Beauty Clinic: Should I use retinol for sun-damage?


Q. I have sun-damaged skin and wondering about using a night serum with retinol. I'm slightly concerned about using a strong product as I have a thin, fair skin (I’m in my sixties) and also concerned about how it might react in the sun. A. We turned to dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams, Medical Director of European Dermatology London (, for advice on your query. She is positive about using a retinol product, which is a vitamin A derivative.

‘I would absolutely recommend a vitamin A-containing product for your skin. There are different vitamin A derivatives on the market. The strongest is the prescription strength vitamin A acid called tretinoin. However, there are also good over-the-counter alternatives such as retinol or retinaldehyde (retinal).’

‘Not only can vitamin A derivatives repair and ameliorate some of the skin’s sun damage (sadly nothing will reverse it completely), but they also have collagen-boosting effects, which over time translate into anti-wrinkle benefits - a bonus for any women over 40.’

‘You mention that you are worried about using retinol as your skin is thin and fair. Against common misconception, vitamin A creams actually don’t thin the living skin. Yes, they do exfoliate, which means the dead horny layer on the skin surface (stratum corneum) gets thinner, but the actual living layers of your skin will thicken rather than becoming thinner.’

La Roche Posay Redermic
La Roche Posay Redermic

‘Fair skin is also not a contraindication for using vitamin A derivatives. If your skin is very sensitive, you will just need to adjust the type and concentration of vitamin A product and the frequency of application to your skin’s tolerance. I recommend starting with a mild product such as La Roche Posay Redermic R: just use it once or twice per week in the evening. You may apply a simple moisturiser on top after five to ten minutes, if you wish. After two weeks, you can use it every other day.   If that’s still fine, you may try daily use (always in the evening).’

‘Vitamin A derivatives can make the sun slightly more sun-sensitive, so make sure to combine it with an SPF30-50 product in the morning (which I recommend for anybody serious about skin health anyway. In my experience, it is fine to use a vitamin A cream during a British summer (I do it myself too), but I sometimes suggest pausing it for holidays abroad where you are likely to be in strong sun.’

La Roche Posay Redermic [R] Anti-Wrinkle Treatment/£29.50 for 30ml - buy here