Have you been noticing fine lines? Wrinkles? Brown spots? Then it’s probably time you start using retinol.
What exactly is retinol? It’s like the Wonder Woman of skincare products. A derivative of Vitamin A, retinol can do it all: promote collagen production, smooth fine lines, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fade pigmentation, and fight blemishes. Basically, it slows down the aging process (in your face and neck anyway) and helps you have fresher, smoother skin.
But before you start using retinol products, here are some things you should know about adding retinol in your skincare routine.
1. Slowly incorporate retinol into your skincare routine.
Should I use retinol every day? That’s a question we hear a lot. The truth is every person’s skin tolerates retinol differently. So it’s best to be cautious and only use it once or twice a week to see how your skin tolerates it at first. After a couple of weeks of using it, you can work up to applying it every other night and then every night, if your skin acclimates to the retinol.
Some women are able to use retinol every night as part of their skincare routine, while others, especially those prone to really dry or sensitive skin, can only use it 3-4 times a week. It’s OK if you can’t use it every night. A few times a week will still generate positive results—just know it takes months to see results no matter how often you apply retinol.
2. Apply retinol at night.
Sunlight can dimish retinol and its anti-aging and anti-acne effects because retinoids break down in the sun, causing them to be weak and less effective. Going out in the sun also brings out pigmentation. So if you put retinol on in the morning, a product that’s supposed to fade pigmentation, and then go out in the sun, which brings out pigmentation, you could damage your skin. Reap the full benefits of retinol by applying it before bed after cleansing your face.
3. Moisturize before and after applying retinol.
Retinol products, whether you use a retinol serum or cream, can cause your skin to be a little dryer than normal. You may even see some redness or flakiness. Don’t freak out if this happens to you in the first month of using retinol. Your skin needs time to adjust to the retinol, which is called the retinization period, and during this time there may be some mild skin irritation. To help relieve the dryness, apply a thin layer of plain, non-medicated moisturizer before and after you apply retinol—what some call the retinol sandwich—or at least apply a moisturizer after retinol.
4. Be conservative with how much you use.
Treat your retinol serum or cream like kindness—a little of it goes a long way. Applying too much retinol at once can have the opposite effect of what you’re wanting, causing damage rather than reversing it. Typically you just need a pea-sized amount. Rub the dab of retinol between your fingertips, and then spread it evenly and gently on your entire face. Always read the directions on your retinol container to make sure you use the right amount.
5. There isn’t an age restriction.
When should I apply retinol to my skincare routine? This is another common question. Some dermatologists tell women to start using retinol in their 20s. Others recommended starting in your 30s because after age 30 the cells in your skin turnover significantly slower than in your teens and 20s, and this slower turnover rate is what begins that dreaded aging process. So really there is no age restriction on when to use it.
Retinoids were actually first used to treat acne in adolescents and then dermatologists starting noticing that those who were using it for acne after awhile had really youthful-looking skin. If you want to prevent fine lines, aging, and pigmentation, though, we recommended adding retinol in your skincare routine when you’re in your late 20s or early 30s. But it’s also never too late to start!
Besides retinol, check out these other anti-aging ingredients you want in your skincare products.