How to Incorporate Retinol Into Your Skincare Routine, According to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s Facialist Shani Darden

Celebrity facialist Shani Darden explains the long-lasting benefits of retinol, why you shouldn’t over exfoliate, and the importance of the staying out of the sun.


You’ve probably heard about retinol, but you may not know what it does or how to incorporate it into your skincare routine. Thankfully, celebrity facialist Shani Darden, who works with the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Jessica Alba and offers two retinol products of her own, is here to explain. Read on as Darden discusses the long-lasting benefits of retinol, why you shouldn’t over-exfoliate while using the product, and how she created her latest offering.

What was the process in creating your second retinol product?

I was playing around; I wanted to reformulate my retinol. I was working with a retinol palmitate and I gave it to a bunch of people to test out, and they ended up loving it so much–one of them was Rosie Huntington-Whiteley–so I kept having to go back to the lab to get just enough so that my clients and friends could have it. Finally, I was like, I’m going to put it out, because it’s so good. I just have an obsession with retinol. Retinol palmitate is more gentle, and it’s more gentle than my current Retinol Reform.

What are the the benefits of using retinol?

It boosts collagen in the skin, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, can help with pigmentation, resurfaces the skin to help with texture, which then helps unclog pores. Originally, people were using Retin-A for acne, and over time we saw that those people never aged. And that’s honestly why I fell in love with it, because I worked with a woman that must have been in her 60s and she had the most perfect skin I have ever seen in my life–not a wrinkle–but her neck looked like she was 100. She had used Retin-A her whole life, but forgot to use it on her neck. So after that I was like, I’m sold. When you use a stronger prescription of retinol, over time, your skin does thin. Personally, I think using an over-the-counter is the best way to go, unless you have really bad acne, then I would say use a prescription.

What are the negative effects retinol can have on the skin if you misuse it?

If you go out in the sun, it will bring out pigmentation, and you can damage your skin that way. You have to be someone that’s good about not being in the sun. Retinol is something you have to use at night; you really, truly have to be good about it. I’m not someone who goes in the sun. When I go to Hawaii in the summer, I don’t use it while I’m there at all, but if you are someone who likes to be in the sun, then retinol is not good for you.


How should someone incorporate retinol into their skincare routine?

I think with every retinol product, you should start with once a week. If you’re someone who has been using retinol forever, use it one-to-two times and then build up gradually, using it as often as your skin can tolerate. Also, if it was a prescription retinol, especially if you have sensitive skin, I would use a moisturizer before applying the prescription retinol, just to cut it down, and then moisturize afterward. If you’re truly dry, then you’ll never be able to use it daily, but you could probably do three-to-four times [a week], every other night. Your skin either loves retinol or it doesn’t.

When do you recommend starting to use retinol?

I think using it in your twenties is the best. Typically, I wouldn’t give a teenager retinol, but when I worked for a dermatologist, I would see so many kids starting at 13 years old with acne and they were on retinol, but that’s a different situation.

Can you still exfoliate while using retinol?

I would always say to people, ‘Don’t do it, unless you know your skin.’ So exfoliate on an opposite night. Everyone’s skin is different, but for the most part it can irritate. If you scrub and then you put a retinol over it, it can be so irritating, and then you could really damage your skin. So that’s why I like for people to exfoliate on opposite nights.

Can you still use facial treatments likes lasers with a retinol product?

If you are doing laser treatments, you can’t do them both together. You have be careful, and a doctor will tell you when you shouldn’t, but otherwise they can go together. Typically, if you have pigmentation and you do laser for pigmentation, a doctor will give you a tretinoin, which is a retinol mix to keep your pigmentation under control. So, they do go hand in hand, but you don’t want to do them at the same time.

What are your top rules about skincare?

You have to stay out of the sun, wear sunscreen, make sure you are exfoliating once a week, and try to incorporate a retinol.

What does your weekly skincare routine look like?

I use retinol daily, so every night I cleanse, apply retinol, eye cream, and I usually use a hyaluronic acid serum. Sometimes, I’ll a use a moisturizer, but that’s typically my nightly routine. Sometimes, I’ll do an at home peel instead of the retinol, but I don’t really switch it up.

How often do you recommend getting a facial?

In a perfect world, I tell everyone to get one once a month.