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Trinny London
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How to use your retinal serum the right way

You wouldn’t try a new gadget without reading the instructions. Here’s how to use and apply your retinal serum for the best possible results.

How to use retinal serum

First things first, what is retinal? Retinal is a member of the retinoid family, and a close relation to the more commonly known retinol. Both are forms of vitamin A, but retinal has one up on retinol, as it works at a faster rate with reduced risk of irritation.

To fully reap the benefits of your retinal serum, it pays to stick to a few golden rules.

Introduce slowly

Although retinal won’t irk most skin, that doesn’t mean all skin will tolerate regular application straight away. Retinal speeds up cell turnover, and skin can take time to adjust to this new, faster way of working. Think of it like this, you wouldn’t go for one jog and expect to be hitting super fast speeds straight away. It takes time, and training, to work your way up.

For this reason, we recommend applying your retinal serum just a couple of times a week to begin with. As with all new ingredients, it’s best to leave a 48 hour gap between applications to check your skin is happy before proceeding. Gradually build up to nightly use of your retinal serum, listening to your skin as you go. Everyone’s skin is different, and therefore not everyone will respond to ingredients in the same way. It could be that once every other night, or even just a couple of times a week, is enough for you.

Only apply in the evening

Retinal itself can become an irritant when exposed to sunlight, and the ingredient can also make your skin more sensitive to UV. For this reason, it should only ever be applied at night. There are added benefits for choosing this time of day too. During the day our skin is exposed to numerous different external stressors – things like pollution, cigarette smoke and UV rays. At night, it doesn’t have so much to contend with, making it the best time for your skin to rest, repair and recuperate. Think of it like this: it’s much harder to read a book while jostling on a busy, bustling train carriage than it is when sitting alone in a quiet room.

Be vigilant about SPF

For exactly the same reasons as outlined above, it is really important to wear a high-factor sunscreen the morning after you have used a retinal serum. If you’re really serious about having great skin, you should be doing this everyday without fail – regardless of which serums you have been using.

UV rays, which come from the sun, are responsible for the majority of premature ageing. They speed up the deterioration of collagen as if it were an ice cream left outside on a hot day and bring hyperpigmentation to the surface like dark underwear worn beneath a pale dress. Investing in a retinal serum is pointless if you’re not also using SPF, as you’ll merely be undoing all your good work by causing new skin problems. Lose-lose.

Always apply to clean skin

Sitting in traffic is frustrating, right? Your serums experience the same kind of jams and delays if trying to penetrate through a blockade of makeup, pollution and daily grime. This is why proper cleansing is so important, clearing the way for your serums and moisturisers to access the skin effectively and efficiently. All of your skincare will work harder when it's working together.