How to Use Retinol Serum Effectively for Glowing Skin

You may have probably heard of retinol serum and its benefits. However, you might not understand exactly what this retinol is, what it can do for your skin, or even how to use retinol serum. You will learn all that here.

Retinol is a type of retinoid that is derived from vitamin A which is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in the body in several ways. Naturally, the body depends solely on vitamin A for cell reproduction. Vitamin A is one of the vitamins that helps for proper wound healing. 

Retinol helps to boost the appearance of your skin and reduce the signs of aging. Retinol is a skincare ingredient that helps in the growth and maintenance of your skin. 

It also boosts collagen production in the skin, accelerating skin’s turnover and smoothening fine lines and wrinkles. This makes retinol is the active ingredient in many anti-aging serums and creams.

However, you do need to understand retinol and how best to use it, because inappropriate use of retinol can cause serious side effects.

This article right here is a comprehensive guide on how to properly use retinol serum on your skin, and it also answers all your questions concerning it.

SEE: Hyaluronic Acid vs Retinol: Find Out the Best Formula Here

How to Apply Retinol Serum for Best Results

use retinol serum

Even as retinol serves as an effective substance that helps revert skin damages, your method of application determines the results you get.

How you apply retinol serum to your skin is important because this product can cause skin reactions such as dryness and redness of the skin. It is best to start with a patch test first to see how your skin reacts to the serum. 

1. Do a Patch Test

Squeeze out a drop of this serum on your palm and rub it on your inner wrist to check for allergic reactions. Due to the sensitivity of the skin on the wrist, you will most likely notice a reaction if your retinol can’t be used on your skin.

Leave this to sit on your skin for a few hours to see how your skin reacts to it. If your skin gets an irritation such as a rash, then you probably shouldn’t use retinol on your skin. Therefore, do not continue to the next step, and also you can check with your dermatologist for help.

If your skin doesn’t react harshly to the patch test, you can move on to the next step.

2. Wash Your Face

use retinol serum

Before you start the application process, sprinkle cool clean water on your face and then massage the cleanser on your face with your fingertips. Do this for about 30 seconds before you proceed to rinse the cleanser off your skin with clean water. 

To do this appropriately, ensure that you use a cleanser that works for your skin type; to avoid irritating your skin. 

3. Dry Your Skin and Apply Face Cream

skincare tips

Dry your skin after washing it by using a clean cloth or towel. Once you have done this, apply eye cream; as this will help to protect the sensitive skin around your eyes.

Now, wait a few minutes for your skin to absorb the cream. Once your skin is completely dry, you can proceed to the next step. 

It is important to dry out your skin because applying the serum while your skin is still wet will cause the retinol to absorb more deeply into your skin and this might cause irritation on your skin. 

SEE: How to Exfoliate the Body: The Safest and Best Methods

4. Apply Retinol Serum Now

If you are just starting or new to retinol serums, avoid using too much on your skin. It is even better to only use just one drop of it on your skin and as time goes on, you can upgrade to 2 drops but never use more than 3 drops of this serum on your face.

Apply the serum by squeezing a drop or two into your palm using the dropper in the bottle of the retinol serum and massage the oil on your skin; starting at your chin, to your cheeks and forehead.

5. Finish With Your Moisturizer

After you have applied the serum on your face, wait for about 10 minutes before applying a moisturizer on your face. Ensure that you do not apply moisturizer on your skin immediately after applying the retinol. 

Allow your skin to absorb the serum, then gently apply the moisturizer to your face. 

6. Apply Sunscreen

use skincare product

You should apply a moisturizer that contains at least an SPF of 30, or you can simply just get yourself a broad-spectrum sunscreen to apply on your skin if you will be using your retinol in the morning.

This will help protect your skin from sun damage as retinol causes your skin to be more sensitive to the sun.

SEE: Best Sunscreen for Brown Skin to Keep You Protected All the Time

How to Use Retinol to Treat Hyperpigmentation

Retinol serum works to treat hyperpigmentation, applying it to your skin every day to stop dark patches from appearing on your face. It does this by reducing the pigment that causes it. 

How to do it:

  • Bathe your face with a gentle cleanser. 
  • Rub eye cream on the sensitive area of your eyes to protect them from irritation.
  • When you are sure that your skin is dry, apply a tiny little amount of retinol cream to your skin. 
  • Ensure that you apply sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher because retinol can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Do this when you are going out.

How to Use Retinol for Acne

Retinol also helps in treating acne. Just follow the same process for hyperpigmentation, and you will be good.

However, you don’t need to use retinol serum daily for it to help in treating acne. Using it two to three times weekly is enough to help you treat acne. 

You shouldn’t stop using the serum when it starts working, keep using it till you achieve your desired result. 

How to Apply Retinol and Vitamin C Serum

The use of retinol and vitamin c will help to improve the appearance of wrinkles on aging skin; as they are both active agents. However, you need to learn to use both serums correctly to avoid irritating your skin. 

You can achieve this by separating your vitamin C routine from your retinol routine, or you can simply just allow your skin to absorb vitamin C first then you can apply retinol. You can use either of these methods.

1. use vitamin C in the morning and use retinol at night

It is best to apply your Vitamin C serum in the morning while you use the retinol serum at night. This is because vitamin C is an ingredient that brightens the skin- would you rather brighten your skin when you are going to sleep rather than when you are going out? Of course not. 

Vitamin C also formulates a protective barrier to help defend your skin from the sun’s intense UV rays and the nasty photoaging impacts they cause on the skin.

As for the retinol serum, it is best to use it at night. Especially because it increases the skin’s sensitivity and makes it vulnerable to damage or irritation from heat and the sun’s UV rays.

Use your retinol serum to tighten the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines while you sleep. 

2. Rotate between retinol and vitamin C each night

Try rotating the use of Retinol and Vitamin C to enjoy the benefits of these ingredients without irritating your skin. Use retinol serum one night and move to use vitamin C the next.

This routine will give your skin enough time to balance its pH levels between the use of each serum. You’ll start to notice good radiant, firm skin as a result of this nightly routine.

SEE: How to Effectively Use a Vitamin C Serum for Skincare

How to Use Hyaluronic Acid With Retinol

When combining retinol with a moisturizing ingredient such as hyaluronic acid, it’s best to apply the retinoid to the skin first. 

How to do it:

  • Start by washing your face with warm water and a mild cleanser or soap. 
  • Gently use a clean towel to dry your skin. Don’t rub your skin with the towel, pat it on your skin instead. Rubbing it on your skin may irritate and may worsen acne and skin aging.
  • Squeeze out a drop of retinol serum onto your fingertip and gently massage it on your face while concentrating on areas affected by aging or acne.
  • Allow your skin to absorb it for one to two minutes and wash off any leftover retinol serum on your fingers.
  • Wait for about 20 minutes, then you can apply your hyaluronic acid as a moisturizer. Doing this enables the retinol cream to dry and easily soak into your skin.

Keep in mind that it is important to follow the application instructions provided with the product.

Other Useful Tips

  • If you are just trying out retinol serum for the first time or if you have sensitive skin, avoid mixing your retinol with ingredients like AHAs and BHAs or any exfoliant or scrub.
  • Using more than the recommended amount will not increase its effectiveness in any way, instead, it will increase the side effects of using the serum. 
  • Stay away from the sun and if you must be out in the sun, wear an SPF of 30 or higher to preserve your skin from the sun. 
  • Using a moisturizer along with retinol serum will reduce the skin drying effect of the serum and this does not interfere with the product’s effectiveness.
  • Wait half an hour after washing your face before you apply retinol; this will help to reduce the risk of skin irritation.

SEE: All Possible Shades of Light Brown Skin Tones

Frequently Asked Questions

how to use retinol serum

How often should I apply retinol serum to my skin?

You can start by applying a little amount of retinol to your face two to three nights a week.

If you do not notice any side effects, you can move up to applying it 2 nights on, 1 night off. If there is no side effect after using the serum for a month, you can start using it every day if you want.

What are the benefits of using retinol serum on the skin?

Applying retinol serum to your skin can include several benefits. Below are a few of them:

  • It prevents wrinkles and also evens out existing fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Also, it brightens pale skin by exfoliating it and this results in smoother skin.
  • It helps to adjust oily skin and this minimizes breakouts.
  • Using retinol serum on your skin will help to fade dark spots caused by sun and hyperpigmentation; leaving the skin evenly toned.

What are the side effects of retinol serum?

Even though retinol serums are beneficial to the skin, they come with risks of side effects. These risks include:

  • Skin dryness and irritation
  • Change in skin color
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight
  • Redness, swelling, crusting, or blistering of the skin.

When should I use retinol serum?

It is best to apply retinol serum at night. This is because it increases the sensitivity of the skin to the sun, therefore you might not want to use it during the day.

However, if you decide to apply retinol serum on your skin during the day, ensure that you apply a sunscreen of SPF-30 or higher when going outdoors.


Retinol helps to boost collagen production in the skin and this accelerates the skin’s turnover by smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol is the active ingredient in many anti-aging serums and creams.

However, retinol serum may cause a little redness or irritation at first until your skin adjusts to the retinol. Always follow the usage instructions manufacturer’s note that comes with the product.

Be consistent in your usage; this will help you achieve more and more positive results. Additionally, remember to apply moisturizer on your skin after applying retinol serum on it.

Thanks for reading. 

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