Moisturizer and serum are pretty straightforward skin care staples — simply choose a serum targeted for your specific skin type and follow up with a good ol’ hydrating moisturizer. But when it comes to some other skin care products that are a little more targeted (i.e. retinol), there’s more research to do and maybe even some advice to get from a dermatologist.


In short, retinol is a form of Vitamin A that stimulates the production of new skin cells. In turn, it helps reduce fine lines, evens out skin texture, helps reverse sun damage and more. There are over-the-counter retinol oils, serums and moisturizers,  as well as prescription versions. Retinol definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all product, so you’ll surely want to start with a low-strength retinol. Even a super-low strength formula like 0.01 can improve the look of your skin.


Before you go and purchase a retinol, it’s important to keep the following in mind: “In the first two to four weeks, retinol is known to cause skin irritation, dryness and peeling,” explains NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner. The latter doesn’t necessarily happen when you use any ol’ retinol product, but before you apply one, you best be ready for some potential peeling.


We chatted with Dr. Zeichner to find out how to wear makeup (if we’re allowed!) when your skin is peeling from retinoids.


TIP 1: Prep Your Skin With Moisturizer

“Before applying makeup, make sure to apply moisturizer to hydrate and protect your skin. If you see skin peeling from retinol, listen to what your skin needs and give it moisture. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which is like a sponge to pull in hydration to the skin. It can bind to 1000 times its weight in water to hydrate and plump. Rather than reapplying heavy makeup, consider a tinted moisturizer to give you both hydration and coverage.”


TIP 2: Skip the Exfoliator

“Exfoliating can cause more harm than good, leading to irritation and inflammation. Stay away from makeup that contains anti-aging or exfoliating ingredients. For example, some contain botanicals, acids or other ingredients that can cause irritation of the skin.”


TIP 3: Consider Skipping Makeup

“If your skin is inflamed from retinol, my best recommendation is to apply a bland moisturizer and skip makeup for the day if possible. You are better off letting this can calm down so you can resume your normal makeup routine in the future.”


TIP 4: Do Not Apply Product On Open or Raw Skin

“If you have any open or raw skin, hold off on makeup altogether. Your attempt to improve the appearance of the skin may cause more inflammation. Remember that applying makeup is the first part of the story. You need to remove it in a way that doesn’t cause inflammation to the skin.”


Looking to start using a retinol? Check out four starter formulas below:


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