Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Cheat Sheet - How to use a retinol/vitamin A product


My most frequently-asked-questions recently have all been about retinol. I'm still planning my retinol cheat sheet but in the meantime, I thought I would answer the most popular question, both on social media and in the comments section on here, so that I only have to so it once. 


How do I use retinols?

Brands will all give you instructions on the packaging, and whilst there will always be exceptions, the key things to remember are:
  • Retinols go onto the skin after cleansing and toning
  • You can use other products, but they go on afterwards
  • If you have sensitive skin it is worth applying onto dry skin as it slows the absorption rate and, therefore, reduces the risk of inflammation 
  • Don't apply a lot thinking it will work faster. It won't. Save your money. And your skin. Apply a small pea-sized amount, or in the case of an oil, a few drops, not an entire pipette. 
  • Don't overdo it. The results can be very alarming - in a good way - almost overnight. Don't be tempted to think more is more. It isn't. In the case of retinols, and especially if you have not used them before, less is more. Every 3rd night, moving to every 2nd night. Unless a brand specifically says differently.



I have been using retinols a long time. If I know I'm using a vitamin A product in the evening, I cleanse, acid tone, spritz, then use my retinoid. I usually follow it with a soothing moisturiser. I love them. They are easily the best products for fighting signs of ageing. Everyone should use one. They are worth the faff. Just use them correctly.

108 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Hello! Do you apply the retinol (or serum) when your face is still damp from spritzing? (You mention applying it to dry skin if it's sensitive). Thank you for such a great post!
    Charlotte x

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  3. Hiya. Please could you recommend a mid-price product? I love the sound of luna but my purse doesn't. Never tried retinol before and have mildly sensitive skin.
    Thank you!

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    1. I second that Caroline. I know Luna is good. But my purse doesn't stretch that far to afford it right now. Please advise an equally good product that delivers result, but not as expensive. Thanks.

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    2. Try the LRP one. That is what I began with and if I'm not mistaken Carline has recommended it in the past. They always have little samples of that in the drugstore, so you could ask for one and build it up.

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    3. If you watch the video with Sam Bunting on hormonal acne, you'll find a recommendation for La Roche Posay Redermic R. Quite a few CH followers have commented here that they like it. I've tried that, Luna, and the Indeed Labs Retinol Reface. (indeed also cheaper but I found LRP better)

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    4. Same here. The one from indeed labs did practically nothing for me whereas the La Roche Posay is pretty good for its price. But can't fault Luna!

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    5. Thanks for the advice, will be heading over to Boots as soon as.. xx

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    6. Paula's Choice is half the price of Luna. X

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    7. I don't know where you live but you could ask your doctor for a prescription for a retinoid cream or gel; they aren't pricey, well, not outside the US anyway. Then you could use it with your regular skincare.

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    8. I have tried LPR, Luna, and Skinceuticals....all three I love. I use them depending on how my skin feels. Luna is very worth the price and goes a long way. The other 2 are around the same price point but don't seem to last as long for me and I dont tend to use 1 over the other. Hope that helps. Sorry if it makes it worse.

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    9. Has anyone tried or heard bout Mad Hippie Vitamin A serum? I read some good reviews from some bloggers.... And it's like 1/3 of the price of luna.... Im in my first week of experiencing luna, a little reactive for me am using 3-4 drops on my face after toning, but am hoping to see good returns after the reaction

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  4. I love your blog, Caroline. How many times a week do you use a retinol product?

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    1. I mean the actual you, not the royal you. Although you may well be royal. No slight intended. You and I seem to be about the same age (I knew the Duran Duran shirt reference in your video right away without any decoder ring) and we seem to have similar skin.

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  5. Does all of this apply to Luna (i.e. using it every third night, or before anything else)? Right now I'm using it every night after Good Genes. I've used other retinols exactly as you say here, but I thought Luna was a special case. :) Thank you!

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    1. I want to know this too -- the part about Luna coming first. I thought because it is an oil that you said it went later, so I'm confused.

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    2. I'm using good genes then Luna, followed u a moisturiser. Is that too much??

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    3. Luna first. Despite it being an oil. I tend to use GG on alternate evenings for that reason. X

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    4. Luna is an exception because it's a retinol oil. Both Caroline & Sunday Riley have said to apply Luna first then Good Genes after. I also alternate between Luna & Good Genes each night :)

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  6. Thank you for this! My Paula's Choice one came this week, I've used it twice (including tonight) and put it on last - mixed in with my moisturiser. So glad I read this before I wasted any more!

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  7. Can teens/young adults use them?

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    1. My question too! Is it damaging to use retinols on younger skin or will it help stem ageing later on? Thank you so much :)

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    2. Im 17 and I use them. They're not just for anti-aging, they can be used for acne aswell. It's done wonders for my skin.

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    3. Retin-a or retinol will not help aging later on--it is not a preventative thing. It won't help teens or young adults with anti-aging because at that age, your skin is turning over at optimal speed. If you have acne, it is best you consult with a derm and use retin-a under their care (spoken as someone who was put on retin-a at 12 for acne.)

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    4. I'd love to know if it was actually DAMAGING to young skin, though, as lots of us have acne/textural/scar issues that retinoids would adress, but I'm really scared to use something commonly used for intense anti-aging on my teen skin! Any advice Caroline?

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    5. It's not damaging, it's just that you don't really need it. X

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    6. Hi
      How about 25 years old ones? I have bad wrinkle betwewen eyebrows, some lines on my forehead as well.Is it ok to use La Roche Posay at my age?

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  8. Thank you for this! Can you recommend some hydrating retinoids?

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    1. Not really a thing. But a retinol and use a soothing or hydrating product on top.

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  9. 1. What about using in conjunction with Hydraluron and Peptabright?

    2. I recently invested in a 60% glycolic peel from Makeup Artist's Choice. Directions say no retinols, no acids whatsoever, no vitamin A/vitamin D for 10-12 days after a peel. This seems extreme to me. What do you think is advisable?

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    1. Sorry Jackie but nothing at that strength from a MUA shop is going anywhere near my face outside of a doc's office.

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    2. Thanks, Caroline. I am a bit cautious myself. Will do a patch test and see if my epidermis lives to tell the tale...

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  10. I am currently using Differin gel 0.1% (post accutane). Is this stronger or weaker than over the counter retinols? Unsure how the active ingredients/different forms equate....

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    1. Not Caroline obv, but I use tretinoin, a prescription only med, like differin. they're both RX retinoids. Anything requiring a prescription is far stronger than an over the counter. And retinol works differently to differin. Retinol has to be converted into retinoic acid by skin enzymes, whereas differin doesn't. With prescription retinoids, you may see changes within six to eight weeks, whereas with retinols it could take three to six months. Hope that helps, but I'm not an expert by any means:)

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    2. Thanks for responding - it does help! After 6 months of accutane I feel like I have a blank slate. I am clueless but anxious to use the right product(s). Glad the Differin is a decent retinoid as at 39 I am fighting acne and wrinkles!

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    3. It's stronger. Stick with it.

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  11. Whoa...I thought the lighter products go on first. I use my face oil (light) and then use the retinoid / retin-A (creamy). Have I got this wrong?

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  12. Thank you for this post! Advice on entry-level retinol products would be fantastic (I've got indeed labs' on my list...anything else?)

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    1. La Roche Posay Redermic is cheaper than most. X

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  13. Such a conveniently timed post! I was just recently thinking that I should start including retinol in my routine ;)

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  14. Could you recommend a good starter one for sensitive skin/rosacea? I've been wanting to start using a retinol as I've noticed fine lines starting to appear on my forehead 😔

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  15. Hi Caroline, was wondering when you'd recommend starting retinols & such - I'm in my early 20s but want to know when I should start adding more dedicated products to my routine. Thanks for all the sound advice here xx

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    1. I'd be using software and vit c now - use retinols as you move closer to mid-20's if lifestyle warrants. X

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    2. I assume she meant sunscreen.....:)

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  16. These really do interest me Caroline, I'd love to hear if there are any more affordable products you could recommend to us. I mean I love the look of Sunday Riley Luna but it's not something I could afford just yet. Hope you're well!
    Amy x

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  17. When using Retinol and Vitamin C together, what should go on the skin first?

    I've had a lot of success in fading facial hyper pigmentation caused by unbalanced hormones, by combining these two together; but it's a Vit C serum followed by a moisturiser with 0.5% Retinol. Is this the correct way round?

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    1. I second this one. I use acid toner, then vit C (15%) and wondered whether adding retinol on top of that is a good idea or overkill. Can they be used together? If so, what's the right order? Thank you for your help Caroline!

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    2. Yes!! Me too. I want to add vit c. But don't know where to place it! 😊

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  18. Yeeees I've been wondering about this for a while. It has done wonders for my acne, specially when I stopped the pill and my skin went crazy.

    uniquelyfilipa.blogspot.pt

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    1. Which one did you use for your acne?

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  19. Thank you Caroline. I'm new to your routines and am loving them! Brilliantly timed post as my Paula's Choice 1% is winging its way towards Dublin. Slightly off piste but I would really appreciate your reply...
    'Treatment' wise I have -
    Liquid Gold
    Liquid Gold Intense Serum
    Retinol en route
    Body Shop Vitamin E Serum in Oil and
    The CH/CB 'Box' arrived yesterday
    I feel overwhelmed by products and bearing in mind some should be used up to three times per week, I don't know where to begin! Product overload perhaps??
    Your advice would be so welcome
    Oh - I'm 45 - normal/dehydrated skin. One recurring red patch on one cheek (broken capillaries?) and occasional congestion.
    A million thanks if you have time to read/reply.
    Regards
    Sarah

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    1. I would also love to know how (or indeed if) retinols should be used in conjuction with Liquid Gold. Or is it too harsh to use both, even on alternating evenings?

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    2. You don't use them on the same evening. Liquid Gold is used separately.

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  20. I would LOVE a cheat sheet on retinols! I’ve been meaning to comment somewhere or tweet you and ask you for one so I’m SO pleased to hear one is coming already! I just thought I’d ask some questions so you can consider including the answers in your cheat sheet if you’d like, as I’m sure lots of other people have been asking you the same things:

    1. Routine: cleanse (x2), tone (x2), eye cream, retinol, serum/oil (e.g. hydrating), moisturiser – unless you’re using a rentinol serum/oil in which case it’s cleanse (x2), tone (x2), eye cream, retinol-serum/oil, moisturiser?

    2. They are completely separate to AHAs/BHAs and you can combine them but be sensible about it, i.e. don’t use a strong retinol product the same night you’re using liquid gold, but a gentle acid toner is fine? Not because it will automatically burn your face off but just because it will increase your risk of irritation using so much all at once and you just need to not be an idiot about it

    3. Retinols as an ingredient aren’t a substitute for any other step/ingredient in your routine (i.e. acids for exfoliating or products for hydration) they are an additional ingredient/step that you can add in if that’s what you feel your skin needs? i.e. if your skin concerns are congestion, fine lines and dehydration you would use acids, retinols and hydrating products, not substitute one for another as they all do different things? Of course you can use different products each evening as your skin requires or choose products that tackle several issues in one go, but you wouldn’t remove an ingredient/step in your routine as a whole just cause you’ve added in retinols?

    4. Are there any decent budget options out there? Or are we best off spending our money on mid to high range products because they will work better or just be more sophisticated?

    Thank you so much for your endless wisdom and guidance, I don’t know of anywhere else where people can ask questions and actually have them heard and addressed directly by someone who knows what they’re talking about. If you listen to a brand any information they give you is going to be pushing their own agenda and clouded by marketing jibberish and any dermatologist probably has a set range of products that they suggest and they don’t necessarily explore the market for other options. So I am eternally grateful that you exist and that you are so generous with your time and knowledge. :)

    jessica - littlehenrylee.com

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    1. Hi Jessica,
      Sali wrote about budget retinol creams in her Grauniad column recently. Paula's Choice has mid-range serums, too, Caroline had reviewed one. I guess I'm getting me one of these come payday :)

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    2. I'll add them to the list ;)

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    3. Indeed Labs' Retinol Reface! It's lovely and Caroline has mentioned it on the blog before :)

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  21. I use Luna every night. It doesnt seem strong/harsh to me and its my first ever retinol. Thinking when its out, I may go stronger. Nice change in the eye area. Even working nicely on spots on top of hands.

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  22. If you use a topical product prescribed by GP (Rozex), does it go before Luna?

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  23. Hi. Little confused. Apply to wet skin? Guessing after your spritz toner? Apologies for sounding daft x

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  24. Great post! I'm also interested in all things retinol, so looking forward to further info.
    When you do expend on this, could you also explain the difference between the SkinCeuticals say 1% (< which I'm presently using) and Luna (which I'm thinking of eventually getting) in terms of the retinol action.
    Thanks!!!

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  25. Hi Caroline. Can i use luna and zelens youth concentrate serum together?

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  26. I use a prescription retinoid every night (it also has peptides and salicylic acid in it as well, but i have never had any stinging or burning or flaking. Does that mean the retinoid isn't working?

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  27. Hi
    I am new to this whole skincare lark so I am not up with all the jargon. What exactly is 'acid tone'? Is it AHA products? ie REN AHA concentrate or Alpha Hydrox Souffle?

    Thanks

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  28. I appreciate that you're a busy woman with, like, a life, but I'd just like to get it out there - I will be compulsively refreshing your blog until said retinol cheat sheet appears. No biggie. Love ya!

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  29. Hi Caroline!

    If you haven't used a retinol before can you dive straight in to luna at once a week and build up? Or is it best to start with something such as indeed labs or LRP, build up to every 3 nights ish and then go on to luna?

    Many thanks for your time and brilliance :)

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    1. Luna is my first Retinol. Go for it. Love it. Just go easy like Caroline said.

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  30. I really like this product. I even recommended it to my polish teachers on skype at http://preply.com/en/polish-by-skype

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  31. .....is it ok to use a retinol ( say Retionl Reface) before a anti-aging moisturiser containing retinol ( was thinking This Works No Wrinkles )
    Thank you x

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  32. So interested in this and getting a cheat sheet as this is one step I've yet to explore and at 46 with fine lines, mainly around the eye area I think maybe I should be adding one in somewhere. I'd also love some more budget priced retinol ideas, if there are any. Luna sadly is a pipe dream for me!

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  34. Good afternoon Caroline I need some advice please on these silly little spots on my cheek that never go away had them nearly a year been using everything u suggest but nothing has worked so ended up at docs and he put me on differin it help it for a bit but lately getting worse by spreading in stead of 4 I got about 10 now so I thought stop it and up my hydration creams and oil and it improved in a week could I b allergic to it or using to much ie every night been on it since February I need retinol in my life cos I no its amazing for skin but don't want these stupid little spots that don't do nothing on my cheek xxx

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  35. Hi

    The SA at No 7 said their Youthful Replenishing Oil contains the highest amount of retinol all of their products. Does anyone know how much? If it can be used as a retinol product? (iykwim)!!! X ps Paula's Choice Website said you only need 0.01% retinol for it to work, do you agree Caroline? Thanks lovely x

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    1. Ps is 'natural' vitamin A (eg as in Pai's Rosehip Oil) as good/active? Thanks Caroline x

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  36. Here's a retinol fact that I learned from a pharmacy student friend. Only apply retinol at NIGHT. UV rays from the sun render the active ingredients useless, so it's a waste to apply it during the day. Just FYI
    www.divaandthedivine.com

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    1. Sorry that's no longer the case. It absolutely used to be, but not anymore. Products are much more stable these days.

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    2. Also, some but not all retinoid formulations degrade when you apply benzoyl peroxide over them. Useful to know for those of us with acne.

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  37. what do you think about Vitamin A supplements? Are they save to take? I also have to consider that I was on Roaccutane for 5 months, 6 months ago.
    And I read on your acne cheet sheat about fish oil supplements and can you do any harm taking too much?

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  38. what are the benefits of retinol products to the skin?

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  39. I was told by the store I bought luna that I could use it every night, along with GG, or use GG every morning and luna at night, so frustrating, you feel your wasting your monry and product when your not getting the correct guidance!

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  40. Hi Caroline, great post as always. Quick question, I have just started using LRP retinol from advice in your interview with Dr Sam to try and tackle my hormonal acne. I have tried using Differin before but stopped after a month due to sensitivity (dry scaly patches and redness), was this too premature- I've seen above that you say to persevere (and this was pre finding your site and learning about acid toning and hydration). Thanks xx

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    1. Hi Holly, did the LRP retinol work for your acne?

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  41. Hi Caroline, I recently started using LRP redermic every other night partially to stave off any early aging signs but mainly to tackle pigmentation and scarring on my cheeks from acne (no longer active - hurrah!). After 2 months it definitely seems to be helping with the lighter scars but I'm wondering whether I should invest in something stronger to tackle the older/more pigmented scars or whether it's just a matter of persevering with the LRP? I also use a glycolic acid serum at night and LRP Pigmentclar during the day (and SPF of course). If something stronger would be better do you have any recommendations? Apart from Luna which I can't afford!
    Thanks 😀

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  42. Hi Caroline,
    I have been using tretinoin for almost a year now. My hyperpigmentation improved a lot but still far from gone. Any little bit of sunshine (even whith daily spf) and I am covered in spots! Is there anything I should add to my routine to complement it? Azelaic acid, kojic, hidroquinone?
    I acid tone, use strong vitamin c serum in the morning and regular powder enzyme mask.

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    1. Niacinamide has very good results with discoloration. Azelaic acid also, but less. Kojic acid never used. Hidroquinone is not recommendable.
      Good luck

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  43. Caroline, Queen of all things skin, could you enlighten us on the use of antioxidant serums as well as vitamin C? Many thanks, grazie mille!

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  44. Hi Caroline, just a quick question - I have been recommended Strivectin Retinol Night cream by the guys at SpaceNK. Do you have any thoughts on this product? Thank you! PS I am loving all my new products from my CB/CH beauty box! x

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  45. Good to know about taking them slow, I tend to do that anyway out of caution but glad to know I'm doing the right thing! I'm always afraid of mixing them with anything other than a basic moisturizer - like will AHAs and retinol together do bad things to my skin? I look forward to the more in depth post, I'm 40 now and need much guidance! :-)

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  46. Hi Caroline,what are your thoughts on prescription retinol?I know French esthetitians frown upon it,especially Biologique Recherché trained ones.Thank you for your feedback and your easy no BS blog.The beauty world needs someone as real as you.

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  47. Is Luna safe to use around the eye area?

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  48. I started using Redermic R after a double cleanse and acid tone a month a go to see if I could get my stress acne. OMG! It has done the most amazing job. My skin is much more even, soft and touch wood I haven't had a break out since. You are the skin care goodness Caroline and I love you! Mwah! X

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  49. Hi Caroline, when do you think is the right age to start using retinol and vitamin C serums, I am 30, and I do not know if it's really early to start using retinol.

    Thanks a lot.

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  50. Hi Ms. Hirons. I just started using products with retinol in them. After reading this post, there are 2 things that I became unsure of.

    1. You recommend that retinols go onto the skin after cleansing and toning the other products go on afterwards. If I am using the Luna oil, do I use my Advanced Night Repair serum after and then a moisturizer?
    2. I am currently using the Kate Somerville RetAsphere night cream after an acid toner and then my ANR. Is it ok to continue with the same routine?

    Thank you.

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  51. Hi Caroline! Do you know the strength of Kate Somerville's Retasphere?

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  52. Hi and sorry to bother you about a subject you have written so much about but can I use liquid gold aswell as tretinoin 1 percent.Ive just bought both and need to use DESPARTELY.I was going to use liquid gold as a toner and then the tretinoin gel on top.???? Thankyou Heather

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  53. Has anyone used 'Life Flo Health, Retinol A 1%, Advanced Revitalization Cream'. Just came across it on iherb and its so cheap compared to all other retinol products I have looked up! Is there a catch?!

    ReplyDelete

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