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At my Fresh Aesthetics skin clinics in Portadown and Newry, I’m frequently asked about retinol. When you’re looking for something to help boost skin cell turnover (to give you skin that glows) and increase your collagen production, then look no further. Retinol needs to be on your radar.
Retinol does wonders for your skin cells and collagen and can be found in many skincare products. But here’s the burning question: When do you need to start using retinol?

But first…

What exactly is retinol?

Retinol is a topical derivative of vitamin A and known as a retinoid. Retinol can be found over the counter and shouldn’t be confused with stronger retinoid versions such as Retin-A (that’s pure retinoic acid), which require a prescription.

Pay attention to the concentration of retinol as it does come in various strengths. Of course, the stronger the retinol, the higher likelihood (especially if you have sensitive skin) that your skin will become red and irritated.

Here’s a quick guide on the different strengths:

Note that all of this depends on your skin type and your skin’s tolerance level.

Low: Retinol 0.01%-0.03%. This can be applied to your skin on a daily basis.

Moderate: Retinol 0.04%–0.2%.  Test it out to see if your skin can tolerate it as now you are increasing the strength. Ideally, it would be initially applied twice per week.

High: Retinol 0.5%–1%. This is the superpower version and should only be used after your skin gets used to moderate retinol concentrations. Using high levels for seven days can really improve your skin’s collagen production.

When should I start?

Now, basically.

Skincare is a long game. Raise your hand if you — all of a sudden — started cramming your beauty routine with all sorts of skincare products the minute you spotted your first wrinkle. Truth be told, we really should be looking at incorporating various skincare products, especially retinol, much earlier on.

And thanks to innovative skincare technology, retinol isn’t what it was 10 or even 15 years ago. Experts agree that the ideal age to introduce retinol into your skincare regimen can be around 25, as that’s when your skin’s collagen and elastin production starts to slow down.

Have I missed the “retinol boat”?


There’s no such thing as a bad time to start a proper skincare routine that includes retinol.

Your skin is your largest organ, constantly breathing and regenerating. Getting some much-needed ingredients into your dermis is always a good idea. The key is to make sure that you use the right concentration of retinol depending on your skin type and what your skin needs. It may take some trial and error as everyone’s skin reacts differently, so always consult your skincare professional to find out what’s right for you. Once you’ve gotten that equation down pat, the possibilities are endless!

What are the side effects?

There’s a reason why retinoic acid is only available via prescription. Those with acne who have been prescribed Retin-A can attest to that. However, depending on your skin and the retinol concentration, your skin can get red, dry and flaky.

Also, be aware of UV sensitivity. Use retinol in the evening and wash your face in the morning. And yes, you should always include a broad-spectrum sunscreen in your routine regardless!