Signs You May Have Retinol Burn
The telltale signs of retinol burn include skin that is red, irritated, flaky, inflamed, sore to the touch, and/or shedding. “You could also be experiencing breakouts or inflamed acne that is not usual for your skin,” adds Idriss.
These symptoms may sound vaguely similar to any skin irritation or dry dermis woes, but there is a stark difference when it comes to retinization. “With a retinol burn, skin is going to be more and more raw, more irritated, and more ‘angry,’ whereas other skin conditions don’t necessarily have those symptoms,” says Idriss. “I also think history is super important for you to really think back about when you used the retinol and when your skin started becoming dry and irritated because this is where history is everything.”
Reinforce Your Skin Barrier
Retinol can transform your skin but also zap it of necessary moisture when incorporated into anti-acne products. Even if you have naturally oily skin, be sure to use a rich moisturizer to repair the skin barrier, Lancer says. Our Nourish Rehydration Mask does wonders to boost moisture while providing a hydrating barrier to prevent moisture loss.
Even if youre not using a retinol-infused acne product, Hartman says that moisturizing is a must, as it will help address any peeling during the initial purge. Pick a moisturizer with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or glycerin to really boost hydration and help with some of the visible dryness, peeling, and flaking, he says.
Use Retinol Less Frequently In The Winter
In the winter, our skin becomes drier and more sensitive, so it’s important to listen to your skin sometimes were able to use retinols nightly in the summer months, but need to cut it down to a few times a week in the winter months, Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, medical director of Mudgil Dermatology, explains.
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You Shouldn’t Use Retinol Every Day When You First Start
Over-the-counter retinol products can be a great option for retinol newbies, since they’re gentler than prescription strength retinoic acid. At first, a pea-sized amount of retinol should be applied to the face once or twice a week, allowing skin time to adjust to its effects. Retinol should also be applied at night, since sunlight will degrade the retinol and minimize its effects. Plus, since we sweat and touch our skin less while sleeping, it allows the retinol to work on your skin uninterrupted.
Over time, your skin can tolerate products with a higher retinol amount. Until you work up to a stronger cream or a daily habit, there are things you can do to keep your skin happy while adjusting to retinol. It’s important to use plenty of sunscreen, since some dermatologists believe your skin can become more sensitive to sunlight while using retinol. Frequent use of moisturizer can offset any redness or peeling.
Available In Prescription Or Over
For most people, an over-the-counter retinoid should be enough to get started. The lower dosage allows the skin to acclimate to the product with a lower risk of irritation. These lower doses of retinol also have fewer side effects than prescription-strength retinoic acid. However, the trade-off is that it may take longer to see visible results. If you have any hesitation about your required dosage, consult with your dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
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May Appear When You First Start Using Retinol
During this initial phase of use, your skin is getting used to the effects of retinol, and may develop a bit of irritation contact dermatitis.
In theory, retinol makes your skin cell turnover faster. The increased cell turnover temporarily sloughs off more dead skin cells.
This creates a lag time before new, healthy cells come to the surface of your skin. Your new skin is exposed before its ready, and redness or discoloration, and irritation is the result.
Retinol Can Decrease The Appearance Of Wrinkles
Retinol is thought by dermatologists to be the most effective cosmeceutical rejuvenating ingredient, Dr. Craig Kraffert, a board-certified dermatologist, tells TZR. The benefits are scientifically proven via rigorous studies and include improving conditions associated with chronological aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines. It alters the behavior of aged epidermal and dermal cells so they act in a more youthful manner, while preserving and enhancing skins supportive blood vessel network. Because the ingredient can boost collagen production, fine lines are plumped and smoothed for that youthful glow.
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Smooths The Skins Natural Texture
Working deep into the pores, retinolevens out the structure of the skin. Because it produces and sloughs away skin cells at a faster speed than your skin does on its own, it serves as a mini-facial that boosts rapid skin production. As a result, your skin will probably appear evened out and balanced.
There Are Different Types Of Retinols
Yes! They are called retinoids. While all retinoids are related to vitamin A, the differences in types can have drastic differences on your skin.
Retinoids is the umbrella term for all Vitamin A relatives, including retinoic acid, retinol and retinyl esters. Retinoic acid is the most powerful and is typically prescribed by a dermatologist. It is mostly used to treat stubborn acne or severe UV damage, not run-of-the-mill fine lines. If you were ever prescribed Retin-A as a spotty teenager, youve experienced the power of retinoic acid.
Retinol also boosts skin cell turnover but is gentler than retinoic acid. If formulated correctly, it shouldnt cause your skin to peel or itch. Many beauty creams and serums use retinol.
Retinyl propionate is an ester of retinoic acid. Being an ester helps it to be more stable and work with little or no irritation.
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How Long Does The Peeling Stage Last When Using Tretinoin
As your skin gets used to this powerful retinoid you might experience adjustment period side effects like skin peeling, flaking, redness, scaling skin, dry skin, itchiness, and overall irritation.
The good news is, this is only temporary.
Generally speaking, peeling may happen during the initial few weeks of treatment. This can range from 2 to 6 weeks of regular use. But, this can vary from person to person.
If your skin is very sensitive, if your skin is overly dehydrated, or if youâre introducing tretinoin slowly, the length of time your skin will peel might be longer.
How To Deal With Tretinoin Skin Peeling
Dealing with tretinoin skin peeling can be tough. After all, few things are worse than using tretinoin cream or gel to improve your skin quality, only to deal with what can be several months of dry, uncomfortable peeling skin.
Luckily, there are several ways to deal with tretinoin skin peeling:
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Water Can Exacerbate Retinol Irritation
Wait 30 minutes after washing your face to apply retinol, Dr. Audrey Kunin, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of DERMAdoctor, tells TZR. Water mixed with retinoids can exacerbate the side effects . Check the ingredients of your toners, essences, and serums before you apply retinol, too. Water is frequently number one ingredient in skin care and can accidentally cause irritation, she explains.
Dont Start By Applying Retinoids Every Day
Retinoids arent something you should apply every day from the start. You have to work your way up to regular use. Start slowly applying twice per week and then gradually add another day until you have built up tolerance for daily use, RealSelf dermatologist Michele Green, M.D., tells SELF. If your skin has an adverse reaction, such as excessive peeling, lay off the treatment for a couple days. Then, you can try again but decrease the amount of times you use it per week. For example, if you experienced irritation after using it four times in a week, then bump your frequency down to three and see how your skin reacts. Some people can only tolerate using retinoids about twice a week, explains Dr. Kim.
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How Can You Add It To Your Routine
Even though you may have heard some retinol horror stories in the past, they can be safely incorporated into a complete skin care routine, Panzica says. Just remember that starting low and slow wins this race.
Panzica advises working with a dermatologist or skin care professional to find a good, lower concentration retinol to try.
Start by applying it at night a couple of times a week.
Each week, if your skin has done well, add at night until youre applying it every night or as instructed, Panzica adds.
When applying, first cleanse, tone, and exfoliate your face. Then apply a small, pea-sized amount of retinol to dry skin. Spread it over your face, avoiding your eyes and mouth.
Afterward, you can apply any brightening products, followed by serums or night creams.
Because retinols can be drying, its ideal to follow with an effective moisturizer to help keep skin hydrated and skins barrier protected, Gabriel notes.
Finally, dont forget to wear broad spectrum sunscreen during the day.
If youre using any other topical acne treatment, speak to a dermatologist before using retinol.
Its also a good idea to stick to gentle cleansers and ensure youre only layering ingredients that work well together.
For example, vitamin C and retinol used together can be way too harsh for most skin types, Gabriel says.
Top 3 Side Effects Of Using Retinol And What You Can Do For Relief
Although there are plenty of reliable reasons to use retinol, its no secret that it is known for the side effects that come with retinol usage. Everyone has different skin which means each individual might have different levels of positive and negative reactions to any new skin product. When were talking about retinol, there are some widely seen reactions you should be aware of.
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How Long Does It Take To See Results From Retinol
For most OTC retinols, it may take a few weeks of continued use to see results. According to a 2015 study , a significant reduction in wrinkles was seen in participants who used a retinol for 12 weeks.
A more recent study from 2019 found that wrinkles around the eyes and on the neck improved in individuals who used retinol for 8 weeks.
Where To Start With Retinol For Skincare
If youve been wanting to start using retinol creams but are intimidated by the retinol uglies, we totally understand!
The best thing you can do starting out is to find aretinol cream with safe, trustworthy ingredients and introduce it slowly.
Now that youre more informed about what to expect, you bet youll make smarter decisions when buying your first retinol product to avoid the worst of the uglies. Remember it sometimes gets worse before it gets better.
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What Is A Retinol Chemical Peel
A Retinol peel is a type of chemical peel that exfoliates the skin, and is often combined with other peeling agents depending on the patients skin type, texture, and desired skin care goals. Most chemical peels use acids or fruit enzymes to loosen the dead layer of skin, but retinol peels use Vitamin A as the exfoliating agent which leaves the skin with smooth, vibrant, and rejuvenating lasting results.
What Results Can I Expect
Most patients notice immediate results of smoother and rejuvenated skin tone and complexion after just one treatment. Depending on your skin condition, multiple treatments may be necessary to reach your desired results.
On day three following your treatment, you can expect the skin shedding or peeling process to take place. The peeling process should be complete by day seven or eight, revealing visibly healthy and nourished skin.
Your skin will feel more hydrated, fine lines and wrinkles will be reduced, your skins elasticity will be boosted for a firmer look, acne breakouts will be calmed, and the overall clarity, tone, and texture of the skin will be improved.
Youll often see improved results with regular maintenance including the use of recommended skin care products and facial treatments. Two to three treatments of the Retinol Chemical Peel are recommended per year for optimal results.
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Is Retinol Safe For All Skin Types
There areplenty of myths about the dos and donts of retinoid treatments when it comes to each skin type, and rightfully so. Some skin types are more sensitive and prone to unwanted reactions.
Oily skin benefits the most from retinol, as the effects help regulate oil production. Combination skin and sensitive skin types should monitor the effects of retinol over time and adjust their skin routine accordingly.
If you have dry skin, keep in mind this advice from our skincare expert Gail Sagel:
Retinol on dry skin can sometimes lead to softer, moister, dewier skin immediately. Others with dry skin experience more dryness at first and require a moisturizer to be blended with the retinol. Each person is individual in their experience. Retinol is unique, just like you. Our proprietary blend contains Hyaluronic acid which adds to the moisture content and aids in buffering the delivery of retinol.
How To Apply Retinol Properly
If you are not at risk of the adverse side effects may have, or if they simply do not bother you, here is a short guide for applying retinol. Achieve the maximum benefits with these steps:
- Start by washing your face and applying eye cream. Most eye creams are able to protect the very thin and delicate skin around our eyes, as well as your eyelids.
- Then, wait for your skin to be completely dry before applying retinol. This is a crucial step as if your skin is even slightly damp the retinol will absorb more deeply into your skin and cause some irritation. You can apply moisturizers to damp skin, but never retinol.
- Afterwards, scoop out a pea-sized amount of retinol and apply with your fingertips in outward and upward motions.
- Finally, finish with your favorite moisturizer.
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Buffer Retinol With Your Moisturizer
A technique known as buffering can also protect your skin from the worst symptoms of retinol burn.
Applying retinol at the same time as you apply your moisturizer dilutes the retinol without rendering it completely ineffective. This can help your skin build a tolerance to retinol without drying out.
Relief For Retinol Redness
Skin color changes are normal with retinol. Instead of trying to completely control or hide the redness in your face, give it a few days to even out on its own. Try to wear minimal beauty products during this phase, and feel free to take a day or two break from using retinol. If the redness is uncomfortable for you, try using gentle,natural moisturizers to soothe the skin.
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What Do The Retinol Uglies Look Like
Retinol Uglies include all of the above negative side effects of using retinol. The initial stages of retinol use can bring on some rather unsightly and uncomfortable irritation. Dont freak out if this happens to you.
Know what to expect and learn the things you can do to both prevent and treat the uglies. Also called retinization, the retinol burn, or retinol irritation, many retinol products of low and high concentrations can bring up the following symptoms:
- Mild to severe sensitivity
- The skin purge
Everyone tends to react differently to the retinoid uglies, so depending on the type of irritation you might experience, here are some ways to start treating them early on.
Call Your Dermatologist If Youre In Pain
Yes, some redness and itchiness are expected, but if you have an extreme reaction, it needs professional attention. If your face starts to look like a charred tomato, its time to back off and see a physician, Dr. Shamban says. Dr. Green seconds this sentiment, If the skin starts to crack and you have open lesions which are oozing, you should definitely stop using the product and see your dermatologist. Also, if you develop a rash, this could mean you are having an allergic reaction to the product. Again, you may not feel comfortable with physical office visits right now. But your dermatologist may be able to provide care through a virtual session, so its worth calling their office to check.
Additional reporting by Melissa Matthews
All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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Retinol Doesnt Lead To Skin Cancer Either
Another incorrect idea is that retinol products increase the risk of skin cancer, Dr. Kraffert tells TZR. This may because the ingredient makes skin more sensitive and thus, more prone to sun damage. The real retinol fact: Retinoid products like retinol are well known to correct pre-cancers, slow growth of existing skin cancer and decrease the risk of developing new skin cancer, he says.
Meg: Try It Over Moisturizer
How gnarly was it? I started using using the prescription retinoid Atralin at 0.05 percent when I was 12 for acne. I remember it making my skin a little dry and slightly flaky, but it only lasted a few week. Plus, my skin was clear, so that is all I cared about.
My dermatologist then upped my dosage to a generic form of tretinoin at 0.1 percent when my skin broke out freshman year of college. The high concentration and my overuse led to chemical burns on my chin after a week. My skin healed after about a week of proper use, icing of the area, and a simple moisturizer.
This past year, I discontinued my use of prescription retinoids all together and switched to The Ordinarys Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, and I havent had any irritation. To be safe, I initially put it over my moisturizer when I first switched. Ive been using it for two months and only seen positive results.
Her advice: Keep your skin care simple if using it, listen to your dermatologist, and try the trick of using it over your moisturizer when you first start.
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