What is the Ideal Age to Start Using Retinol-containing Products?

I am 27 and smoke moderately.

Doctor Answers 11

Yes Retinol but No Smoking!

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Rather than nag you to quit, here are some facts: Smoking destroys collagen and elastin, and it decreases estrogen levels, which are necessary to keep skin firm. And significantly impairs healing after procedures and surgery. Don’t forget about causing cancer – and wrinkles. No smoking, please.

Second, Retinol products are powerful antioxidants clinically proven to prevent UV damage and stimulate healthy skin renewal. From acne to wrinkles, antioxidants such as retinol should be an integral part in the skin care of people of all ages from teens and up - except please don't use it if you are pregnant or trying to be pregnant. For that matter don't smoke in the latter situation as well. Summary: Yes retinol but no smoking!

Best of health to you,

Dr. Bassichis

Dallas Facial Plastic Surgeon


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Retinols (Retin-A) are a product that shortens the time it takes for the maturation of the skin cells.  It causes the skin to cycle through in 90 days instead of 120.  This increases the thickness of the alive skin layer skin by 25% while also decreasing the dead skin layer.  This shortened cell cycle causes the skin to peel more easily and break out initially as all the new cells push away the old.  It also makes the skin more vulnerable to the Sun.  Once the product has been used consistently for 6 weeks it begins to take on a new look.  It looks healthier with a glow, less breakouts, evener skin tones, and thicker skin which improves the very fine wrinkles and crepe paper appearance to he skin.  These products in a strength that actually works are only available by prescription.  I recommend the product we carry by Skin Medica which uses a patented micro-sponge delivery system.  This causes a lot less skin irritation and redness during the initial phase of use.  It is never too early to use retinols so I would recommend starting once Acne starts.  Also the precancerous skin cells can not respond to the demand to turn over more quickly and therefore can be sloughed before becoming cancer.

Retinol-containing products are a good choice for all age groups

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Retinoids have been proven to be one of the best products for anti-aging. Regular use will stimulate your skin to make collagen, and improve the texture and tone of your skin. You may also notice an more even appearance of the pigmentation of your skin.

When you start to use a retinoid cream for the first time, you will probably have some skin peeling or flaking, which is just your skin exfoliating and is not a sign of allergy or intolerance to the cream. If you are very dry, try using the cream every other night for a couple of weeks and then go back to using it every night. Unless you get very red or irritated, keep using the retinoid cream and your skin should adjust to it and stop feeling dry after 2 to 3 weeks.

However, no amount of retinoid cream will make up for the fact that you smoke. Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your skin, not to mention the risks to your heart and lungs. Smoking damages the collagen and elastic tissue in the skin, leading to wrinkles and skin sagging. It also decreases the circulation in the skin leading to a sallow complexion. You will also develop vertical lines around your lips, that are very difficult to treat and may require Botox, filler injections and laser procedures to improve.

Jordana S. Gilman, MD
Washington Dermatologic Surgeon

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Starting Retinoids

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The earlier you start taking care of your skin the better.  The two major ways to keep your skin younger is to use sunscreen and not smoke.  Maintaining a proper balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, regular exercise, and taking anti-oxidant vitamins are also useful.  Topically, a regular regimen of retinoids (Retin-A, Retinol, Vitamin A), Vitamin C, and an alpha-hydroxy acid (glycolic acid) are essential.

Randy J. Buckspan, MD
Austin Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

What is the ideal age to use retinoid creams? RR Retinoid Repair Buffalo Niagara, NY

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There is no ideal age and you can start as early as your late teenage years.

Retinoid Repair Cream is excellent and all retinoid products should NOT be used during pregnancy. 

See link below for RR Retinoid Repair Cream. 

Retinols- When to Start

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The use of retinols can be started in the teens (typically for acne), however in most patients, the late twenties to early thirties is the best time.

Anil R. Shah, MD
Chicago Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 181 reviews

Start Retinol creams early

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First, you have to quit smoking. Smoking is the second worst thing you can do to promote skin aging right behind sunbathing. We know smoking breaks down collagen and promotes free radicals in the skin that damage the supporting structure of the skin. As for retinol creams you should start one now. Retinol is not as potent as the prescription RetinA but it will give you some of the same benefits like boosting collagen, softening lines and wrinkles and keeping your skin tone even.

Patricia Farris, MD
Metairie Dermatologic Surgeon

Smoker Considering Retinol Usage

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Use of retinols is appropriate for all age groups and may help stabilize acne prone skin in teenagers as well as helping prevent fine lines and excessive freckling.  The absolute best thing that any female can do for her skin is to avoid cigarette smoking and the diligent use of sun screens.  The retinols can help prevent damage but can never overcome the damage that is caused by smoking.  Let me say again, smoking is the single worse thing any woman can do to her skin. 

F. True Lansden, MD
Key West Plastic Surgeon

Retinol - never too early to start!

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Retinol is an excellent anti-aging product, and retin A or other prescription retinoids are even more effective. These agents have great science behind them, and excellent results for fine lines, acne, discolouration of the skin, and improving skin tone overall. It is never too young to start; speak with your dermatologist which retinoid to start with, and you can increase the concentration/strength slowly over time to minimize any side effects/irritation.

Benjamin Barankin, MD, FRCPC
Toronto Dermatologic Surgeon

Start Retinol skin products during teen years

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If you are concerned about aging of your skin, I would say the teen years might be a good time to start, taking time off only to have babies.

We can pretty much guarantee it, that if you use a Retinoid, an anti-oxidant and a good sunscreen, you will look 5-10 years younger than your peers who did not.

Retinols are not nearly as effective for preventing lines and wrinkles, though, as Retinoids. That is because, retinols need to spend energy to be converted from the alcohol form to the acid form. It is only the acid form that reduces and prevents wrinkles. In this conversion, 3/4ths of its kinetic energy is spent, making Retinols only 1/4 as strong as even the weakest Retinoid. Still, they can be used in those who cannot tolerate the stronger retinioids.

These plans for skin health, however, could go astray if you continue to smoke. I know it is hard but quit.

Arnold R. Oppenheim, MD
Virginia Beach Dermatologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.