Is it safe to use Retinol in the summer? Ask Doctor Anne

There aren´t many skincare ingredients that cause as many questions in my comments as Retinol does. And with summer fast approaching, the one that pops up over and over again is: Do I have to stop using my retinol in summer?

Is it safe to use retinol in summer?
Do I need to stop? Or should I keep using it?

Time for another episode of #AskDoctorAnne, in which we will discuss the pros and cons of using retinoids in the warmer months.

Background information

Retinol is an amazing ingredient, and one that I already did a ton of  posts about (here for example). It is however also one that can be tricky to use and that is known for ist side effetcs, which is why I understand that you are wondering how to use it come summertime.

For those of you pressed for time: Quick question, quick answer – Do you have to stop using retinol in summer? No!

I don´t, and I use prescription Tretinoin, and if it is fine for me, it should be safe for you as well.
But as I guess you are here for more than a quick fix, let´s look at the arguments made in favor of NOT using it first and talk through them.



3 possible reasons to stop using your Retinol in summer

1. Retinoids are unstable and sensitive to UV exposure.

Absolutely true.

Depending on the exact retinoid you are using and the formula of course, but most retinoids don´t react well to sun light.
Which is why it is recommended to use your retinoids at night, and the UV exposure during summer nights is as low as the one during winter nights, you might just need to do your routine a little later, so I don´t really think that is a valid reason.
Now there are a few formulation or retinol-like ingredients that claim that they are stable enough to be used both day and night (like this one), in which case it doesn´t matter if it is summer or winter, they should be safe to use no matter the season.

2. Retinol increases the sun sensitivity of the skin

Retinol, just like chemical exfoliants, helps with the shedding of dead skin. A thick layer of dead skin cells offers a certain protection against UV rays, but not one that plays a huge role in the grand scheme of things.
With or without using retinol, a broad spectrum SPF, regularly reapplied, should be mandatory, and that SPF will offer much better protection than the layer of dead skin cells ever would. (Make sure to stick around for several sunscreen videos I have planned over summer!)

So: as long as you are diligent with your sunscreen, there is no reason to stop your treatment.

3. Retinols irritation potential increases in summer

Retinol is irritating, that is true, and so are wind and sun and being in the ocean, so yes, the potential for more irritation is there. But the same is true for the cold winds and dry air in winter, so I don´t get why you should stop it in summer, but not then.

Paying close attention to your skin is mandatory, no matter the sesaon, and if you adapt your skincare to the change in seasons, it should tolerate the retinol in summer as good as it does throughout the rest of the year.

Now if you are thinking: That sounds like a lot of work, wouldn´t it be easier to just stop and don´t worry about it – here are the main reasons NOT to stop using it!


2 reasons to keep using your Retinol throughout summer

1. Retinol is amazing at treating acne and signs of aging

If you have seen the results retinoids can have on your skin, you will get what I mean:
I DO see a difference in my lines and general texture of my skin with or without regular use of retinol, and I am not willing to give up on that! I don´t want to see all the improvements in my skin gone come fall. I don´t want to risk another acne flare-up just because it is summer!
In fact, especially in summer, when wearing a heavy base is not on the cards anyway, I want my skin to look as good as possible.


2. Retinol takes some time to get used to

When you first introduce strong retinoids into your routine, you go through a phase called retinization. Irritated, flaky skin, maybe peeling – it takes a while to get adjusted to regular use.
If you now stop, you will have to go through all of that again. No thank you!

Should you just start your Retinol journey, here are my tips to introduce Retinol in your routine with minimal irritation.

I for one will keep up my Tretinoin skincare routine all through summer, and I highly suggest you do the same.


Is Retinol safe to use in summer or should you stop using it?
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