What Age Should You Start Using Retinol?

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Retinol is derived from vitamin A and is naturally found in some foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes. It is applied to the skin and is converted to retinoic acid by the skin enzymes. Retinol can be found in many popular products.

Retinol can be used as an over-the-counter (OTC) or in prescription form for skincare which alters the aging cells to maintain youthful-looking skin, as it’s an anti-aging powerhouse. It enhances smooth skin and texture and helps maintain radiant, glowing skin.

But at what age should you start using retinol?

Keep reading to find out!


The Primary Uses For Retinol 

Retinol is found in natural forms such as retinoic acid and retinaldehyde. Its oxidation by-product is an aldehyde, which is further oxidized to carboxylic acid. Vitamin A is supplied to the body in the form of retinyl esters which are converted into retinol in the human intestines. 

Retinoids are very important components that play a significant role in the process of reproduction, vision, skin cell growth, inflammation, proliferation, and apoptosis.

It comes in various forms, with the primary form being Over the Counter Retinol. But it also comes as Retin-A, a prescription treatment, also commonly known as Tretinoin.

Benefits of Using Retinol

Vitamin A stimulates the production of collagen and skin elasticity, which is essential for a youthful, healthy skin, reduces skin wrinkling, visibility of skin pores, heals acne, and acts as hyperpigmentation removal.

Retinol is one form of retinoid, an important ingredient in skincare for altering the aging of skin cells to maintain youthful, healthy-looking skin. 

It aids in smoothing and refining the skin texture, promotes a healthy, radiant skin, and slows aging. You have to incorporate retinol into skincare routines to promote skin renewal, facilitate skin collagen production, reduce the aging appearance, promote an even skin tone, and reduce age spots.

The following are some of the benefits of using retinol:

  • Helps in the prevention of wrinkles, facilitates a smooth face, and reduces the lines that result from wrinkles and aging.
  • It helps exfoliate the skin and brighten dull skin at a cellular level, leading to smoother skin.
  • It is good for regulating oily skin and minimizing acne and skin breakouts.
  • Aids in the removal of dark spots, sunburns as a result of extended direct sun exposure, hyperpigmentation, and evening out the skin complexion. 

Serum retinol and retinol-binding protein (RBP) are the two most important biochemical indicators highly recommended for determining a deficiency in vitamin A. Retinol-binding protein concentration is an important component in determining whether Vitamin A deficiency is posing a health problem. 

Factors such as malnutrition, liver diseases, renal failure, and stress can influence retinol production and affect the serum retinol concentration.

What Age Should You Start Using Retinol?

For anti-aging purposes, retinal use can start in the 20s. As retinol is great for skin health, many feel that if you start using retinol before your wrinkles really come in, it will be more effective.

However, it is important to seek a dermatologist’s consultation to get a prescription such as oral tretinoin and topical tretinoin, recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for people from 12 years and up.

If you are considering retinol or one of the associated chemicals at an age younger than your 20s, be sure to talk with a doctor first. Dermatologists may prescribe topical retinoids to children under the age of 12 years. 

For anti-aging purposes, retinal use can start in the 20s. As retinol is great for skin health, many feel that if you start using retinol before your wrinkles really come in, it will be more effective.

Also, be sure to remember that retinol and its associated products like Tretinoin can cause skin “purges” and can make skin issues worse before finally resolving.

This process, often called “the Retinol Uglies” or a “Tretinoin Purge” can be particularly traumatic for younger people who may have more difficulty dealing with these issues.

And in occasional cases, retinol can appear to make wrinkles worse.

How Often Can Retinol Be Used?

Retinoids work best if administered daily, especially at night, because some types are deactivated by light and air.

You can start the use slowly and allow your skin time to adjust. Overuse can cause redness, dryness, and irritation. At the beginning of use, you may administer a small amount once or twice a week. 

As your skin gets used to it, you can use it more often until you’re able to use it every day, nightly. Then, you can increase the strength if necessary.

Side Effects of Retinol

Side effects of topical retinol usually happen when you first start using it before your skin gets accustomed to its use. They may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Dryness
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Stinging

Most often, these effects improve as you get used to the medication.

Also, as mentioned above, you may get a nasty flare-up at the beginning of use, especially during the first few weeks. It may take up to 12 weeks to see optimum results.


Stick to mild, gentle skincare products; retinol and its associated chemicals can be irritating, especially at first.

It’s best to avoid using them with other sources of skincare like: 

Retinol can cause dryness and irritation, i.e., retinoid dermatitis. Keeping your skin moisturized is very important.

For those with dry or sensitive skin, you can apply your retinoid over a moisturizer.

Protect yourself from ultraviolet rays while using retinol — no joke! No tanning or tanning bed use!

Protect yourself from ultraviolet rays while using retinol — no joke! No tanning or tanning bed use!

Retinol makes your skin sensitive to sunburns, so it’s necessary to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily. It should be SPF 30 or higher and cover UVA and UVB rays. Reapply frequently when outside. 

Retinol increases skin sensitivity; therefore, if you consider using other procedures such as waxing, peels, lasers, and other facial procedures, it is important to stop using retinol for 5 days to 1 week prior. 

Retinol and Pregnancy

Avoid retinol use if pregnant. The use of retinol during pregnancy can cause a condition called fetal retinoid syndrome, which causes physical and mental birth defects.

The types of deformity and severity vary but tend to impact prenatal and postnatal growth, along with several systems in fetuses. The most common is the craniofacial, cardiac, central nervous system, and thymic malformations.

Avoid retinol use if pregnant.


Retinol has many uses in cosmetics to help reduce wrinkles and signs of aging and can be prescribed in various forms by doctors to treat several skin conditions. However, these may have side effects that are more likely to occur with frequent high doses.

Always follow the directions for use and avoid taking them more frequently or in larger amounts than doctors recommend.

In most cases, you should be clear to start using retinol in your early 20s. If you have certain circumstances like acne breakouts at ages younger than that, you may be able to use some form of retinol under the supervision of your doctor.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).