Hessler, MD sees most often as the reason her patients shy away from the skin-perfecting ingredient. “I see many patients delay starting retinol because they can’t find the social downtime for redness and the appearance of irritated skin, which can initially occur with a topical vitamin A product,” she says, explaining that, in addition to the exfoliating effect, retinol works by helping to stabilize collagen in the skin—just one of the many reasons she’s a big fan. “In order to minimize the irritation—which is temporary and using an additional moisturizer can help—we often encourage patients to start slowly with their products, but this takes longer to experience the full benefits.
Brookline, MA dermatologist Papri Sarkar, MD is also telling everyone she knows that now is a good time to introduce a gentle retinoid to their routines, pointing to the long list of pros of it being able to stimulate collagen, even out dark spots and help with skin texture. “The con is that it can cause redness and dry patches at first,” she says. “So, start slow at twice a week, use a tiny amount, moisturize before and after, and let the redness and flakiness go to town while you’re staying at home. “You’ll come out the other side with fresh, smooth skin.
I started in my 20s to help treat acne and it’s played an important role in the anti-aging factor of the skin,” she says, adding that, as with everything, it’s all about balance. “When we remove layers by using exfoliating agents like retinol, we must pace ourselves and listen and notice the behavior of our skin, as it is a very individual experience for every single one of us—especially if you’re just getting started.
Hessler also says you most likely have lessened another element of your typically day-to-day routine: the sun. “Although it is good to get exercise and be out for some activity, there is less chance to spend an extended period of time outside right now,” she says. “Retinols make your skin more sensitive to the sun and minimizing your exposure to direct sunlight is always recommended with these products.