A Few Skincare Q’s: Retinol, Dr. Bader, Products For Sensitive Skin.

A Few Skincare Q's

I,ve been getting a lot of skincare questions over email and in the comments section of the blog and noticed I frequently get asked the same questions again and again so I thought I would use today’s post to answer them as best I can!

I want to caveat that I am not a dermatologist – I’m just someone who really loves skincare! I take good care of my skin and have tried everything under the sun BUT I can only speak to my own experiences with my skin type (pretty normal but tending toward dry, a little older and starting to see the signs of aging). A lot of times I get asked for product recommendations which can be really hard to do without seeing someone’s actual skin! So just keep in mind that as with everything, I’m speaking to my personal experience and what works for me.

Do you use a retinol? If so, what kind? I’ve heard that I should use one and the earlier the better but some people say it can ruin your skin? Not sure what to believe.

Yes, I do! Retinol is amazing when it comes to anti-aging. It encourages both cell turnover and collagen production and is one of the only ways to actually reverse skin damage. That being said, as it encourages cell turnover rather aggressively, your skin may freak out in the beginning stages. With everything, I would recommend easing into adding retinol, and consulting a dermatologist first. I don’t know your exact skin type but I personally love it. I just finished my Skinceuticals custom blend and have started testing this one from Sunday Riley which I really love so far.

When you start using it, it will bring up anything “bad” to the surface. You might find yourself breaking out more than usual. Or getting really dry. But with continued use that will go away and your skin will improve.

My personal experience was that for the first three weeks of using retinol, my skin was fine. It felt great. I was using it every night and had no complaints. I didn’t understand why people complained. Then, all of a sudden it was really tight and dry and peeling. This is totally 100% normal. I took a few days completely off and then switched to using it only every other night, and was fine after that. It was crazy how dry and tight my skin was though. I would recommend using it only 2-3 nights a week (evenings only!!!) to start out. Also, ALWAYS use SPF if you’re using a retinol. I mean always use SPF anyway, but especially if you’re using retinol!

As far as “the earlier the better” goes, I don’t know that I would necessarily agree with that. I didn’t start using high tech skincare til I hit my thirties; and didn’t start using retinol til I was 37, so to each their own. I may be going out on a limb here but I don’t think most people need retinol until they hit thirty. At least.

(With regard to using the Dr. Bader Cream) Do you know if this can be used in combination with Retin A? (I would continue Retin A a few nights a week and use this on off days)

As background for anyone who is new here, Dr. Bader is my most favorite moisturizer. If I’m not testing out a new product for the blog, I use it every morning and every other night. The thing with Dr. Bader is that you aren’t supposed to put anything on your face in between cleansing and toning and applying the cream. So they discourage you to use a serum, retinol, etc.

On the nights in between Dr. Bader I will use retinol, followed by a thick coat of moisturizer. (I apply the retinol, brush my teeth while it sinks in, and then apply moisturizer. Right now for my non Dr. Bader cream, I really like this Weleda night cream. I love all of Weleda’s creams – they’re ultra gentle and extremely hydrating.

As always, talk to your derm (sorry I know I’m repetitive but I can’t stress that enough) but I think you’ll probably be fine using Dr. Bader on the nights you don’t use Retin A. While it’s an anti-aging moisturizer, it doesn’t actively exfoliate and it’s really gentle. I find it to be the perfect complement to using peels or retinol.

I’m really confused by the Dr. Bader product! I know you’re not supposed to use anything under it but I love using P50 and SK-II!

Okay. So a little confession. I don’t always follow the instructions. Most mornings, I still use SK-II before the Dr. Bader.

If you’re using P50 I would say to use something else (maybe the Weleda?) just so that you don’t waste the Dr. Bader since it’s so expensive. Kind of like the nights I do retinol.

I’m very intrigued by the Augustinus Bader cream but I’m a pretty loyal La Mer user. I know from your posts that you’ve used both. Can you weigh in on the differences?

I would say that hydration-wise, Dr. Bader’s The Rich Cream is very similar to classic La Mer, whereas The Cream (the lighter version) is very similar to La Mer’s Soft Cream.

Both are power moisturizers – they lock in moisture and leave my skin glowy and hydrated all day long. I love La Mer but I personally prefer Dr. Bader. I find it to be a little more high tech and have noticed a visible improvement in my skin since starting to use it. You can read all about the technology in Dr. Bader’s creams in this post. That being said, I love La Mer when I have a cold. It’s the only cream that heals that chapped red skin around my nose when I’m sick and blowing my nose a lot. I haven’t found anything that works quite as well on chapped red skin.

What products would you recommend for sensitive skin for a good face skin care routine?  If I don’t take good care — I get a bad rosacea flare up.

I would definitely go to your dermatologist to get a suggestion – rosacea is no joke and skincare is very personal! It’s hard to give you an exact routine because I write based on my own experiences and don’t have ultra sensitive skin or rosacea.

When I was younger my skin was a lot more sensitive than it is now. My old dermatologist always swore by Cetaphil face wash but I try to go natural/clean where possible so would suggest Indie Lee’s Rosehip Cleanser as it’s so gentle. (Maybe try the $10 size first to make sure it works for you?) I have used this in the past and really love it and on the product page it states that it’s suitable for sensitive skin + reduces redness + rosacea.

I think the most important thing for sensitive types is to make sure that your routine is free of chemicals, dyes, and fragrances. Fragrances are tough, even when the products are natural! I typically love Weleda and Tata Harper but both of those products are pretty fragrant because of the essential oils they use. You want something with as few ingredients as possible so that it won’t irritate your skin. I would definitely recommend Everyday Oil’s Unscented blend which is really great for sensitive types. You can use it as both a cleansing oil and a moisturizer. Paula’s Choice has a CALM line which I’ve heard very good things about.

PS – the other question I get asked most: what order to apply your skincare products!

Photo by Carter Fish.


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  1. Using retinol was such a great decision for me! I’m still in the mid-twenties and I look young for my age so I can’t really see much of a difference, but it makes me feel better mentally, haha! I’d love to try out Skinceutical’s custom blend one day! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    2.13.19 Reply
  2. Sarah S.:

    You always provide the best skincare content- thank you! I’m approaching 35, and I always value for reviews and opinions. I want to pull the trigger on the Dr. Bader cream when I run out of my current La Mer. Question for you- what do you do for SPF when you wear the Bader cream during the day? Do you add a separate SPF OVER it? I’ve always been loyal to my Elta MD for daytime b/c of the SPF content, but I need something more moisturizing for winter. Thank you!

    2.13.19 Reply
    • I am so happy to hear that!
      Good question re: SPF. I am not particularly loyal to any certain brand here but right now am using Elemis’s Daily Defense in SPF 30 and really like it!

      I typically wait a few minutes for moisturizer etc to sink in and then I apply SPF 🙂

      2.13.19 Reply
  3. I have really sensitive skin and have had great luck with Juice Beauty. The nutrient moisturizer is amazing!
    Thanks for all the tips!

    2.13.19 Reply
  4. I always value your skincare advice, Grace! I tried Dr. Bader’s after reading you rave about it and really, really like it. I notice a difference when I don’t use it. I’m glad to read you do rotate using it nightly as I wanted to use the Beautycounter overnight peel a few times a week. Thanks for sharing!

    P.S. Is there a way to tell when the bottle of Dr. Bader’s is getting low? I have no idea when I’m going to run out!

    2.13.19 Reply
    • That makes me SO happy!!! I met another reader at a meet up who had bought the cream and loved it so much too.

      Def rotate it at night with the BeautyCounter. I feel like it’s okay to switch things up as long as I get some Dr. Bader on my skin at least once a day. I rotate the peel in as well – it’s so good.

      2.13.19 Reply
      • OMG I forgot to add – NO there doesn’t seem to be! Which makes me crazy when it runs out. I have taken to making sure I have a backup bottle. I find that the bottle generally lasts me 2-3 months, so after a month or two I will get a new one.

        2.13.19 Reply
  5. I always love your skincare posts, Grace! Thank you for always being so thorough 🙂

    I have terribly sensitive skin that freaks out with seemingly everything (diet, stress, hydration, climate, water from a different city, new product…it’s fun! ha) and the derm I was seeing was pushing a lot of products that I learned later were super drying out my skin (even though at the time, they seemed great!). I did some research and found a holistic aesthetician and have been going to her every seven or so weeks since May, and it’s like night and day for my skin. Definitely not a solution for everyone, but I feel so much better knowing I’m getting a custom “treatment” when I go in and even though it’s not always the most comfortable experience (hello, extractions) have loved having my acne in her hands vs. the hands of the derm. Just my two cents–and if anyone needs a rec in DC, I will happily pass mine along!

    2.13.19 Reply
    • That is so great to hear – I’m glad you found something you love!!!

      2.13.19 Reply
    • Anna:

      Hi – Im in DC area and interested in your aesthetician rex. Would you mind sharing? Thanks!

      8.20.23 Reply
  6. Meghan:

    Oh man, love the tips but even more I love the white shelves in your bathroom! Where did you get the little ones that hold those glass cups?

    2.13.19 Reply
  7. MarciaMarciaMarcia:

    You are one of the only people whose skincare recommendations I pay attention to. I have dry, sensitive skin, and while I may not look all of my 48 years, I am definitely trying to stave off the aging as long as I can. But even products that say they’re for sensitive skin often don’t work well for me, and I’m so wary of retinol. I tried Skinceuticals C E Ferulic, and it didn’t just dry out my skin, it burned it. I’ve been afraid to try retinol again ever since. I shied away from Vitamin C too until you turned me on to the Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line Reducing Concentrate – thankfully my skin does really well with that one. I’ll be curious how the Sunday Riley retinol turns out for you – I saw something else about it recently and it looks like a great product, I’m just scared to try it. I haven’t tried Dr. Bader yet, but it’s on my list once I run out of my current products.

    2.13.19 Reply
    • Hi Marcia!
      Aw thank you that is os kind of you to say!
      Yeah, I’d NEVER recommend C E Ferulic for someone with sensitive skin. I personally love it but it’s really aggressive – I could see it burning! The Kiehl’s product is a better choice for you. I think the Sunday Riley will likely be too aggressive for you as well; it’s strong!
      Dr. Bader should be good on your sensitive skin – I find it to be incredibly healing and gentle!

      2.13.19 Reply
      • MarciaMarciaMarcia:

        Thanks Grace! I think I’m going to try to Sunday Riley Luna Oil, which contains a retinoid but seems much more gentle than their new retinol product. And I’m definitely adding Dr. Bader to my list!

        2.14.19 Reply
  8. Meems:

    Sensitive skin (redness/rosacea) here. I popped into Credo. The rep suggested Juice Beauty and another brand I was not familiar with @paiskinscare. I use the “Pai” instant calm redness serum w/sea aster & wild oat along with Aesop’s Moroccan Neroli Post-Shave Lotion. I was hesitant about using a shave lotion on my face but the Aesop rep confirmed the ingredients are to help lessen the redness (contains neroli). Both products (and stores) have been a game changer for me this winter.

    2.14.19 Reply
  9. I second all of these things and love all your recommendations as always. I haven’t tired the Dr Bader yet so I’m going to try that when I finish my current pot of the La Mer soft cream.

    Also to weigh in on the rosacea and sensitive skin question: my skin is really prone to sensitivity so I would say to make sure you’re alternating your acids / retinol (don’t use the same thing every night) and give your skin at least two nights with no actives – just a hydrating serum and oil or moisturiser (I also swear by pure rosehip oil slathered on at night when my skin is over-sensitised). And my husband gets rosacea and the Paula’s Choice redness relief line and the La Roche Posay Toileraine and Rosaliac lines are both really good to help calm + not irritate redness.

    Briony xx

    2.22.19 Reply
  10. Deanna:

    just Found this post and wanted to say thank you! I was debating the Dr Bader cream but was concerned how to fit it into my retinol regime. I never thought if swapping out days…. great idea/tip!

    4.9.19 Reply
  11. Jen A:

    OK, I’m confused, when do I use Retinol in the process if I use it 5 nights a week? Typically I wash, tone, Retinol, moisturize. Is that right? When I don’t use Retinol I use P50 in replace of the Retinol. Is that right? Your post about order didn’t include Retinol.

    PS: I love this post. Thanks so much!

    9.25.19 Reply
    • Hi Jen! I treat retinol as a serum. After essence, before cream or oil. Sounds like you are doing it right. Impressed your skin can handle retinol 5x a week; I only do 2-3x a week!

      9.25.19 Reply
  12. Joanid:

    Is there anywhere I can donate unused skincare products? After trying A Badner rich cream I won’t be needing most of my arsenal of skincare products.

    3.9.21 Reply