Retinol has a big reputation as one of the most powerful anti-ageing skincare ingredients on the market, not to mention its well-known benefits for acne-prone skin. However the potent nature of this ingredient also leads people to ask ‘is retinol bad for sensitive skin?’.

Put simply, there’s no definitive reason people with sensitive skin should steer clear of retinol. But, there is some caution required to get the most out of this ingredient without overwhelming your skin. This guide will help you understand the relationship between retinol and sensitive skin, as well as how to make sure it remains a healthy one. We’ll walk through how retinol works and how your skin type can affect your complexion’s response to retinol. When it comes to retinol for sensitive skin, Australia has a wealth of suitable formulas – so we’ll provide some simple yet effective product recommendations too.


Is retinol good for sensitive skin?

Potent skincare ingredients and sensitive skin can potentially be a concerning mix, but that doesn’t have to be the case with retinol. Is retinol suitable for sensitive skin? The answer is yes, when it’s used with the correct method. All the anti-ageing and anti-blemish benefits of retinol still apply to sensitive skin. The main difference is simply that you’ll need to take a little extra care when introducing retinol into your skincare routine.



Benefits of retinol for sensitive skin

Retinol is one of many types of vitamin A derivatives that are used in skincare. It targets fine lines and wrinkles for younger looking skin and helps stop pores from becoming clogged to minimise blemishes in acne-prone skin. Retinol is often found in face serums as well as cream formulas.

Retinol works by:

  • Boosting collagen production to help re-plump the skin

  • Helping regulate sebum (skin oil) production to reduce clogged pores

  • Accelerating skin cell turnover to minimise excess dead skin cells

Now we’ve established that the answer to ‘can you use retinol on sensitive skin?’ is a resounding yes, let’s look at how retinol actually benefits this skin type. All skin types will gradually develop signs of ageing skin like fine lines, wrinkles and uneven pigmentation over time, and retinol directly targets the appearance of all these signs. Additionally, sometimes sensitive skin and rough and bumpy skin go hand in hand due to dryness. This roughness is another skin concern that retinol can help minimise.


Understanding sensitive skin

Understanding your skin type is a good first step to understanding how to use retinol for sensitive skin. There are different sensitive skin types, but there are also several key characteristics that define sensitive skin overall.

The biggest defining characteristic of sensitive skin is above average vulnerability to external factors. This could be friction, fragrances, chemicals and other factors. When sensitive skin encounters a trigger, the results can include redness, discomfort, a rash or signs of peeling. If you’re not sure whether you have sensitive skin, our guide to skin types 101 may be helpful.

For those with sensitive skin, implementing a gentle skincare routine that supports the skin moisture barrier can be highly beneficial in preparing your skin for retinol use. Here are some of our recommendations for your broader skincare routine while introducing retinol:


How to use retinol for sensitive skin

Patience is the most important part of how to use retinol for sensitive skin. For a potent ingredient such as retinol that works by speeding up skin cell turnover, we recommend starting very slowly to help your skin adapt. Introducing retinol too quickly can lead to temporary redness and discomfort– so it’s not worthwhile.

In terms of how to apply retinol, you should use your retinol serum on clean skin. A pea-sized amount is enough for your entire face, and it can be applied before or after moisturiser without losing its effectiveness. For sensitive skin, we recommend applying retinol after moisturiser as this can minimise any reaction.

Start using retinol for sensitive skin no more than once or twice a week and maintain that schedule for a fortnight. If you experience excessive redness or discomfort, decrease the frequency or amount. If you’re not seeing any unwanted effects, you can gradually increase the frequency over time, working up to nightly application.

Retinol can increase the skin’s sun sensitivity, so we recommend using this ingredient as part of your evening skincare routine only. During the day, always wear SPF.


Discover retinol for sensitive skin with CeraVe

Is CeraVe retinol serum good for sensitive skin? Absolutely. Like all CeraVe products, our CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Serum is designed to comfort the skin while providing powerful benefits at the same time. An ideal retinol for beginners with sensitive skin, this formula is enriched with three essential ceramides to help support a compromised skin barrier. The retinol in this serum is encapsulated, which means it’s easier for even sensitive skin to tolerate.


Now you know all about retinol for sensitive skin, read our guide to the benefits of vitamin C for skin next.

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