Retinol in Winter: Your Go-To Guide

Retinol in Winter: Your Go-To Guide

Why winter’s the perfect time to start using retinol

Worried about wrinkles, uneven skin tone, dullness or acne? There’s no better time than now to address your skin concerns – and no ingredient more qualified than retinol. A go-to skincare ingredient with clinically proven benefits, retinol is considered the gold standard anti-ageing active.

With great power comes potential side effects, however – so care does need to be taken when incorporating it into your skincare routine.

Lucky for you (and your complexion), winter is the perfect time to start using retinol. So, to find a product to suit your skin type – and start tackling your skin concerns – read on. We’ll explain what retinol is, how it benefits your skin, and why retinol in winter is often a good idea.

What is retinol?

A Vitamin A derivative, retinol falls under a group of medications known as retinoids. In skincare products, it’s a powerhouse anti-ageing ingredient that helps with myriad skin concerns, including uneven skin tone, fine lines and wrinkles, and loss of volume-enhancing collagen.

As it assists with cellular turnover and dark marks, retinol is also beneficial for those with acne. In more severe acne cases, a prescription-only retinoid, Retin-A, or Tretinoin, is often prescribed. This type of product may also be used to fight wrinkles in maturing skin. However, it’s usually best to build up tolerance first with an over-the-counter Vitamin A serum or cream.

What are retinol’s benefits for the skin?

Retinol’s multitude of skin benefits has earned it a place in the bathroom cabinets of beauty obsessives everywhere. Other than a broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen, it's considered the most powerful weapon in any anti-ageing skincare routine.

Retinol's key benefit lies in boosting cellular turnover (which declines as we age) to give us more radiant, youthful-looking skin. Refining and smoothing skin texture, it helps diminish dullness, unclog pores, improve acne and reduce scarring and dark marks. Boosting collagen production and improving elasticity1, retinol helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sagging.

With antioxidant properties, it also promotes a more even skin tone can and can help reverse signs of sun damage and fade dark spots.

Why is winter a good time to start using retinol?

The main reason retinol is ideal for winter is the reduced intensity of the sun’s rays – paired with our tendency to spend more time indoors. Retinol makes skin more photosensitive, meaning it is more sensitive to damage from the sun’s UV rays. So gradually incorporating it into your skincare routine when UV levels are lower in the cooler months makes a lot of sense.

However, skin is often drier in winter – and retinol can also be drying – so it’s important to maintain hydration by using a gentle hydrating cleanser, hyaluronic acid serum and moisturiser.

And don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – the UV Index is high in most parts of Australia all year round. So, whether using retinol or not, a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVB and ever-present ageing UVA rays is important in winter. Not just summer.

How to introduce retinol into your skincare routine

Before discussing retinol routines, let’s answer the question on your lips. Are you the right age to start using retinol? Probably, yes. While marketed largely as an anti-ageing product, retinol is just as powerful for preventative ageing. Meaning? It’s not strictly for those who have existing signs of ageing but also for anyone wanting to prevent signs of ageing early on. In fact, many dermatologists recommend its use as early as the mid-20s, as this is when our cellular turnover naturally starts to slow.

Now that’s cleared up, let’s look at usage. As with other stimulating actives like hydroxy acids, it’s important to start slow when introducing retinol into your skincare routine. This means adding any Vitamin A products to your skincare routine gradually to ensure your skin becomes accustomed. Known as retinisation, this period is known as and can often include side effects like dryness and sensitivity. However, it’s worth persisting! (With care.)

To limit any unwanted impacts, always follow the directions for use – a couple of drops or a pea-sized amount is usually sufficient. Most retinol products are designed for use at night as sunlight can render formulas less effective. Additionally, your skin enters repair mode overnight and applying retinol can enhance repair.

Start by using retinol once or twice a week, and gradually increasing frequency once it’s tolerated. Any side effects can be helped by cutting back on the use of retinol and using hydrating, skin barrier restoring products such as those with ceramides, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide.

Bub on board? Know that retinol is not recommended for use by those who are pregnant, planning to be pregnant, or breastfeeding. And it may also be unsuitable for ultra-sensitive skin, including those with rosacea or eczema.

Sandwiching products and combining retinol with other actives

If you’re new to retinol, you can sandwich your serum in-between hydrating products to reduce the likelihood of dryness, redness and irritation. For example, after cleansing your skin with a gentle cleanser, apply a hyaluronic acid serum first, followed by your retinol, then a hydrating moisturiser. Alternatively, use a multi-tasking serum, such as our Refine Over Time Serum, followed by your hydrating moisturiser.

In our Original line, Refine Over Time contains hyaluronic acid and retinol. As well as niacinamide. Soothing, barrier-boosting and redness-reducing, niacinamide (or Vitamin B3) is ideal to combine with stimulating retinol.

When combining retinol with exfoliating acids (such as glycolic acid or BHA) in your routine, take care. Instead of using consecutively, it’s best to alternate between active serums each night.

And, as mentioned, it’s important to apply and reapply a broad-spectrum sunscreen, ideally SPF 50 or higher, every day when using a retinol product.

How long will it take to see results from using retinol?

Incorporating retinol into your skincare routine is a lesson in patience. You may see improvements in skin radiance and acne symptoms in 8-12 weeks. However, it can take up to 6 months of consistent use to improve sun damage and signs of ageing2.

Your skin may also purge during the initial phase, with symptoms like breakouts, redness and sensitivity. This is all part of boosting skin turnover, so think of this as retinol doing its job! You can also counter these symptoms with hydrating and soothing products every morning and night.

Whatever your reason for using retinol, don’t be disheartened if not much happens overnight. Be persistent, follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to firmer, more refined and youthful-looking skin by summer!

Our retinol serums

Ideal for younger skins new to Vitamin A, Refine Over Time is our entry-level retinol serum. It combines retinol with encapsulated retinol for faster results with less irritation. For more demanding skins, our clinic-only Black Label line contains two retinol serums, with two and three types of retinol, respectively.

Shop our online, or visit the blog for more skincare tips and news.