How to make a Retinol Sandwich?

Retinol has a stellar rep as wrinkle-fighter; promotes collagen and elastin growth beneath the skin, increases cellular turnover to diminish lines and wrinkles and combat pigmentation and acne scarring.

The irony? Despite all the info on the topic, this gold standard youth-enhancing active Vitamin A still manages to mystify and confuse. And thus, it’s often underutilised or misused.

Retinol use can initially cause a skin process called retinisation, initial irritation, redness, dryness, and flaking, especially at first, usually lasting from week 1 to 4. Its a sign of your skin absorbing this oil soluble type of Vitamin A and undergoing a shock of accelerated cellular growth. It’s not necessarily an adverse reaction, but more of a tolerance adjustment phase.

Over the years I have seen most users panic and discontinue retinol use at this vital stage. It’s akin to a gym goer dropping their regime at the first hint of muscle soreness. 


Firstly, a Retinol Sandwich can be so yummy & nutritious for your skin!

Secondly, it can control, ease or even stop the irritating retinisation process.

On each retinol application night, try my "Retinol Sandwich" technique to help create a hydration buffer between the retinol and your skin. It slows down the fast absorption of retinol and reduces irritation. In this sandwich your serum and moisturiser are the two slices of bread and the retinol is the filling. On your designated retinol night, after cleansing:

Step 1: First slice of sandwich bread - Start by applying a hydrating hyaluronic acid based serum 

Step 2: Sandwich filling - Wait for a few minutes before applying a pea-sized amount of Retinol

Step 3: Second slice of sandwich bread - apply a layer of moisturising cream.



So, keeping 'retinisation' - this retinol-familiarisation stage in mind I’ve devised a simple 3 – 2 – 1 - Step routine to help build the skin’s tolerance.

3 >> For the first 10 applications; apply retinol every 3rd night. So, if you apply on Monday, skip Tuesday and Wednesday, and apply again on Thursday.

2 >>Then next 10 applications; apply every 2nd night. If you apply on Monday, skip Tuesday and apply again on Wednesday.

1 >> Finally, you should be able to build up to every night. However, by now you’d have been using retinol for over 6 weeks, and built the skin’s tolerance to the product. If your skin is still sensitive then you may keep it at every 2nd night without ever moving up to nightly use.

On your retinol off nights, give your skin some love and hydration. Your skin will be more moisture-needy than usual.


Discover the selection of my Retinol Hero products



Each month in my ASK ADEELA column in Financial Times How to Spend It - I cover a skincare topic I am usually asked about the most. Drawing from my experience as a practicing Facialist I share my insights and tips to help de-mystify and simplify skincare issues.




← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment



Tips on how to protect your neck and chin

Read More

How beauty brands are adapting Sustainability ethos

Read More