Myths and realities about retinol and face acids

by Ruta

Today I want to focus on myths and questions surrounding retinol, hyaluronic acid, and other acids.

I’m 44, mom²👨‍👩‍👧‍👧. A former Los Angeles beautician🇺🇸, now living in🇪🇺. I had a terrible skin and these are my BEAUTY & SKINCARE secrets! Also, you can find my new beauty book here.

Recently, while walking, I was looking at the store windows when I saw advertisements about how the new generation of hyaluronic acid stops aging. I was disturbed. I even got angry! I don’t like false claims, and I want every woman to be well-informed and distinguish between clever advertising and valuable ingredients.

Let me explain what is true and what is just a myth about these products.


I’m one of those women who follows news and trends. It’s fun to watch things change. In the past, only strong prescription retinol was available, and now a good product is available over the counter.

Retinol is one ingredient that I recommend everyone to get to know. There aren’t many products in the cosmetics industry that have such an impressive effect on your skin.

Myth no. 1: Retinol is not worth using if you’re only 20.

People keep asking me, “How young is too young for a girl to start using retinol?” I’ll reply with a question: did you know that retinol was created to treat teenage skin? Only later was this ingredient used to stimulate collagen production, reduce pigmentation, and slow the aging process. There really is no age limit to include this ingredient in your skin care routine. Teenage girls can use retinol to treat acne. Starting at about age 20, our love for the sun begins to show, and the face is “decorated” with pigment spots, and retinol is the first helper here. A little later (around age 40), when you want to reduce wrinkles and return firmness to your skin, retinol will help again.

Myth no. 2: Do not use retinol in summer.

Women also ask me if they can use retinol in the summer. I constantly repeat that short-term use of an ingredient will not work miracles. You must be patient and take your time. I don’t see any need to stop using retinol in the summer. Yes, it makes the skin more sensitive to the sun, but there are ways to protect yourself from it: apply sunscreen with SPF or wear a hat and glasses. Powerful prescription retinol can cause side effects, so be smart about exposure to the sun.

Although the new generation of retinol is designed to be applied in the morning, I prefer to apply it in the evening because I like it to work on the skin overnight. It is better to stimulate skin regeneration when the body is resting.

After purchasing retinol, decide how many days a week you want to use it. Take your time in the beginning. Gradually use it more often, and then maybe you can use it once a day.

By the way, pregnant and lactating women have been warned in the past that they should not use retinol. However, there is more research that says this ingredient may be safe for breastfeeding mothers. Please look up the current research about using retinol if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

IMPORTANT: if you don’t use sunscreen, don’t use retinol either.

Myth no. 3: You can’t use retinol once the skin begins to shrivel or peel.

“What should I do if my skin starts to flake after starting to use retinol?” Do not suddenly stop using it or look for a replacement. The skin takes about a month to adjust to retinol. You must moisturize your skin very well or use this ingredient more slowly and gently. Apply retinol to dry skin, leave for 15 minutes, and then follow with a moisturizer (I like CeraVe). To make this routine even more gentle, first apply the cream, then the retinol, and then the cream again.

Face acids.

Myth no. 4: Acids burn your face.

When I was in beauty school in Los Angeles, I was always the first to try products (I felt I had to because I had acne scars, blemishes, and uneven skin, and I hadn’t found a remedy yet). I used to ask to apply several layers just for the product to work. My face sometimes looked like the skin was just peeling off in pieces. No matter how strong the acid was, however, none burned my face.

I would never mix retinol with acids (although manufacturers’ mixed products are available now). Acids are applied only on dry skin. Read the manufacturer’s recommendations: they will always state whether it should be kept on overnight or washed off after a few minutes.

Acids are very effective products that give good, long-term results. Now I use gentler products and am happy with what I see in the mirror. No girl has yet written to me that some acid from The Ordinary burned her face. However, if you are a beginner, I recommend that you start your friendship with acids with a gentle product (like lactose).

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Can acids be used if the skin is irritated and sensitive?

It is possible, but you need to decide for yourself if it is necessary. Acids will help if you have pigment spots, the skin has lost its radiance and firmness, or you have acne, but not all skin needs exfoliation.

  1. Can I use both peptides and retinol?

I wouldn’t put both in one evening routine.

  1. Is niacinamide as effective as retinol?

Niacinamide is nice, gentle compound, but it is not as effective as retinol. If you want to get rid of wrinkles and have firm skin, you will have to use stronger ingredients like peptides, retinol, and acids.

  1. What do you think of Olay Retinol?

Olay Retinol is a good, high-quality product that offers long-lasting results.

  1. How do I reduce and clean pores?

A clean pore is a small pore. Use cleansers or exfoliants with salicylic acid, also known as BHA.

  1. Why did spots appear after I started to use retinol?

Retinol does not really cause pigment spots. Chances are you already have pigmentation, but the spots started to surface after using retinol. Remember that retinol promotes skin regeneration. Pigmentation starts deep and long, and the spots take time to emerge. Retinol accelerates a process that is happening anyway. Don’t worry. It means the fight against pigmentation has already started. Just be patient.

I hope that now that you have a better understanding of both retinol and acids, you will incorporate these products into your skincare routine and enjoy the results.


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