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Kaolin and Charcoal: A Korean Skincare Power Duo!

by Yu-Jun Park 13 Mar 2024

《Drum rolls, please》 

Welcome to your ultimate guide to understanding that magical potion that's all the rage these days.

Yes, you got it, I’m talking about retinol! 

If you're a skin care junkie or have even just dipped your toes into the K-Beauty universe, you’ve no doubt heard about this wonder ingredient. It’s almost like the VIP of the beauty game. 

But the big question is… 

Should you apply retinol to wet or dry skin?

Skin damp after showering or cleansing? 

Well, give it some time to dry before reaching for that retinol bottle. Because as it turns out, applying retinol to damp skin is not a great idea.

But why should you apply retinol to dry skin?

Here's the science. 

You see, retinol is oil-soluble, meaning it penetrates the oil in your skin to get to its lower layers and perform its magic. When your skin is wet, it dilutes the oils and thus, the retinol. 

This dilution can cause increased sensitivity and dryness - not quite the skin glow we're going for! 

Still need more convincing? Let’s look at the pH factor! 

The acidity level of skin, assessed in terms of pH, plays a huge role in how well your products are absorbed. Water has a neutral pH of approximately 7, while the natural pH of our skin is mildly acidic, typically around 5.5. 

So, when we apply retinol on wet skin, it might disrupt the pH equilibrium, impacting the efficacy of retinol. 

There's more! Wet or damp skin has enhanced permeability, which means it absorbs products more quickly. 

This can be a good thing for some products, but not retinol. Remember, retinol isn't a sprinter; it's a marathon runner. We want it to soak in gently and work its way gradually. A hasty absorption can cause redness and even temporary peeling.

Now, let's say you've toweled off and are now surfing the dry-skin wave. Think you're ready for the retinol? 

Not quite! You should ideally wait about 20 minutes after washing your face before applying retinol. 

Your skin might feel dry to the touch immediately after washing, but deep down those water molecules are still interacting and settling, and that can still mess with your retinol's efficiency.

Then comes the actual application of retinol. Applying it carefully and evenly is key. Start with a pea-sized amount. 

Yeah, seems puny right? But let me tell you, it's plenty for your entire face. 

Apply the retinol in upward strokes, and don't neglect the neck and chest areas. They're vital parts of your skincare turf too.

And what about time of day? Should you apply retinol day or night? 

The answer is night, for the simple reason that sunlight can deactivate this potent ingredient. 

Think vampires and sunlight, but with a promising ending: radiant skin!

Retinol packs a punch with its anti-aging benefits: reducing wrinkles, evening skin tone, and promoting collagen production. But its power can be a double-edged sword if not wielded properly. So, do it right and enjoy the glow-up.

In conclusion, guard your skin's balance and protect the potency of retinol. Don't be tempted to slather it on wet skin or rush the process. 

Wet skin and retinol may seem like a fast track to dewy skin, but they're more like oil and water. Or in this case, retinol and water. 

Slow and steady wins the race here, folks. Remember, retinol is a night owl that loves dry land. 

So dry up, wait up, then dollop on a smidgen of retinol – and let the magic happen!

Do you put retinol on before or after moisturizer?

Fast absorption can lead to fast irritation. In the long run, it's the tortoise that wins, not the hare.

That’s why you’re best off applying retinol after your moisturizer. This prevents retinol overload.

So, how does this magic – or rather, how do these skin science shenanigans – happen? 

Well, it's a bit like a concert. The moisturizer plays the soothing opening act, warming up the crowd (we're talking about your skin cells here) and setting the stage for the star of the night, retinol. 

Retinol then graces the stage, working at a steady pace, doing its anti-aging, skin-smoothing, and pore-refining performance.

Right, enough metaphors. Let's bring out the science behind this process.

Our skin's outermost layer, also known as the stratum corneum, acts as a barrier of protection. 

A moisturizer's role is to form a film on this layer, which can help prevent water loss from the epidermis. When you apply retinol over your moisturizer, the retinol's efficiency isn't diminished, it just sinks in slower. 

The bonus? A decreased likelihood of skin irritation or dryness, typically associated with retinol.

And just a side note, if you're new to retinol or have sensitive skin, this moisturizer-then-retinol approach can be a good starting point in your skincare routine. 

Why? It's kinder to your skin, and it allows you to become accustomed to retinol's effects gradually. 

Now, if you're wondering about the reverse order, here's the scoop: applying retinol before moisturizer is reported to make the retinol more potent. Retinol, in this case, gets a direct pass to work on your skin. 

But remember the sensitive star metaphor? (okay, us neither) This method can make retinol's potential irritation issues more prominent.

All in all, if you are a retinol rookie or have sensitive skin, the moisturizer-retinol approach is your best bet. But if your skin is more resilient, or if you're a seasoned retinol user, then you could try retinol first, followed by moisturizer. 

Whatever be your method, remember to always wear sunscreen during the day when using retinol, as it can increase your skin's photosensitivity, making it more susceptible to sun damage. 

Lastly, it's important to remember that every individual's skin reacts differently to retinol. Some people may need a buffer of moisturizer, and others may not. A good rule of thumb is to start slow, observe your skin's reactions, and adjust from there. 

Your skin and skincare routine are as unique as you are. So, listen to your skin, give it a bit of time to acclimate, and you should soon start seeing benefits from this fantastic ingredient.

Remember: easy does it. Retinol is a marathon, not a sprint. So, lace up those hydration boots, step up to the skincare starting line, and let the anti-aging race begin. Your star-studded, retinol-ready routine awaits!

How long after washing my face can I apply retinol?

You've washed your face with tender love and care. Your skin is as fresh as a dew-kissed petal. 

So, how long should you wait before you can grace it with your retinol-laden cream? 

The general consensus is to wait approximately 20 minutes. 

Why so exact? You're not cooking pasta, after all. 

Well, it turns out there's a good reason — apart from adding a cliffhanger to your nightly skincare routine. 

Here's The Deal with Retinol

When it comes to retinol, timing matters. 

It's not just about slathering on some cream and calling it a night. The science is actually quite fascinating. 

Right after washing, your skin is likely to have a slightly more alkaline pH due to the cleanser. This is where the 20-minute buffer comes into play - a pause allowing your skin to rebalance itself to its natural pH level. 

What's pH Got to Do With It?

The pH level of your skin, or potential hydrogen for you chemistry buffs, significantly influences how your skin will react with retinol. 

Your skin's natural pH hovers around the 5.5 mark. While retinol prefers slightly acidic conditions for optimal absorption, rushing it onto a freshly-washed and therefore more alkaline skin could reduce its effectiveness.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race with Retinol

With retinol, it's all about that magic mantra. The tortoise beating the hare, remember? Slow and steady. 

Letting your skin reach its natural acidity is like setting the stage for retinol's grand entrance. By waiting, you're ensuring that every molecule of retinol pulls its weight, leading to greater results.

The Patience Distinction

That's not all. Application timing serves another purpose - combating irritation. 

Remember, retinol is a pretty potent stuff. It doesn’t shy from stirring things up, and an alkaline setup will only fan its fiery nature. 

By waiting, you're not just optimizing retinol absorption, but also mitigating any potential discomfort. 

Retinol’s Role 

This potent ingredient's function is to promote skin cell turnover. 

Essentially, it's meant to take off your skin's old shell and reveal the shiny glow underneath. This process naturally comes with some irritation, redness and dryness. 

However, applying retinol to skin that's returned to its natural pH will ensure that this process takes place in the most effective and least irritating way possible. 

To Summarize… 

So, the next time you're tempted to hurry through your skincare routine, remember - retinol isn't a race. It's more of a beautifully choreographed dance that requires precision and patience. 

Go on, give your skin that little breather before applying retinol. Your skin will thank you for it. 

And in the meantime, revel in the joy knowing you've mastered the art of the retinol waiting game!

Is retinol 3 times a week enough?

Let's dive right into this one, shall we? 

It's worth noting that skincare is more of an art than a science, tailored individually much like your favorite bespoke attire. Your skin type and tolerance level play significant roles in determining the frequency of retinol use.

If you're new in the retinol club, think of this as a marathon and not a sprint. It's prudential to dip your toes in before diving headfirst. 

So, it is indeed a good idea to start by applying retinol 2-3 times a week. 

Why exactly, you ask? 

Well, this wise moderation safeguards your skin from potential irritants. Using retinol is like a ballet dance; it takes time for your skin to learn the steps. Once your skin has nailed the waltz with retinol, you can gracefully step up the frequency.

Bear in mind, retinol might be the star performer, but its entry should be exciting, not jarring to your skin's routine. 

So, keep it gentle. We're more for the artful approach, gently sketching on the canvas of your skin rather than splattering paint all over it impulsively.

Remember your patience will be rewarded. It takes time for retinol to work its magic and show noticeable results. If you're like most of us who scoff at the word 'patience', bear with us!

Moving on, here's a note on application. 

The 'less is more' adage couldn't be more fitting for retinol use. Apply a small pea-sized amount on the entire face, excluding the fragile eye area. Overzealous application can prompt your skin to show you the red flag, which isn't particularly a sight for sore eyes, is it?

We get it — the wait can be grueling. But remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is glass skin! 

Consider retinol as a long-term investment for your skin, and you'll start reaping the glowing benefits soon enough.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of care before flair. Do not ever forget the stalwart protector - the sunscreen. 

Retinol, while it works its fantastic wonders, tends to make your skin more sensitive to the sun. So, if you're stepping out during the day, sunscreen is your steadfast companion.

That's your crash-course in retinol application! Now you're armed with the necessary knowledge to tackle skin woes like uneven skin tone, fine lines, and acne. 

All this without worrying about whether your skin is wet or dry, or puzzling over when to moisturize. Isn't that a relief?

Finally, before I leave you armed and ready for your skincare adventure, allow me to share a nugget of wisdom from Korean skincare - true beauty is not just skin deep. Good skin finds its roots in a healthy lifestyle. 

So, remember to eat balanced meals, hydrate often, rest enough and keep your stress levels in check. Those are all key aspects of achieving glowing, healthy skin.

Done and dusted for now! Look out for more illuminating skin adventures coming up next. 

Until then, nurture your glow, and keep your skin game strong!


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