As we age, we start hearing all of these anti-aging skincare terms such as collagen, ceramides, lactic acid, and of course, retinol. Retinol is considered a retinoid which is a term used to describe vitamin A derivatives. Retinoids are actually the only topical treatments that are proven to reverse the signs of aging.

Retinol is applied to the skin topically and works to both increase the production of collagen and slow down collagen breakdown. Retinol is considered the gold-standard of anti-aging skincare because of how effective it is. The great thing about this ingredient is that you can even buy it over the counter.

Before using it, it’s important to know if it’s right for you and your skin type. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about retinol!

1. Retinol is totally safe to use.

There are some misconceptions when it comes to the safety of using retinol but we’re here to tell you that yes, it is totally safe to use as a topical treatment. When you first use retinol, you may see some irritation that should go away within a few weeks. This is totally normal as it takes some time for your skin to adjust. Retinol is a pretty powerful ingredient after all.

2. You don’t need to use it until your mid to late 20’s

Retinol works to both minimize the appearance of fine lines and prevent further wrinkles from happening so while you totally could use retinoids when you’re younger, it’s really not necessary until your mid-late 20’s which is when the first signs of aging usually occur.

However, it is common for teenagers to be prescribed retinol by their dermatologist if they’re dealing with acne. In fact, popular acne medicine, Accutane, is actually a form of retinoids.

3. Retinoids are not just for wrinkles.

Most people think of wrinkles when they hear the word retinol, but it can also help with other skin issues as well! On top of smoothing out wrinkles, it also help to even out skin tone, treat acne, and regulate oily skin. This is because this ingredient exfoliates the skin at the cellular level!

4. You should only apply it at night.

You’ll want to apply retinoid before bed because when you are sleeping, it can go to work on your skin uninterrupted. This means without exposure to sun, environmental elements, and muscle movement.

There are two different recommended ways to applying retinol—to oily, unwashed skin and to freshly cleansed skin. If you have naturally dry skin, you may want to apply your retinol before cleansing your skin. This way any natural oils on your skin can act as a buffer between the retinol and your skin. If your skin is less sensitive, apply your retinol after cleansing your face with an alcohol-free cleanser. Your pores will be clearer after cleansing which will allow the retinol to work easier but may leave your skin susceptible to irritation.

5. You need to use retinol consistently to see results.

Just like with most anti-aging skincare ingredients, you won’t see the results of retinol overnight. You need to use retinol consistently for at least 3 months to really see results. It may seem like a long time to wait but just think about it—retinols change the skin at the cellular level so it’s going to take some time.

6. Retinol may cause some irritation at first.

If you have sensitive or dry skin, you may see some irritation when you first start using products with retinol in them. Irritation from retinol can include dryness, itching, peeling, redness, and flaking. If you do notice severe irritation (such as burning or major peeling) after using retinoids, switch to a weaker formula or only use it once a week.

Certain types of retinoids won’t irritate skin as much as others, so if you do have sensitive skin but want to try retinoid, talk to your dermatologist first. They’ll be able to evaluate your skin type and recommend products and ingredients that will work best for you and your skin.

7. Don’t use it every day.

You shouldn’t use retinol every day, at least not at first. The best way to incorporate retinol into your routine is slowly. Try using the product once a week at first and slowly build your usage up to three to four nights a week. This will allow your skin to get used to the ingredient and also minimizes your chances of dealing with irritation.

8. Most retinols aren’t vegan.

Sorry to break it to ya, but retinoids usually aren’t vegan. Traditional retinoids are made from egg yolks or fish liver oil to harvest the vitamin A compounds. If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly alternative to retinol, try bakuchiol. Bakuchiol is a retinoid alternative that is derived from plants to stimulate the production of collagen. Bakuchiol actually won’t irritate the skin like retinol can which also makes it great for people with super sensitive skin.

9. Retinols aren’t just for your face.

Don’t just show love to your face, the rest of your skin is just as important! Some brands are now coming out with body products that contain retinol to help treat stretch marks and even skin tone. While retinol infused body care may not be needed by everyone, it’s a great option for those looking to smooth out the skins texture and tone!

10. Your retinol routine will probably change based on the weather.

Just like your diet and skincare products, your external environment can affect the state of your skin. When it’s cold out, our skin becomes dry and even more sensitive. This means that if you have dry skin, you may need to stop using retinol in the winter or tone it down to just once or twice a week.