Technically Into The Gloss has its own beauty hotline, a Slack channel called ask-ITG. But before you feel left out (ask-ITG, like the plush blankets we received at Christmastime, is a Glossier employee exclusive), we’ve got a confession to make. Nine times out of 10, we’re just playing air traffic control. Recycling advice. Resting on our laurels. And maybe that sounds… bad? But the thing is, if someone’s wondering it, chances are we were too—and already asked a dermatologist, aesthetician, or chemist to explain it. Instead of answering each and every question, usually we just stamp a “There’s an ITG for that!” on it and add some relevant links. Way better explanations than we could provide in one or two sentences—plus, we get to our noon meetings on time, and our coworker gets a detailed answer they can save and return to.
If you have a question about retinoids, you’re not alone. Everyone’s always wondering about those confusing vitamin A analogues. But with a few clicks and some strategic site navigation, it’s easy to become an expert. So we’ve compiled all of our best retinoid advice right here, just for you.
Got a question about retinoids? There’s an ITG for that. Find it below.
When should I start using a retinoid?
Retinoids are recommended for teens struggling with acne and adults concerned about fine lines. It’s never really “too soon” to start. But more on that here.
When, if ever, should I not use a retinoid?
When you’re pregnant! Or breastfeeding. Why that is (plus more pregnancy skincare dos and don’ts) here.
I don’t know anything about this stuff. Where should I start?
You’re not the first person to be confused about good ol’ vitamin A. We made this handy dandy FAQ sheer to bring you up to speed.
Great, you’ve sold me! How do I get started?
We’d recommend consulting an aesthetician like Shani Darden. Jessica Alba, January Jones, and Kelly Rowland trust her, so why not you? If you can’t get an appointment, you’re in luck—she shared all her best tips for retinoid newbies here.
How strong should my first retinoid be?
We can’t really answer that for you, dude—it really depends on your skin type and what you’re looking to accomplish. But it can be helpful to start with something on the gentler side and slowly work your way up to the big percentage players. An explanation, here.
How does [insert retinoid] perform compared to [insert retinoid]?
Sounds like you need help understanding the retinoid chain! The retinoid chain explains how your skin converts vitamin A derivatives to their active form, retinoic acid. The closer a retinoid is to retinoic acid, the more potent it’ll be. It’s a little complicated, so a longform answer might be more helpful.
New retinoids are coming out all the time, and you might also stumble across a mouthful of an ingredient you've never seen before. Here are three new retinoids to get on your radar, and how they compare with the market's old boys.
What’s the best way to use my new retinoid product?
A real conversation about this exact topic, right this way. (But for a TLDR version: look for a creamy consistency, apply on dry skin, follow with moisturizer if your skin is sensitive.)
Can I mix exfoliating acids with retinoids?
Exfoliating acids and retinoids might give you dry, flaky skin on the road to glow. They can’t not be used together—actually, their mechanisms for encouraging cell turnover are totally different—but the combo is just too harsh for some folks. Here, a dermatologist explains what’s going on (and offers a novel solution).
Do I have to put retinoids all over my face?
Nope! You can also find retinoids in spot treatment form (to help with acne or dark marks) or in eye creams. We feel passionately about a few options.
Can I use retinoids on my body?
Yep! Some brands offer retinol body creams, but you can also mix a little of your favorite OTC retinoid with your lotion for a luxe allover treatment at a fraction of the price. Here’s how we like to do it.
What’s it like using a retinoid?
Charlotte Palermino took some for a spin so you don’t have to (though you’ll definitely want to after seeing her results). With guidance from two derms and a cosmetic chemist, she started with a 1% retinoid and… well, just read this story to find out.
How do I know if I’m purging? What’s purging anyway?
Turns out, “purging” (or, an onslaught of it-gets-worse-before-it-gets-better zits that happen when you start a new product) is mostly a myth. The only thing that might cause it is a very, very harsh retinoid, and most new formulations are much gentler than their purging predecessors of yore. Don’t believe us? Let a dermatologist set the record straight.
Photo via ITG