Should I Stop Using Retinol or Prescription Retinoids in the Summer?

use retinol in summer

Updated 7/30/19 If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know what an advocate I am for the use of retinol. I’ve had 30 years of experience of seeing its amazing results. Whether it’s a non-prescription retinol serum or a prescription retinoid, this is definitely an ingredient most everyone can benefit from at some point. From minimizing clogged bumps and shrinking the look of large pores to softening brown spots and wrinkles, retinol really can do it all—trust me on this one.

Can I use retinol in the summer?

One thing to be mindful of when using retinol products is that they typically make the skin more sensitive to the sun due to the potential peeling effect they have on the skin. When the skin is being peeled (even micro peeling which is not always visible), you are exposing fresh, baby cells which are vulnerable to the environment. This is especially true if you use prescription-strength retinoids. So given this, can retinol still be used in the summer? The simple answer is yes, retinol can be used during summer as long are you’re diligent about sun protection. What’s important to understand about using retinol or retinoid products is that they only work if they are used consistently, like 3-5 nights a week. It will dramatically change your skin by affecting gene expression to remodel the skin on a cellular level and resurface the texture of your skin. But this will only happen if you use retinol regularly and year-round! Going on and off of it will slow down the results, so committing to using it consistently, even during the summer months, is important.

What if I spend a lot of time outside in the summer?

As I mentioned, proper sun protection is so important. If you know you aren’t someone who will be able to faithfully apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, you may want to lay off the retinol during the summer. While using retinol consistently is important, it’s counterproductive if you end up getting sun damage.

On the same note, if you are someone who enjoys getting a little tan in the summer, I would suggest discontinuing retinol a week or two before you’ll be at the beach, lake or pool. Start using it again five days after you’ve been in the sun. While this will slow down the results a bit, it’s important not to overly inflame newly-treated skin with sun and heat.

Note: If you are someone who does spend a lot of time outdoors where the sun gets sneak onto your skin no matter how good you are about applying sunscreen AND you use a prescription retinoid, you might want to make a change for summer. This would mean switching to using a retinol product.

What is a good starter retinol product if I’m new to using it?

I always suggest to my clients to use a non-prescription retinol product when you are first starting out. It’s good to take it slow and get your skin used to it before you upgrade to a stronger, prescription formula. If you’re someone who is under 35 without a lot of visible sun damage, you can probably just remain on a retinol product like Advanced Resurfacing Serum for the rest of eternity whereas if you are age 35+ with signs of sun damage, you might want to upgrade to retinoid after six months. Either way, get on the vitamin A bandwagon now so you can get going with some serious results. (And for the record, yes, it can shrink your pores with continued use!)

What should I look for in a retinol product?

As a skincare formulator, trust me when I say, a well-formulated product is everything. Retinol (vitamin A) is pretty tricky to work with because it’s notorious for being unstable. If you really want it to work to improve the look of your skin, you MUST look for these four things.

Shop Renée Rouleau Retinol Advanced Resurfacing Serum
What to Read Next: The Beginner’s Guide to Retinol

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  1. Avatar

    What is good for dark spots on your face

    Posted By: Stacey Fini  | 

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  2. Avatar

    I have been researching the use of over the counter Retinol in moisturizers etc. If you google “does retinol make you sun sensitive” there is a post that a derm. states that the biggest misconception of Retinol is that it causes sun sensitivity. It goes on to say that clinical studies have shown that it does not cause sun sensitivity and that it was thought that it did by the peeling and redness but that was not from exfoliation but due to irritation. Also, people would say that they turned red when outside but that was most likely due from the heat exposure. So, what do you think?

    Posted By: Bre  | 

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      When Retin-A is used, through the increase of cell turnover from within the skin, it causes dryness which causes invisible cracks in the skin where moisture escapes and irritants get in more easily. Ultimately, it makes the skin more sensitive. When out in the sun, you have increased heat on the skin from UV light and heat continues to damage the skins moisture barrier causing more sensitivity. Plus add in a swim in a chlorine pool or saltwater in the ocean, and that can also cause irritation because of the damaged moisture barrier. So all in all, being in the sun combined with retinol just adds to the sensitivity. Of course, wearing sunscreen is crucial.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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    Dear Renee, the advanced resurfacing serum contains 0.4% TR retinol. How many times a week can you use it in the summer? I currently have an 0.1% TR that is specifically recommended around the eye area… would it be wise to use this retinol of mine all over my face 3 times a week in the summer? I still have got more than half a bottle as I only use a little bit each night…As I said, I do not wish to stop completely from some sort of retinol… Thank you Renee !

    Posted By: Stella  | 

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      I wouldn’t use an eye product all over the face, just use it where it’s suggested. As for our retinol serum, continue to use it 5 x week in the summer, just be super faithful about wearing sunscreen.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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    Thank you, very informative. I use physical sunscreens all the time.
    I wonder whether I can find this product in Europe? Also, can you lightly pat around eye area, or you need a separate retinol product? thanks 🙂

    Posted By: stella  | 

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      You can use one a retinol product both on the face and around the eyes.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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    Re Tretinoin. If I decide to stop using tretinoin during the summer… yet I still want to use some sort of retinol…would you advise switching from tretinoin to an over the counter mild retinol? I feel that it is too risky using prescription tretinoin even just by walking outside…. and I feel it gets too stressful wearing a hat everywhere I go.. Thanks 🙂

    Posted By: Stella  | 

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      Of course you want to really protect your skin not only with a hat but sunscreen reapplied regularly but it’s always best to be a bit gentler to the skin in the summer. The heat, salt water, chlorine, sweat, increased oil and such can all aggravate the skin so switching to a non-rx form would be great. I, of course, recommend this one https://www.reneerouleau.com/products/advanced-resurfacing-serum 🙂

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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    I AM TURNING 71 AND UP UNTIL ABOUT A YEAR AGO I HAD BEAUTIFUL SKIN. I HAVE DEVELOPED MILIA AND HAVE NO IDEA WHY. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO TO GET RID THEM AND KEEP FROM GETTING THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE? IS THERE AN ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION

    Posted By: JUDI SELSET  | 

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      It’s hard to say why you’re getting milia now but the best remedy is to get a deep pore cleansing facial with an esthetician who is skilled in removing milia (be sure to ask before you schedule the appointment) and then follow up with a good exfoliating serum like my AHA Smoothing Serum 17% here > https://www.reneerouleau.com/exfoliants.aspx

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

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