5 Golden Rules of Retinoids

One ingredient that lets our skin look better as we age, retnoids. But where to begin? The below 5 steps are advice from Dr. Shereene Idriss’s recent vlog. We’ve gone to the trouble (it was no trouble) to make the Cliff Notes version. 

But first a little retinol primmer from our friends at Marie Veronique…

Retinoids are a class of compounds that are derivatives of vitamin A, and are commonly used in skincare products to treat a range of skin conditions. There are several different types of retinoids, each with its own unique properties and benefits. The most commonly used retinoid in skincare is retinol, which is a mild form of vitamin A that is effective in improving skin texture, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and boosting collagen production. Other types of retinoids, such as adapalene, tazarotene, and isotretinoin, are more potent and are typically used to treat more severe skin conditions like acne and psoriasis.

While retinoids can be highly effective in improving the health and appearance of the skin, they can also cause irritation and sensitivity, so it's important to use them as directed and under the guidance of a healthcare professional— or we suggest using a formula without the microbiome-damaging preservatives found in prescription and over-the-counter retinoids currently on the market.

After years of research, Kristina Holey and Marie Veronique have developed a true innovation in skin health: Multi-Retinol Night Emulsion. A highly effective, microbiome-friendly alternative to prescription retinoids, this product is designed to provide a smart, strategic way to address and heal the declining function that is characteristic of aging skin. 

This product is truly different as it includes an encapsulated retinol that is formulated without the microbiome-damaging preservatives found in prescription and over-the-counter retinoids currently on the market. That alone makes it unique. But more importantly, it incorporates everything the brand has learned about how various retinoids work to improve skin function. 

When people consider new products, they often look for the benefits of single ingredients, but it’s the strategic combination of ingredients that makes a product truly innovative. This sophisticated formulation leverages the unique benefits of three different retinoid actives to deliver comprehensive age delay benefits gradually and effectively, without causing redness, discomfort, or irritation— and is also fragrance and E.O. free. 

Here’s an explanation of the key ingredients and how they work.

  1. Encapsulated retinol — A highly stabilized form that works at the dermis level of the skin to improve the cell messaging system, signaling the fibroblasts to replace old, unhealthy cells with new, properly functioning ones. Inhibits the inflammation that causes skin to show signs of aging.
  1. Bakuchiol — Performs many tasks at the dermis level, including maintenance and repair of the extracellular matrix and the dermal-epidermal junction, which helps support the integrity and the structure of the skin. Also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Because it performs a lot of the same age delay functions as retinol, bakuchiol is often considered a replacement for retinol. (It’s not!) However, it performs these age delay tasks in different ways, and actually helps to stabilize and augment retinol function. So rather than regarding bakuchiol as the alternative retinol, we think of it as the retinol optimizer. 
  1. Retinyl sunflowerseedate — Works at the epidermis level to hydrate and maintain moisture balance, which helps keep the skin looking and feeling good. Reduces the irritation often associated with retinoid use.

The load-sharing, synergistic approach makes Multi-Retinol Night Emulsion a much stronger all-round age delayer than you’d get if you opted for a higher percentage of retinol. 

Marie Veronique felt this product was necessary because prescription retinoids can be hard on the skin, disruptive to the microbiome, and contain ingredients that are on many organizations’ unsafe ingredients lists. And plant-based retinoids, while helpful in their own right, simply cannot deliver the age delay effects offered by traditional retinoids on their own.

Another reason we felt compelled to bring this product to market is that there is a common misconception that the stronger the percentage of retinol in a product, the better. The reality is that your body can only absorb and metabolize so much at once. Giving your body more retinol than it needs carries a higher risk of unwanted side effects like redness, irritation, and more. 

OKAY! So… you’re ready to get started? Think of these as Rules of the Road. Best practices.

Rule #1 Go low and and slow!

You don’t want to go hard at first as retinoids are, by design, are irritating. And, you also don’t need a prescription at first, if at all, in order to effect change in your skin tone and quality. Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Night Serum and Monastery REI Gentle Retinol Cream are great for those with sensitive skin, are in their 20s, and/or beginning their retinol journey.


Rule #2 Don’t exfoliate + use a retinoid on the same night.

This is especially if you’re a newbie, your skin will thank you for it.


Rule #3 If you have sensitive skin, buffer your Retinol

What do we mean by “buffer”? Adding a layer of serum + moisturizer underneath your retinoid, decrease the risk of irritation and acts as a, you guessed it, a buffer! Typically, using a retinol 1-2x a week at first, and building up to 3-4x over a bunch of weeks is the protocol. But buffering is another way to ease into your retinol use, no matter your skin type. As your skin grows used to the ingredients, you can begin to add your retinoid to your skin directly. Or not! You know your skin best. If you need advice, reach out! We’re here to help.


Rule #4 Do not apply retinoids around your mouth area

The mouth is a common place that retinoids are not tolerated. (ie: PEELING! REDNESS!) And even if this doesn’t apply to your skin, a gentle retinol in this area is preferred. As always, we are not encouraging a scorched earth policy towards your face. See Rule #1.


Rule #5 Always always always wear the damn sunscreen the next day! (And every day.)

Retinoids work by increasing cell turnover, which can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Sun exposure can cause damage to the skin, including sunburn, premature aging, and an increased risk of skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen with a 30+ SPF will help protect your skin from harmful UV rays and prevent these issues.

Additionally, many retinoids can make your skin more prone to dryness and irritation, and sunscreen can help keep your skin hydrated and reduce irritation. So, it's crucial to make wearing sunscreen a regular part of your skincare routine when using retinoids.