When Should You Start Using Retinol?

Our skin starts to show signs of premature ageing as we enter our 20s. The free radical damage of pollution and sun causes the cells that produce collagen in our skin to break down.

The skin starts to lose elasticity and wrinkles and spots may appear due to sun damage.

This becomes much harder and more complicated to reverse if the skin is far-gone in later decades.

So what do we do about it now so we don’t have to deal with it later?

By now, I am pretty sure you have been told many times or read hundreds of titles on how retinol is the powerhouse ingredient you need to achieve a fresh and youthful complexion.

Retinol is indeed the wonder ingredient when it comes to reversing sun damage and ageing, but when should you start using retinol?

In this post, I’d like to simplify retinol and its benefits for your skin.

My favourite Retinol cream is the Medik8 r-Retinoate Intense.
NB: Before you go, be sure to download my guide showing you the 4 things everyone needs in their skincare routine.

What Is Retinol?

One of the body’s key nutrients for boosting cell turnover is vitamin A.

Retinol, alongside the other members in the family of retinoids, is essentially a derivative of vitamin A. This ingredient can be found in a variety of potencies in different skin care products.

Depending on the concentration, you can find them in over-the-counter serums and creams that are lower in strength such as retinyl palmitate which is the weakest of the retinoids, retinol which is the next strongest and most tolerable and retinaldehyde which is even stronger.

There is also the strongest over-the-counter version that is specially formulated to treat acne and this is called adapalene.

Besides the lower strength retinoids, there are also the prescription-strength topical retinoids like tretinoin and tazarotene, which work much faster and more effectively, but are known to have side effects such as irritation, peeling and sensitivity.

What Does Retinol Do?

Retinol boosts the natural cell turnover process which normally starts to slow down as we enter our 20s.

This will help even out uneven skin tones and hyperpigmentation caused by acne, sun damage, pregnancy, and hormonal imbalances that have triggered excess melanin production.

Retinol is added to topical skin care products to promote skin renewal, brighten skin tone and support collagen cells in their quest for plump and healthy skin.

Retinol also functions as an antioxidant (you can see the benefits of antioxidants here) and helps the skin against the free radical damage, the main contributor for visible signs of ageing.

Retinol reduces the amount of excess sebum in the skin for oily skin types.

It is great for certain types of acne such as blackheads, whiteheads, and closed comedones as it efficiently unclogs oil plugs from the follicles and pores.

When Should You Start Using Retinol?

Dermatologists say that retinol is the one ingredient everyone should have in their skincare routine.

Retinol is safe to use for men or women in their 20s to help reduce the signs of premature ageing such as fine lines and boost collagen production.

Note: If you’re a male reading this, you should see my skin care guide for men here.

Your mid-20s is definitely the best time for you to start incorporating retinol in your skincare routine.

As beside it having a great anti-ageing effect, retinol also reduces pores, so this makes it the best sauce to smoother skin.

It is best to ensure you are on a good skin care regimen when the first signs of premature ageing start to appear rather than waiting until much later when it is going to be more difficult to reverse the damage on your skin.

Retinol causes the skin to shed cells faster than normal, so this is likely to cause flakiness, dryness, irritation, and sensitivity until your skin adjusts and builds a tolerance to it.

How Should You Use Retinol?

when should you start using retinol

However, you have to proceed with care when it comes to retinol as it can be irritating if used too frequently or if the formulation happens to be too strong for your skin.

Sunlight causes the structure of the chemical to break down and besides decreasing the efficacy of the product, it can totally make your skin worse so using retinol at night is best.

How Much Retinol Should You Apply?

You can start off with applying a pea-sized amount two nights a week and build up slowly with adding one night each subsequent week.

Consider getting a low, over-the-counter formula in the beginning and slowly progress to higher strength retinol if needed.

Retinol can be quite drying for the skin so always follow with the application of a moisturizer to hydrate your face. Applying a moisturizer on top will not dilute or reduce the efficacy of the retinoid and it also helps with tolerability.

Because retinol makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays you should always be diligent about applying a daily broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher after your moisturizer in the morning.

Don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen every two hours if you are not wearing makeup during the day and you are exposed to the sun to protect yourself from the harmful UV rays.

Moreover, you should always be conscious of the weather forecast and trips to hot climates. Avoid using retinol while on holidays where you will be spending extended time in direct sunlight.

Final Thoughts

So this post explained what is retinol, the benefits of using retinol on your face and also;

When should you start incorporating retinol in your skincare regimen, which I suggest it to be in your 20s.

If you’d like to know more about how to care for your skin as you get older, you can see my guide on the best skin care routine to follow in your 30s.

when and how should you start using retinol

2 thoughts on “When Should You Start Using Retinol?”

  1. I was looking for info on retinol uses when your site came up. Thanks for sharing all the info and explained in a way that anyone can understand.
    Was just wondering, is it safe to use Retinol while pregnant? something I would also like to know, are retinol side effects long term?
    Thanks once again for sharing.

    • Dear Roamy,

      Thank you for reading my article!

      While there isn’t much scientific proof behind why you shouldn’t use Retinol during pregnancy, experts often advise against it, so the best option for you to avoid it and perhaps opt for a more natural alternative, which, in my opinion, is Bakuchiol. I also wrote an article about it so you can check it out here if you’re interested.

      Retinol can cause mild side effects in the form of flaking, redness, and dryness which aren’t permanent, however, that means that you are probably using it too often, or a too strong of a concentration. My advise would be to start with smaller percentage of over-the-counter Retinols.

      Also, be advised that once you start using Retinol you should also be diligent with using sunscreen in the morning, because Retinol makes the skin sensitive to the sun and has the potential to cause unwanted pigmentation and skin irritations.

      All the best!


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