Breaking Down Tik-Tok’s Viral Retinol Sandwich Hack

Posted by Azadeh Shirazi MD on

Ever heard of the retinol “sandwich” hack? This is when you apply moisturizer before and after you apply retinol, hence "sandwiching" the retinol application in between two layers of moisturizer. As the trend continues to blow up on Tik-Tok, and Dr. Azi is here to break down the facts. 

What is retinol? 

Retinols are Vitamin A derivatives that are considered more like antioxidants and less like exfoliants. They renew our skin cells, protect our collagen by fighting off free radicals. Additionally, they stimulate new collagen and elastin therefore plumping up our deeper skin (dermis) to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and pores. They have a role in talking to cells and encouraging healthier, youthful cells to go through the skin layer hence renewing our skin. Many people think retinol thins the skin, but it actually thickens the dermis, the deeper skin layer. Not only does it improve lines and wrinkles it also improves hyperpigmentation, treats acne, softens rough patches, enhances circulation, and improves overall skin texture and tone.

The Benefits Of The Retinol Sandwich Hack

Sandwiching retinols lessens the intensity hence the irritation since it reduces the amount absorbed. The moisturizer applied before the retinol acts a barrier and reduces the absorption.

The Disadvantages Of The Retinol Sandwich Hack

You may not be getting as much absorption therefore as much benefit. This truly depends on the type of moisturize. Heavier creams will reduce the absorption much more than lighter gel based moisturizer. 

Is the retinol sandwich hack worth trying?

It depends on how much time you allow between applying the moisturizer and the retinol. If you are waiting some period of time, like greater than one hour then you may not be decreasing its efficacy but if you are applying it right after moisturizing then the absorption will be minimized due to the moisturizer blocking the retinol absorption. Dr. Azi recommends that patients break up their night time routine into two parts: early evening (5-7pm) cleanse and moisturizer. Then later in the night 9-11pm apply the retinol. This way you are not affecting the efficacy.

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Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, MD is a Board-Certified Dermatologist.

Specializing in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology, Dr. Shirazi received her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University Of Kentucky College of Medicine. After doing a Research Fellowship at Harvard Medical School at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, she completed her residency training in Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in addition to completing her training in dermatology and cosmetic surgery at the University of California San Diego.

She has received multiple research scholarships from iconic institutions including Harvard University and the University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and has several peer-reviewed publications to her name.