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Tout savoir sur la méthode du rétinol sandwich.

What is the "retinol sandwich"?

For many, despite its well-known effects on skin firmness, reducing wrinkles and fine lines, or even shrinking pore size, the action of retinol can be synonymous with irritation and redness. However, this negative reputation adversely affects this component, which is considered the most comprehensive to date. Thus, the "retinol sandwich" application technique was conceived to counteract these undesirable effects. But what does it really entail? Is it a good idea?


Retinol, a benchmark active ingredient with drawbacks.

Retinol is a form of retinoid that belongs to the family of Vitamin A group, whose action is well-established. It stands out from other similar active ingredients, such as peptides, due to its effectiveness and versatility. Although Vitamin A is naturally produced by the body and is essential for cell development, it has been established that its topical application helps to maintain the integrity of the skin.

In practical terms, this molecule stimulates the natural production of collagen, hyaluronic acid, and elastin, which contribute to maintaining the skin's structure. It regulates the activity of melanocytes responsible for pigmentation, accelerates the renewal of surface cells, and controls sebum production by reducing the size and secretion of sebaceous glands. Consequently, it visibly improves the appearance of wrinkles, skin tone uniformity, skin texture, as well as its firmness and density, by working both on the surface and in depth.

However, the retinol can cause skin discomforts, the most common of which are tightness, slight redness, dryness, flaking, and more sensitive skin, temporary effects that can occur when you start using retinol-concentrated skincare. However, these effects generally disappear once the skin has adapted and tolerates the active ingredient better (retinisation period). This time varies from one person to another, depending on your skin type, the concentration of retinol used, and your current skincare routine. According to clinical studies, it would be about 2 to 3 weeks.

Why does retinol irritate the skin? Retinol performs a function similar to exfoliation, that is, it removes dead surface cells to generate new ones by activating cellular renewal, but it is not an exfoliant per se. This process tends to dry out the skin since the cellular renewal is faster, and it makes the skin hypersensitive. However, after several weeks, the skin should have had time to adjust.

However, in the event of intense and prolonged irritation, a burning sensation or more severe rashes, cease using retinol and consult a doctor. These signs likely indicate that you are intolerant to retinol or that your skin is too sensitive for this active ingredient.

The "retinol sandwich" technique: how does it work?

The "retinol sandwich" is a new technique for applying retinol skincare, particularly aimed at individuals with dry and/or sensitive skin. It involves applying a retinol-based serum between two layers of moisturising cream. This method thus allows one to reap the benefits of retinol without irritating the skin.

How to create the retinol sandwich?

After having cleansed the facial skin, rather than moving directly to the application of the retinol serum, start by spreading a layer of moisturising cream on damp skin. Once it is completely dry, you can apply a layer of retinol-based care. After allowing the retinol time to be well absorbed, finish with a second layer of moisturising cream.

The retinol sandwich to reduce side effects: good or bad idea?

This technique purportedly allows one to reap the unique benefits of retinol, while minimising any discomfort typically associated with initial use. Indeed, the moisturising cream applied both underneath and over the retinol treatment acts as a protective physical barrier on the skin, thanks to the occlusive compounds (mineral oil, paraffin, squalene, silicone, shea butter, lanolin, beeswax...) it contains. The first layer of moisturising cream helps to limit the absorption of retinol molecules by the skin , thus reducing these undesirable effects. The second layer, on the other hand, serves to reduce the risk of dryness and flaking.

This method can thus assist individuals with sensitive skin in preventing irritations caused by the use of concentrated retinol skincare, while also allowing for more regular applications, all the while reaping the benefits of this active ingredient. However, applying a layer of moisturising cream beforehand may undermine the effects of retinol. This technique could obstruct the absorption and penetration of retinol into the skin layers, thereby reducing the efficacy and action of the skincare product. Similarly, there are currently no scientific studies that support this method of applying retinol. Therefore, if you do not have sensitive skin, it is advisable to disregard this technique.

Recommendations and alternatives to this method? Theaddition of hydrating, soothing or anti-inflammatory actives (niacinamide, peptides, ceramides, bisabolol...) in the skincare formula can help to minimise its potential for irritation. Indeed, during the initial weeks, the skin may require intense hydration to soothe temporary dryness. It is also possible to gradually increase the frequency of application of the retinol product over time to allow the skin to acclimate to the potency of the active ingredient. Although retinol is considered a powerful active against imperfections and skin ageing, it is possible to opt for a product containing bakuchiol, referred to as a "plant-based retinol like". These side effects are also controllable thanks to advances in formulation, particularly with the encapsulation of retinol in oily microdroplets, silicone nanoparticles or even chitosan. In this form, retinol can penetrate more deeply into the skin over a longer period for continuous release and gradual diffusion, instead of overwhelming the skin from the outset with a high concentration of retinol.

In conclusion, the"retinol sandwich" does not present any particular risks. However, the potential downside is that the occlusives present in the moisturising cream, known for retaining moisture, may result in a minimal penetration of retinol and therefore not fully benefit from its advantages.


  • PERRIER E. & al. Contribution of encapsulation on the biodisponibility of retinol. International Journal of Cosmetic Science (2004).

  • WEINDL G. & al. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clinical Interventions in Aging (2006).

  • ZAUSCHER S. & al. Encapsulation and controlled release of retinol from silicone particles for topical delivery. Journal of Controlled Release (2018).

  • SIVAMANI R. K. & al. Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoaging. British Journal of Dermatology (2019).


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