I want to start using Retinoids, what do I need to know?
  1. If you are currently pregnant or breastfeeding – Retinoids are not recommended as it may harm your baby. (Although most studies correlate the harm with ORAL Retinoids (Tretinoin), TOPICAL Retinoids are avoided as a precaution).
  2. Avoid conceiving / trying to get pregnant for at least 1 month before starting Retinoids and after stopping Retinoids. Most studies show that most of the by-products of Retinoids are removed from the blood stream by day 10.
  3. You need to use sunscreen in the daytime. Retinoid boosts collagen to reverse aging but does not prevent aging from Ultraviolet skin damage – only sunscreen can help prevent that. No point fighting the war at one end and losing it at the other end.
  4. You may experience some side effects of Retinoids – peeling/redness/burning but these side effects usually disappear with sustained consistent use. This period where your skin is adjusting to Retinoids is known as Retinization. Retinization can take up to 6 months but with proper dosing, moisturising and the tips below you will have minimal side effects or none at all! Good news is Retinal has a much better tolerability than prescription strength Retinoic Acid. (see this article comparing all the different types of Retinoids)
When should i start using Retinal?

In the past, FDA only approved Retinoids (for the treatment of acne) for aged 12 and above but recent studies showed that it is safe and efficacious in children aged 8 and up. 

I wished I started Retinoids much earlier than 27 years of age. Your skin collagen begins to break down from the age of 25. Every year you lose 1% of your collagen! What you lose, you never completely regain! 

I recommend starting Retinoids from your 20s.

There is no upper age limit of Retinoid usage.  

Can I use other skincare products with Retinal?

For the full explanation and lists please see below (Question 4, Part 4).

In general you still can, unless the product you are already using contains Retinoids (Retinol, Retinyl-, Retinaldehyde, Retinoic Acid). The only exception is if the product just contains Bakuchiol (plant derived Retinoid alternative). Current research shows both Bakuchiol and Retinoids can be used together.

You may suspect a product contains Retinoids if it has the words – “night cream”, “anti aging”, “fine lines and wrinkles” on the description. You can check the full ingredient list to ascertain if Retinoids are included.

 How to use Retinal efficiently with minimal side effects?
  1. Always remember that more is not more with Retinal
    1. One regular green pea size (or 1-2 pumps of our cream) is sufficient for the whole face. Too much of a good thing just means you will get more of the side effects with no increase in the benefits.
  2. Apply Retinal to DRY skin or after all other products have dried.
  3. Avoid applying Retinal on certain parts of the face that have more sensitive skin. Areas to avoid are as following: (illustrated by the shaded areas below) 
    1. Eyelids
    2. Area under the eyes
    3. Lips and area around lips (especially corner of lips)
    4. Nose creases
    5. Any part of the ears.
    6. Neck (use sparingly)

  1. Keep your skincare regime simple
    1. Avoid mixing a lot of actives with Retinal during your night time skincare regime. You can still use all your favourites. But instead of using them during your evening routine, you can use these products in the morning routine instead. These products include:
      1. AHAs (Glycolic acid/Lactic acid/Mandelic acid)
      2. BHAs (Salicylic acid) 
      3. Benzyl Peroxide (it oxidises and inactivates Retinal when used together)
      4. Vitamin C.
    2. Avoid harsh cleansers - Read the ingredients – it should stay clear from AHAs/BHAs/Benzyl Peroxide/Chemical Exfoliants/Physical Exfoliants or Scrubs
    3. Avoid exfoliating immediately prior to using Retinal.
  1. Only apply Retinal maximum ONCE a day and only at night; once the sun sets.
  2. Slowly increase the dosing frequency of Retinal (see below) – give your skin time to acclimatise. Just like how you wouldn’t immediately climb Mount Everest and will train by climbing Bukit Timah Hill first.
 How to Start using Retinal?
  1. Always know your skin – if it is already peeling or burning or red; Give your skin a break for at least 1-2 days before applying Retinal.
  2. If your skin is Retinal naïve, start with once every 3 nights for 2 weeks.
  3. If your skin is able to tolerate this, then scale Retinal up to once every 2 nights for another 2 weeks.
  4. Once your skin has no peeling/burning/redness, you can increase to once every night.
  5. If once a night is resulting in some peeling/burning/redness, I suggest to go back to once every 2 nights.

Retinoids are effective in reducing fine lines and wrinkles even at usage of 3 times per week. The only difference in using it daily is that you achieve and see the benefits much earlier if you use it nightly.

How to reduce side effects such as peeling, burning and redness?

MIAN knows this is a major concern, hence they have incorporated soothing ingredients like Aloe Vera and Oatmeal into their serum and added lots of hydrating ingredients like glycerin, urea, cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, hydrogel etc. Shop now.

You can also try a secret technique that has been tried and tested.

  1. Apply a simple moisturiser (no AHAs/BHAs/Vitamin C) after you cleanse your face.
  2. Wait for 5 mins for the moisturiser to dry.
  3. Then apply Retinal.
  4. An optional last step is to wait 5 mins for Retinal to dry then apply the same moisturiser as the top layer.

Also note that sleeping in aircon can exacerbate the dryness / peeling you get. You can consider a humidifier.

How to incorporate Retinal into my skincare routine?

Based on several studies conducted, the order of application has not been shown to affect the absorption of Retinal or other actives. However, for simplicity, I usually recommend the following:

  1. Cleanser – double cleanse (oil cleanser followed by a gentle cleanser)
  2. Toner
  3. Serums
  4. Moisturiser
  5. Retinal
  6. Oils/Vaseline/Petroleum Jelly/Occlusives

Toners, Serums and Oils are unnecessary in general and if you have been having any issues (i.e. acne/pigmentation/sensitive skin) that you were trying to tackle but aren’t going away; I would suggest to keep your regime simple with just a cleanser and simple moisturiser first and then slowly add on just the Retinal.


Of course, please discuss with your managing dermatologist or doctor first for any skin conditions/concerns - they would know best.

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