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If you know even a little about retinol, you’ve probably come to realize it’s a very regimented ingredient. There are rules about how to start using it (more on that later), coordinating proper sun protection, whether or not you can wax, and so on. Hence why “when should you start using retinol” is a popular Google search query. Here, we’ve done our research and reached out to an expert so we can share the facts about when to add retinol to your skin care routine.
Using retinol isn’t like getting a driver’s license. You don’t hit a certain age and automatically know that adding retinol to your routine is something you’re supposed to do. The truth is, a dermatologist may recommend you start using retinol in your routine at different ages depending on your skin. With that said, it’s an ingredient recommended for those in a wide age range, including those who are younger than you might have expected. We spoke with Dr. Rocio Rivera, PhD, and head of scientific communications for L’Oréal Paris, who shared, “Dermatologists typically recommend to start retinol usage in your late teens and early 20s.” It’s all about prevention.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) also notes that while dermatologists’ skin care recommendations tend to differ based on factors such as their patient’s age, using a retinoid is one consistent piece of guidance.
Despite its known anti-aging benefits, you don’t have to wait until you notice signs of aging to start using retinol. We know you likely haven’t spotted your first wrinkle yet as a teen, but per Dr. Rivera, “If you have problematic skin or are prone to breakouts, retinol has been proven to help.” There’s more than one reason experts recommend using retinol (problematic skin and anti-aging), which is why it’s recommended for people of different ages.
You may have heard it suggested that the earlier you start using retinol, the better, and this is because retinol doesn’t just reduce the appearance of signs of aging, like wrinkles, it also can help prevent them. “Retinol does work to both prevent and correct wrinkles, but in conjunction with SPF,” says Dr. Rivera. “It helps to smooth and even skin’s texture, reduces enlarged pores, and has a wide spectrum of benefits. That’s why the earlier you start the better and consistency is key. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
According to experts, your 20s are a great time to start a preventative skin care routine with retinol. The AAD recommends using an anti-aging treatment like a topical retinoid starting in your 20s. You should also use SPF as part of your preventative routine along with retinol.
One of our favorite ways to get started with retinol is to use a retinol serum. We love the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum, 0.3% Pure Retinol. This face serum is formulated with our highest concentration of pure retinol, and it works to fight key signs of aging like wrinkles. The night serum also smooths and brightens your complexion for a luminous finish.
To incorporate the serum into your daily routine, you’ll need to allow for an acclimation period. Dr. Rivera recommends the following: During your first week, start by using retinol every second or third night on dry skin and apply moisturizer on top. The second week, if your skin is not experiencing any discomfort, you can use it every other night. If everything is fine in the third week, you can switch to nightly use.
For added benefits, you can follow up with a retinol moisturizer. These typically won’t be as strong as a retinoid you’d be prescribed by the dermatologist but can still help to upgrade your skin care routine. The L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Day Lotion SPF 30 is a perfect example. This moisturizer with SPF is formulated with Pro-Retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid, but the big difference is it offers broad-spectrum sun protection. The fact that it combines broad-spectrum sun protection is key, as, per the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), retinoids are known to increase sun sensitivity.
Adding a moisturizer to your routine is easy. Smooth it gently over cleansed skin and make sure to take additional sun protection measures, as recommended by the FDA, including seeking shade when outside and reapplying SPF at least every two hours.
If you didn’t jump on the retinol bandwagon as a teen or in your 20s, it definitely isn’t too late. Dr. Rivera shares, “Even if fine lines and wrinkles appear in your 30s, retinol will work with your skin to reduce their appearance.” While prevention is great, minimizing the look of wrinkles is also a valuable benefit of retinol. On that note, the AAD suggests that in your 30s, you can use a retinoid for addressing both the appearance of acne and wrinkles. You can do so by incorporating a retinol serum into your routine like we mentioned above.
Don’t stop using retinol when you hit your 40s. Speaking on the powerful ingredient, Dr. Rivera says, “It also helps those with set wrinkles in their 40s.” Instead of completely switching up your routine, we recommend adding to it. Keep using your retinol serum, but make sure your regimen includes a moisturizer with Pro-Retinol, too. Try the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Anti-Aging Moisturizer Fragrance-Free, which is formulated with Pro-Retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid—three top anti-aging ingredients. This face cream visibly reduces the appearance of wrinkles and firms and brightens the skin in just one week.
Smooth the moisturizer on after your serum, or give this tip from Dr. Rivera a try, “You can mix your retinol and your moisturizer. Remember a little goes a long way with retinol, just use two to three drops. Mix it with the Triple Power moisturizer, then apply it to your face.” In the morning, you can use a moisturizer with SPF instead.
Nope, it’s still not time to give up on retinol. “Once you enter your 50s and 60s, you should still use retinol. It’s important to always have retinol in your routine, no matter how old you are,” says Dr. Rivera. Make sure you’re taking care of not just your face but your neck, too. Your neck is a key spot that can show signs of aging, which is why you won’t want to overlook it. Start using a face and neck cream formulated with retinol, like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Anti-Wrinkle + Firming Face & Neck Contour Cream. This formula includes Pro-Retinol A to help accelerate skin renewal. The non-greasy cream helps to improve skin’s elasticity and reveal smoother, firmer-looking skin. Smooth the moisturizer over your face, neck, and jawline every morning and evening.
Go to Target.com to get started with your retinol skin care routine.
Next: Retinol vs. Retinoid: What's the Difference?
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