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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between retinoids and retinol?


    Retinoids are vitamin A and its natural derivatives. Vitamin A is 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.

    When dermatologists refer to “retinoids,” they refer to prescription-grade retinoids, which contain the active ingredient, retinoic acid. Upon direct contact with your skin, retinoic acid is converted by your skin to boost collagen. As such, it improves pigmentation, skin texture and roughness, fine lines and wrinkles, and acne. It also has protective effects against precancerous skin lesions.


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

  • What are the benefits of retinoids?

    Retinoids improve fine/coarse wrinkles, mottled hyperpigmentation, pore size, lentigines, elastosis, irregular depigmentation, tactile roughness, and acne. 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 fine lines and 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).

  • 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 a moisturizer, etc.). Some common side effects of retinoids are sensitivity, peeling or redness, but again these can be greatly minimized with proper care and are temporary for the first 2-4 weeks as your skin learns to tolerate. When first starting to use retinoids, retinoids can temporarily make your skin more sensitive to the sun, but sunscreen to the rescue! (We’re assuming you’re already using daily SPF though, right?). Keep in mind, after a few months, 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 Dear Brightly, we don’t accept those who are trying to conceive, 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-grade retinoids, depending on the type of changes you are expecting to see, your skin type, or how consistently you use it. The following is a rough time frame:

    • Rough spots3 - 4 weeks
    • Discoloration3 - 4 weeks
    • Brown spots6 - 8 weeks
    • Fine wrinkles3 - 6 weeks
  • 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 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 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, Dear Brightly 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    To start, apply every third night

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


    Always use a 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 every third night 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 a 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:

    1. Your provider will start you off with a strength-level that is appropriate for your skin type
    2. Be sure to moisturize twice daily. We have a product that is designed to be used with retinoids.
    3. 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!

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

    Stop using the product and connect with your provider through the portal or connect with your provider of choice in-person.

  • 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 pregnant, stop use of your retinoid and contact your provider in our HIPAA compliant portal.

  • Am I too old / too young to use retinoids?

    Dermatologists say you can start using retinoids as early as your 20’s to prevent side effects of photoaging. (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.)

  • Which states is Dear Brightly available?

    Our over-the-counter products are available anywhere in the United States. Services for prescription-grade products are available in certain states. Feel free to email us at support@dearbrightly.com if you have any questions about availability.

  • When can I expect my shipment?

    Over-the-counter products ship within 5-7 business days after placing your order. For prescription-grade products, expect to receive your order within 5-7 business days after completing your Skin Profile.

  • What's the return policy?

    For over-the-counter products, all returns or exchanges must be processed within 14 days of receiving the order, and you will receive your refund in the original form of payment (credit card refunds take 5-10 business days to appear on your statement). Shipping fees are not covered by Dear Brightly. Please reach out to support@dearbrightly.com with your order ID and the products you'd like to return or exchange.

    For prescription-grade services/products, you are eligible to cancel for a full refund up until the point that you have not yet completed your Skin Profile. If your provider has already reviewed your Skin Profile, you are eligible for a refund less the non-refundable $20 provider fee. Please reach out to support@dearbrightly.com with your order ID. If your product has shipped and is in transit, returns, refunds or exchanges are not accepted.

  • Can I use insurance?

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

  • Do providers evaluate other skin conditions?

    Providers will only evaluate symptoms of photoaging.

  • Can I choose my pharmacy?

    Yes. We're happy to provide compounding pharmacy options for you or send in your prescription to the pharmacy of your choice. Let your provider know which state licensed pharmacy you prefer through the portal.

  • Will I definitely get a prescription for a retinoid?

    It’s not always the case where each person is fit for a retinoid. After a thorough review of your skin and medical history, your provider determines whether you are a good telehealth candidate for a retinoid or not.

  • How do I talk with my provider?

    Your provider is here for you, and you have access to your provider at any time. Just login to your account and go to your messages with your provider under our HIPAA compliant portal. In the case of an emergency, call 911 immediately.

  • Do providers examine for anything outside of photoaging?

    At this time, providers only review your skin profile for the treatment of photoaging in the realm of cosmetics. Although retinoids are proven to treat acne as well, providers do not review your Skin Profile to treat acne.

  • Why do I need to show my ID?

    Generally just like you would when you physically go in for a doctor's visit, showing a photo ID is necessary to verify your identity. We respect your privacy and the security of all of your information. We've taken the necessary steps to make sure your privacy and information are safe via our HIPAA compliant protocols and system.