Is It Safe To Wear Retinol In The Sun?

Retinols are some of most popular skin care products on the market. They are the over-the-counter version of the stronger retinoids, for which a prescription is required, and are believed to promote the production of collagen and elastin in the skin (via Healthline).

For years people using retinols have been told to avoid sun exposure, presumably because the active ingredient in retinol, vitamin A, makes skin more susceptible to sunburn. As it turns out, that's not actually the case.

Dana Sachs, professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School, told Allure, "This misconception came about because in some early studies, people described putting on a retinoid, walking into the sun, and immediately burning. But that redness is likely related to heat exposure." Clinical studies have since proven that retinols do not change the amount of UV light it takes to cause sunburn, Sachs added. While it may be safe, you may not want to give up your before-bed skin care routine just yet.

Nighttime application may still be the best option

If you use retinol during the day, that doesn't mean you should forgo sunscreen. Retinols are extremely unstable in sunlight and the molecules break down quickly when exposed to it, rendering the products less effective. So if you're going to use a retinol during the day be sure to add sunscreen over it. (That should be part of your skin care routine regardless.)

Some experts recommend waiting to use retinols at night because that's when your skin is naturally doing the work of repairing itself anyway. During the nighttime hours, "vitamin A gets to work in an uninterrupted environment on cell turnover, collagen stimulation, tightening of the pores, and a regulation of oil production as well as reducing fine lines and helping to manage skin maintenance," facialist Michaella Bolder told Well+Good.

If you're just starting to use a retinol, you may experience some redness, dryness, or sensitivity. Consider using retinol on alternate days and at night. Any exfoliants you use should be applied in the morning to avoid overstressing your skin. Your skin will likely adjust, but give it a few weeks to get used to the new product.