TikTok is Obsessed with Retinol Sandwiching. Should You Be, Too?

We’ve got the skinny on the trend.

TikTok is Obsessed with Retinol Sandwiching. What Is It, and Should You Be Doing it?
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If you’ve spent any time on #BeautyTok recently, you’ve likely heard about ‘retinol sandwiching,’ the skincare technique of adding moisturizer to your face both before and after you apply your retinol.

The trending term #RetinolSandwich has racked up more than 23.9 million views, and influencers are swearing by the method. The idea behind the trend is that these layers of moisture will prevent any of the irritation, dryness or peeling that can be side effects of using retinol, and this concept is not exactly novel. I’ve always intuitively applied moisturizer after using any type of retinol: Since retinol can be drying, combating that drying effect with moisture just makes sense. I will admit though that even after more than a decade as a beauty editor and writer, it had never occurred to me to apply the initial protective barrier until, well, #tiktokmademedoit.

According to Janna Ronert, an esthetician and founder of IMAGE Skincare, “The first layer of retinol sandwiching can help alleviate any irritation — such as flaking or dryness — that can sometimes be caused by retinol, because it acts as a barrier between the active ingredient and the skin. Moisturizing after using retinol helps seal in moisture, which can help limit any sensitivity.”

However, while experts and common users alike agree that adding hydration to your retinol process is definitely a good thing, remember that if there’s one thing that TikTok has proven it’s that you can have too much of a good thing. That means it is possible for you to apply a base layer of hydration so thick that is dilutes the benefits the retinol stands to offer, just as you can apply a top layer so dense (we’re looking at you, slugging) that is drives the retinol in too quickly, creating more irritation.

So, the goal is to use a moisturizer as a buffer for your skin without blocking the effectiveness of the retinol, and that means using something lightweight. “A lightweight moisturizer ensures you don’t deplete the effectiveness of the retinol too much,” says Ronert.

Skin Proud Sorbet Skin Everyday Jelly Moisturizer has a cooling, gel-like texture that absorbs quickly, making it a great choice. Another option for truly lightweight hydration is a hydrating essence like Tara Harper’s Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Floral Essence as the first layer in the sandwich.

You should also let the first layer completely dry before you apply your retinol, and again, allow the retinol to dry/absorb completely before applying your top layer. This allows each layer its chance to perform before diluting it with something else. Also, when choosing your layering products, remember ingredient mixing 101, and don’t use moisturizers with Vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, or AHA and BHA acids, as those ingredients should never be mixed with retinol.

 Another great tip from Ronert: “Choose a retinol with an enhanced delivery system such as encapsulated retinol. With this type of retinol, the active ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin layer before being activated, so it is highly effective, but still gentle on the skin.” That means that even before any sandwiching takes place, the retinol is already less likely to cause irritation. Ronert recommends using her IMAGE Skincare AGELESS Total Retinol-A Crème, and we love the Biossance Squalane + Retinol Night Serum.

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