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At What Age Should You Start Retinol?

Are you too young to use retinol?

Here are some questions that puzzle most skincare enthusiasts: at what age should you start retinol? Are you too young or too old to use retinol? Will retinol make your skin age faster if you use it too soon? As a skincare consultant, I often hear these concerns. Let’s get to the bottom of this, shall we? The truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer because everyone’s skin marches to the beat of its own drum. I’m here to clear the mist and shed light on the best age to start using retinol.

What is the right age to start retinol?

Let’s cut right to the chase.

Most experts suggest considering retinol in your mid to late 20s, especially when early signs of aging, such as fine lines or uneven skin texture, start to show. This coincides with the time when natural collagen production slows down, around the age of 25. Using retinol in your mid-20s isn’t a must, though, but it can make your skin age healthily. 

The truth is that the right time to start retinol treatment is not about chronological age but rather about the needs and condition of your skin. If you’re cruising through your mid-20s with healthy skin, you might not need to use retinol. But if you’re even younger, say in your early 20s, and have acne or sun-damaged skin, retinol can be an effective treatment. 

And don’t worry. Retinol won’t age your skin faster if you use it when you’re young. Only time makes you old. That’s right, the myth that retinol accelerates aging if you use it too early in life is just that—a myth.

Age-specific recommendations

In Your 20s: This decade is all about prevention. Your skin is still producing collagen at a healthy rate, but it’s never too early to start preventive care. A low concentration of retinol (0.1% to 0.3%) can help maintain your skin’s youthful glow and ward off early signs of aging. It’s also a time when most struggle with acne, and retinol can be an effective treatment.

In Your 30s: Your 30s is when you’re most likely to see some new fine lines. This is a good time to introduce retinol more consistently into your skincare routine. Choose a formulation with 0.5-1% retinol to address early aging signs, uneven skin tone, rough texture, and large pores.

In Your 40s and Beyond: Your skin’s natural collagen production slows down in your 40s. Higher concentrations of retinol can be more beneficial, targeting wrinkles, loss of firmness, and more visible sun damage.

How to start retinol

If this is your first time using retinol, start with a retinol cream for beginners, like these. These creams are formulated with a low concentration of active ingredients (0.1-0.3%) to be gentle on the skin. Remember to only use retinol at night since it can make the skin more sensitive to the sunlight, and apply sunscreen the following day. If you have younger, more reactive skin, be sure to balance your routine with hydrating and soothing ingredients to counteract dryness and irritation. And never use retinol if you have sunburn or active wounds on your skin.

Who wrote this?
Picture of Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder of Women's Concepts and a certified skincare consultant. She has over five years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and over a decade as an acne sufferer. With a background in dermatological research, Ana brings a wealth of expertise to a diverse range of topics, from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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