What Exactly is Retinol Sandwiching?

This viral skincare hack delivers the benefits of retinol while reducing the risk of irritation.

Dermatologists and skincare experts have long been touting retinol as a hero skincare ingredient, thanks to its ability to improve skin texture by increasing cell turnover rate, increasing collagen production within the skin and treating hyperpigmentation. However, even at the lowest strength, retinol can still be difficult for the skin to tolerate, causing irritation, redness, dryness, and peeling. 

Enter retinol sandwiching, a clever, viral new skincare hack that is taking over TikTok. A retinol sandwich is essentially a layer of retinol applied in between two layers of moisturizer in order to slow down its absorption into the skin, thereby lessening the adverse side effects. 

But let’s back up for a moment. For those who need a refresher, retinol is a type of retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A, that contains a lower concentration of the active retinoic acid ingredient and works more gradually than prescription retinoids. But even at low concentrations, retinol is often not well tolerated by those with sensitive skin. 

Fortunately, there is a natural alternative to retinol, called bakuchiol, that has been shown to have similar benefits without the side effects. Derived from the leaves and seeds of the babchi plant, a double-blind study by the British Journal of Dermatology found that daily bakuchiol use was equally as effective as retinol in smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin tone and texture after 12 weeks. 

While bakuchiol is considered a gentler alternative to retinoids, there is, however, still a risk of sensitivity, including redness and dryness or stinging, especially with initial use, so the sandwiching method can be applied to both retinol and bakuchiol.

To do the sandwich method, rather than applying your retinol or bakuchiol product immediately after cleansing, apply a layer of moisturizer to damp skin. Once it's completely dry, apply a layer of retinol or bakuchiol and, once absorbed, apply a second layer of moisturizer. When choosing a moisturizer for this method, it’s important to avoid formulas containing vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acid as when combined, these ingredients can inactivate or destabilize each other.

Here, some of our favorite clean sandwiching combos:

BL+The Retinol Cream

This cell-renewing formula is designed to target signs of aging while refining skin texture at the source. The healing powers of the Blue Lagoon’s bioactive water is harnessed by the BL+ COMPLEX. Silica and microalgae help to strengthen the skin barrier, while 0.03% retinol works to fight signs of aging and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. 


Br. Barbara Sturm Face Cream Rich

The Face Cream Rich from Dr. Barbara Sturm is the perfect moisturizer for any retinol sandwich. With highly active–while at the same time calming–compounds, this cream works its way both deep and superficially into your skin’s cells. Maximizing the healing benefits of purslane, known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and moisturizing properties, this cream is the perfect compliment for a retinol treatment.


Kat Burki Retin C Treatment Complex Serum

Retin C Treatment Complex contains a potent antioxidant, known not only for its seemingly instant radiance-imparting capabilities, but also its ability to help skin cell turnover and allow for new cell growth. Getting to the root of fine lines and wrinkles at the deepest layer of skin, the Retin C Treatment Complex stops formation at the source. 

Moon Juice Cosmic Cream

Adaptogenic ashwagandha and schisandra in Moon Juice Cosmic Cream help improve elasticity and firmness and protect collagen; while silver ear mushroom and hyaluronic acid help hydrate, minimize the appearance of lines, and deeply nourish.


Emma Lewisham Supernatural Retinoic Face Oil

A lightweight, nutrient-dense, and youth-restoring elixir, this Supernatural Oil delivers complete skin nourishment. Rejuvenating skin, targeting fine lines and wrinkles, restoring plump, youthful skin, and revealing a lifted, luminous complexion–this results-oriented formulation delivers age-defying results that you can see and feel.

Tammy Fender Celestial Rose Crème

Celestial Rose Crème is a velvety balm that melts into the skin, providing rich nutritive benefits and creating a petal-soft barrier to help shield skin from environmental conditions. Designed to rehydrate and de-stress the skin, this formula is ideal for all skin types, including sensitive skin.


Furtuna Skin Nightly Renewal Cream

A decadent moisturizing night cream that gently recalibrates skin to bring it back into balance with its ideal circadian rhythm for a renewal of suppleness, smoothness, and strength, courtesy of bakuchiol. Nightly Renewal Cream harnesses skin’s regenerative powers and increased absorption during the evening hours to put wrinkles to rest for a visibly rejuvenated look when you wake up.

Goop GoopGenes All-in-One Nourishing Face Cream

This luxuriously rich, all-in-one supercream melts into skin, leaving it deeply nourished, firmer-looking and hydrated; its unique whipped texture makes it feel like an invisible second skin. GoopGenes is made with a megadose of plant-based ceramides plus seven highly-active botanicals that work together to leave skin ultra-moisturized, soft, supple, smooth, firm, and even-toned.

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