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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a triple-board-certified dermatologist with over 100 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

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Should You Use Retinol During the Day Time? Dermatologist Explains

Updated: Jun 23

You might have come across prominent websites contradictorily claiming that you can use retinol during the day. However, as a practicing dermatologist and someone who uses retinol, let me tell you that it's not worth it!


Why, you ask? Let me explain.


An image representing that retinol is best used at night

Understanding Retinol: The Science Behind It

Retinol works by accelerating skin cell turnover, revealing fresher, smoother skin. It also boosts collagen production, which can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.


But here's the catch: Retinol is sensitive to sunlight. When exposed to UV rays, retinol can break down and lose its effectiveness. Moreover, retinol makes your skin more susceptible to sun damage due to its exfoliating effect.


The Sun and Retinol: An Unfavorable Mix

Using retinol during the day increases your risk of sun damage. The new skin cells that retinol reveals are more vulnerable to UV rays, leading to potential issues like sunburns and hyperpigmentation. This is why most dermatologists, and even the myself included, recommend using retinol products at night. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology also warns against using retinol during the day time due to retinol's inherent risk of photosensitivity.


The Case Against Daytime Use of Retinol: Experts Have Spoken


The experts have spoken, and the consensus is clear: reserve your retinol for nighttime use.


Case in points:

  1. Experts unanimously caution against using retinol during the day due to the risk of photosensitivity, as highlighted by the American Academy of Dermatology.

  2. Research studies support this stance, advocating for nighttime application to maximize effectiveness while minimizing risks.

  3. Moreover, researchers (not bloggers) have shown that nightly application of retinol is sufficient to significantly improve the appearance of wrinkles and photoaging. Studies have demonstrated these benefits with concentrations as low as 0.3% when used consistently at night for 12 weeks.

So, why take the chance of exposing your skin to unnecessary risk during the day when you can achieve significant improvements with nightly application?


Why Would You Even Want to Use It During the Day?


The bigger question is, why would you even want to use retinol during the day? There are so many other skincare actives that complement the action of retinol for a multi-pronged anti-aging routine.


You can opt for skin actives like:

  • Vitamin C,

  • Niacinamide,

  • Vitamin E.

  • Ferulic Acid,

  • Peptides like Copper Peptide, Argireline, etc.

  • and so many more.


I would suggest you get a proper skin care consultant to help you craft a good skin care regime. It has to be someone with an actual MD Dermatology degree.


Night-Time Application: Maximizing Benefits

Applying retinol at night aligns with your skin's natural repair process, which is more active during sleep. This timing allows for optimal absorption and effectiveness, enhancing the rejuvenating benefits of retinol without the risk of sun exposure.


Sun Protection: A Must When Using Retinol

Whether you use retinol at night or (against advice) during the day, sun protection is non-negotiable. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 is crucial to protect your skin, especially when using retinol products. This helps prevent the adverse effects of UV exposure, such as premature aging and increased risk of skin cancer.


Sensitive Skin and Retinol: A Cautionary Note

For those with sensitive skin, retinol can be particularly irritating. This is another reason to opt for night-time use, as it allows your skin to calm and recover. Always start with a lower concentration of retinol and gradually increase it to allow your skin to adjust.


Product Recommendation

There are many different retinol products on the market, so it is important to be sure to find one that is right for you.


No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex is a good retinol product. It comes with a post-retinol soother that keeps your skin hydrated.



Conclusion: Night-Time for Retinol

In conclusion, while some sources may suggest daytime use of retinol is acceptable, retinol is best used at night. This ensures maximum efficacy while minimizing risks associated with sun exposure.


Now, do you know whether you should apply retinol before or after moisturizer? It's not as simple as it seems.


Remember, incorporating any new product into your skincare regimen should be done thoughtfully and, ideally, under the guidance of a skincare professional.

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