Of course, retinols are not out to get you, despite the flakes you’ve probably endured in the past. In reality, they’re actually just trying to stave off Mother Nature for a few more years by speeding up your cell turnover to give you newer, fresher, younger-looking skin. The downside to this, of course, is that they’re not exactly gentle in the process, meaning anyone with dry and-slash-or sensitive skin (*raises hand*) has to be especially careful with the strength of the retinol they use and how they use it.

A good rule of thumb, says dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD and assistant professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, is to use a pea-size amount of your new retinol to clean, dry skin once a week for one week, then twice a week for two weeks, three times a week for three weeks, and then, only if you’ve had zero irritation thus far, apply it every other night indefinitely. If this idea still freaks you the hell out, or if you’ve tried this method and your skin cracked and flew away, then try applying your retinol over your normal nighttime moisturizer (after waiting 20 minutes for it to sink in) to partially dilute the formula.