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What are the 3 Most Common Retinol Myths?

For years myths have circulated about retinol often alarming consumers and scaring people into leaving this star ingredient out of their regimens. Retinoids are considered the gold standard of anti-aging and, after daily sunscreen, the best thing you can do to slow the clock. So, let’s get to it and break down a few of the most common retinoid myths!

Myth 1: Retinol cannot be used during the day or summer months due to risk of sun sensitivity.

Truth: I see influencers, skin care “enthusiasts” and even derm providers circulate this rumor to this day! In fact, this is not backed by scientific data.

Let’s take a closer look. You might say: “but Amy, YOU even told me to use my retinoid at night!” That’s right, I did! Retinoids themselves are easily deactivated by light and air, aside from some of the newer more technologically advanced formulations. THIS is why Dermatology providers advise using your retinoid at night (so it isn’t rendered ineffective by the sunlight), not because it will make you more sensitive to the sun or more likely to burn.

Myth busting aside, it’s always important to use a daily SPF to protect your new, younger-looking skin.

Myth 2: Retinoids thin the skin.

Truth: This one is partially true, but read on. Retinoids thin and compact the other “dead” layer of skin cells called the stratum corneum. This is a good thing and the reason those who are on retinoids long term have a “glow” as this dead layer thins out and the skin appears less dull. Even better, retinoids thicken the underlying dermis layer by increasing collagen production and partially inhibiting the breakdown of the collagen you already have (we start losing collagen after the age of 20!). Definitely sign me up for more collagen.

Myth 3: “I tried retinol once and my skin got irritated and peeled. I can’t tolerate it and it’s not for me.”

Truth: Actually, probably not. Retinoids can be difficult to tolerate initially for most skin types when not incorporated properly. If you’ve been prescribed a prescription retinoid or even purchased an over the counter one with zero direction on how to incorporate it into your regimen, irritation is rather likely. There are of course some skin types who will never be able to tolerate retinoids no matter how slow they go like some with rosacea and other skin conditions. For most, this irritation and peeling is self-limiting (will eventually stop), but even so it’s unsightly and we want to avoid it when possible. Here are some tips to initiate your retinoid while minimizing irritation.

  1. Start with the lowest over the counter strength.
  2. Use only a pea-sized amount of retinol. A little goes a lot way!
  3. Use ON TOP of your moisturizer in the beginning.
  4. Start only every 3rd night for a couple of weeks. When you are tolerating this, increase to every night for a couple of weeks until finally increasing to every night. Note: some people may never be able to increase to every night and that’s perfectly fine! You’re still getting benefits!

Here are a few of my favorite beginner-friendly retinol products to start!

1. SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.25

2. Replenix Retinol Forte Treatment Serum 3X

3. SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3

1. Revision Skincare Retinol Complete 0.5


Amy is a Cosmetic Dermatology PA and skin care enthusiast living and practicing in Miami, FL. To connect with her or to see her in office or virtually for a consultation, contact her via her instagram @the_skinthusiast or on her blog