.D. , a board-certified dermatologist and dermatological advisor for Codex Beauty Labs , “Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that has been clinically proven to enhance healthy collagen production, fight aging, and treat acne.” It is a form of retinoid, according to Robyn Gmyrek M.D. , a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, which is a “blanket word for vitamin A derived medications.”
There are different kinds of retinoids, and while they all offer advantages, some may be more potent and better formulated than others. According to Dr. Gmyrek, retinoids include over-the-counter retinols and retinaldehyde as well as prescription retinoic acids, such as tretinoin (a topical medication ). She notes that as prescription retinoids (also known as retinoic acids) are the most strong and irritating, a doctor’s prescription is necessary before using them. Because they are less strong, retinol and retinaldehyde are more widely available over-the-counter. Retinol is a skin-care ingredient that can be found in many serums, gels, and moisturizers.
How does the ingredient function then? According to board-certified dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi, M.D. , retinol behaves similarly to an antioxidant. In order to diminish fine lines, wrinkles, and pores, it regenerates skin cells, shields collagen from free radical damage, and stimulates the production of new collagen and elastin. You Should Rub In Retinol Body Lotions From Head to Toe (Related))
CAN IRRITATION BE REDUCED BY USING MOISTURIZER PRIOR TO AND AFTER RETINOL? The retinol sandwich approach differs from traditional skin-care regimens in that it calls for applying moisturizer first before applying retinol to the skin. Although this helps lessen sensitivity and raise the skin’s tolerance for retinol, experts say it does so at the expense of retinol’s own effectiveness. According to Dr. Shirazi, “The moisturizer applied before the retinol works as a barrier and decreases the absorption of retinol.”
Additionally, according to Dr. Gmyrek, there are no research papers that back up this retinol administration technique. My particular worry about using a moisturizer layer before applying retinol stems from the fact that moisturizers contain occlusives like petroleum, mineral oil, paraffin, squalene, dimethicone, shea butter, lanolin, beeswax, and cholesterol, to mention a few. As Shape previously reported, occlusives are moisturizing agents that function by building a physical barrier on top of the skin to keep moisture in the skin. Dr. Gmyrek claims that while you may be limiting irritation, you may simultaneously be minimizing the anti-aging retinol’s effectiveness.
In the end, she advises sticking to retinol products that are made with hydrating components to aid decrease irritation or looking for skin-care products that feature retinol that has been encapsulated. According to Dr. Gmyrek, the retinol is then encased in a shield to assist prevent its escape into the skin. Retinol that has been encapsulated is more stable than conventional retinol and releases gradually overnight, causing less irritability, according to the author.
As an alternative, Dr. Shirazi advises you to spread out your overnight skincare routine. Give the retinol time to fully seep into the skin before applying moisturizer on top of it. She advises patients, for instance, to wash and moisturize their face in the early evening and then apply retinol a few hours later, just before going to bed. (Related: Straight from Derms: The Scoop on the Slugging Skin-Care Hack)
A RETINOL SANDWICH METHOD: IS IT SAFE? Retinol is a well-researched substance that has been declared “safe and helpful in enhancing general skin health,” according to Dr. Shirazi, despite its capacity to irritate the skin. Retinol is really the most prevalent form of vitamin A used in over-the-counter skin care products since it has demonstrated advantageous benefits and enhanced tolerance when compared to prescription retinoids, according to Dr. Gmyrek.
Dermatologists claim that the “retinol sandwich” strategy in particular is risk-free. Retinol’s diminished effectiveness is the only possible negative effect. Dr. Gmyrek points out a potential drawback of moisturizers: “Occlusives, which are fantastic for holding in moisture, may also hinder the entry of the retinoid, resulting in low penetration and possibly making the medication less effective and decreasing any potential advantages.”
Patience is essential while applying retinol. It takes time for the substance to take effect on your skin and for the results to become visible. Finding retinol creams with moisturizing components built into their formulas, however, can be helpful. Dr. Gmyrek suggests using the ceramide-based Farmacy 1% Vitamin A Retinol Serum to “repair the skin barrier,” as she puts it.
IS IT TRUE OR FALSE THAT USING A MOISTURIZER PRIOR TO RETINOL HELP DECREASE IRRITATION?
A “retinol sandwich” technically does help to lessen discomfort brought on by the substance, but it might not be the optimal application technique in terms of retaining retinol’s effectiveness. Avoid moisturizers containing occlusive substances, which have thicker formulations and should be avoided if you wish to try the trend, and choose lightweight products instead, such the CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion . When in doubt, always seek the best guidance for your skin type and issues from a dermatologist.