The Science

What are retinoids?

Retinoids are vitamin A and its natural derivatives.

Retinoids are used by the body in many ways beyond skincare: to improve vision, regulate cell proliferation and differentiation, grow bone tissue, and activate immune function and tumor suppressor genes.

In the context of skin, retinoids stimulate collagen production, normalize melanocyte function, and regulate skin cell turnover, all of which improve pigmentation, skin texture and roughness, and fine lines and wrinkles.

What are retinols?

Retinol is a type of non-prescription-strength retinoid often found in skin aging creams. Retinol is the precursor of retinoic acid, the active ingredient in prescription-level retinoids, like Tretinoin and Retin-A. Because retinols require further conversion to retinoic acid, they are not as potent as prescription-level retinoids.

The Benefits

What are the benefits of retinoids?

Retinoids can improve acne, fine/coarse wrinkles, mottled hyperpigmentation, pore size, lentigines, elastosis, irregular depigmentation, and tactile roughness. They also stimulate collagen production to thicken and repair the epidermis.

Do retinoids help with hyperpigmentation?

Yes! Retinoids can improve mottled or irregular hyperpigmentation.

Do retinoids help with wrinkles?

Retinoids improve wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen. Fine lines appear over time because your cells produce less collagen (the structural protein of the skin), causing your skin to appear thinner and looser. The less collagen your skin has, the less water it can retain, causing structural folds (i.e., wrinkles and lines).

What about dark circles under my eyes?

Dark circles under the eyes can be caused by thinning skin in the area exposing blood vessels underneath. Because retinoids help increase collagen production, they can help thicken the skin in the area under the eye, therefore, reducing the appearance of dark circles. It is important to note that the effects may be subtle.

What to expect

Do retinoids thin your skin?

No. They do the opposite. They thicken your skin. While they decrease the layer of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin (this is where the thinning myth comes from), they have been proven to increase collagen production to actually thicken your skin.

What are the side effects? Are retinoids safe?

Good news! Side effects can be greatly minimized with great instructions and proper use (e.g. appropriate strength level for your skin type, applying oil-free moisturizer, etc.). Some common side effects of retinoids are sensitivity, peeling or redness, but again these can be greatly minimized with proper care. When first starting to use retinoids, retinoids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. We advise using sun protection (but we’re assuming you’re already doing that, right?). Keep in mind, after a few months of use, your skin’s response to UV rays will return to normal.

For those prone to acne, there may be a two to four week “purging” period where you experience acne breakouts before your skin clears up. Patience is key.

Over the past 40+ years, no systemic side-effects or risks on the long-term treatment of topical retinoids have been observed.

At DearBrightly, we don’t accept those we are pregnant or nursing. It’s not proven that topical retinoids are 100% safe for pregnant or nursing women.

Do retinoids make you more sensitive to the sun?

Sunscreen to the rescue! It’s a myth that you can’t use retinoids and go out into the sun. Without sunscreen, your skin can become more sensitive to the sun, but after a months your skin’s response to UV rays will return to normal. Either way, always apply sunscreen to prevent photoaging and skin cancer.

How long until I start seeing results?

Results vary for prescription-strength retinoids, depending on the type of changes you are expecting to see. The following is a rough time frame:

Rough spots


Brown spots

Fine wrinkles

3 - 4 weeks

3 - 4 weeks

6 - 8 weeks

3 - 6 months

Do retinoids cause acne breakouts?

Retinoids may cause acne breakouts when first using the product for two to four weeks, especially for people with acne-prone skin. This is known as "purging", when your acne gets worse before it gets better and clears your skin. Patience is key.

What should I expect when using retinoids?

When first using retinoids, your medical provider will evaluate your skin and start you off with a strength-level that is appropriate for your skin type. That way your skin can learn to tolerate and build up to a more potent strength. Feel free to communicate with your medical provider on your ongoing progress. You may experience some peeling, dryness, and sensitivity, all of which can be managed and prevented by the right strength and proper usage. Don't worry, DearBrightly will hold you hand through the process so you get a great experience.

What if I accidentally become pregnant while using retinoids?

You should discontinue using your retinoid as soon as you find out that you are pregnant and connect with your medical provider through the portal.

Will I experience hair loss or liver damage after long-term use of retinoids?

No. There have been no side effects resulting from long-term use of topical retinoids.

How to Use

What products should I avoid when using retinoids?

Since benzoyl peroxide is known to decrease the stability of your retinoid, benzoyl peroxide and other topical antibiotics should be applied in the morning and your retinoid applied in the evening.

Also, abrasive cleansers (e.g., face wash with glycolic or AHA/BHA acids) can make the skin more sensitive by damaging the epidermal barrier and should be avoided when using retinoids.

Where can I use retinoids?

You can use retinoids on your entire face, hands, neck, and chest.

What are some pro tips to get the best retinoid experience?

Do not use more than a dime-size amount

Using more than a dime-size will increase your risk of dryness, irritation, and redness. It does not increase efficacy.


Start off once a week

If your skin is new to retinoids or you’re starting on a higher strength, start off by applying your retinoid once a week and gradually increase to nightly as your skin learns to tolerate.



Always use an oil-free moisturizer right after applying your retinoid to prevent dryness.


Use sunscreen

At first retinoids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, but after a few months your skin’s response to UV rays will return to normal. Always make sure to apply SPF daily (important regardless to prevent photoaging).


Apply when skin is completely dry

When your skin is wet after washing your face, it absorbs the retinoids more readily.

Do I have to apply sunscreen if I use retinoids?

Without sunscreen, retinoids can make your skin temporarily photosensitive. Just know, your skin does normalize after a few months. With or without retinoids though, sun protection is important to prevent photoaging and skin cancer.

When should I apply retinoids? How often?

It is best to apply retinoids at nighttime, starting once every week and increasing frequency to once a day, if you can tolerate it.

Do I need to apply a moisturizer on my skin after using retinoids?

To significantly reduce irritation and dryness, we highly recommend using an oil-free moisturizer.

Can I use retinoids if I have dry or sensitive skin?

Any skin type can benefit from retinoids, even dry or sensitive skin. There are three things to keep in mind:


Your medical provider will start you off with a strength-level that is appropriate for your skin type.


Be sure to moisturize twice daily. We have a product that is designed to be used with retinoids.


Start applying your retinoid once a week and then increase to nightly as your skin learns to tolerate.

Can I use retinoids if I have acne?

Yes. In fact, retinoids are used to treat acne. Keep in mind though you may experience an initial breakout period for 2-4 weeks, especially if you have acne prone skin. After though, your skin clears up. Patience is key!

Can men use retinoids?

Of course! Retinoids are not specific to gender.

When should I not use retinoids?

You should NOT use retinoids if you are nursing or pregnant. If you find that you are pregant, stop use of your retinoid and contact your medical provider in the doctor's portal.

Am I too old / too young to use retinoids?

Dermatologists say you can start using retinoids as early as your 20’s for preventative and regenerative photoaging measures. (There is no age restriction for using retinoids, but they are not recommended for children under the age of 13 and we do not accept those under the age of 18.)


Where do you ship to?

Our over-the-counter products ship anywhere in the US. Our prescription-strength retinoids are only shipped in California at this time.

What is your return policy?

For over-the-counter products, all returns or exchanges must be processed within 14 days of receiving the order. Original shipping fees are not covered by DearBrightly. Please reach out to with your order ID and the products you'd like to return.

For prescription-strength products, upon request we offer a 60-day full refund if you're unsatisfied. We will refund your money to your original form of payment. Please reach out to with your order ID. Before canceling your account though, we encourage you to message your medical provider through the portal with any questions or concerns you have. We're always here to help.

What should I do if I have a bad reaction with my retinoid?

Stop using the product and connect with your medical provider through the portal.

When will I get my prescription retinoid?

From the moment you submit your photos and answer the supplemental questions, you can expect to get your prescription retinoid within 5-7 business days.

Can I use insurance to cover my prescription retinoid?

Insurance companies do not cover prescription retinoids for beauty or cosmetic reasons.

Do the medical providers evaluate other skin conditions?

Our medical providers will only evaluate symptoms of skin aging.

Can I gift products?

You can gift our Rx products to a friend or family ONLY if they also reside in California. All you need to do is provide their name, address, and email in the shipping section when checking out. We'll send them the link to the questionnaire, where they can update their skin profile and medical info for our doctor to evaluate.

How long do the Rx products last?

The Glowgetter Lite lasts approximately 2 months and the Glowgetter lasts approximately 4 months.

Can I choose where I get my retinoid?

Yes, we're happy to provide pharmacy options for you or send in your prescription to the pharmacy of your choice. Let your medical provider know which state licensed pharmacy you'd like to get your retinoid from through the portal.