2. You don't want to go to the dermatologist. While prescription formulas yield the most impressive results, an over-the-counter retinoid, called retinol, can also improve lines and discoloration. Retinol is less potent, so count on 12 weeks before seeing results.
3. You think a retinoid will make your skin sun-sensitive. This is one of the biggest retinoid myths. The ingredient itself is sensitive to sunlight, which is why you should apply it before bed at night. A retinoid shouldn't make your skin any more vulnerable to UV rays than it would be after buffing away dead skin with a face scrub. Summer is actually a good time to start a retinoid: Humidity makes your skin less likely to dry out as it adjusts. Of course, apply sunscreen as diligently as you always do.
4. You're afraid your skin will look worse before it gets better. Retinoids can cause dryness, redness, and flaking - but if you ease in, you can avoid a rough transition. For the first two weeks, apply every third night. If your skin isn't irritated, ramp up to every other, then every night. A few other irritation-mitigating guidelines: Wait 15 minutes after washing your face before you apply a retinoid, and use one pea-size dab to cover your whole face. After a few minutes, apply a basic moisturizer to prevent dryness.
5. You think you can't afford it. Insurance coverage of a prescription retinoid, like Retin-A, varies by plan, and a 20-gram tube will cost about $75. But generic tretinoin costs about $40 - not bad for a product guaranteed to work.
- Don't use a retinoid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Benzoyl peroxide and alpha hydroxy acids may deactivate retinoids, so don't layer them.
- Waxing can cause excess redness on retinoid-treated skin; don't use a retinoid for several days before a treatment.
- A small percentage of people with ultrasensitive skin can never tolerate a retinoid; if you're one of them, use a gentle physical exfoliator twice a week to soften your skin, and be extra=conscientious about sunscreen to prevent collagen loss in the first place.