This is the one blog I didn’t think I’d be writing – and is somewhat embarrassing for someone who works in an Aesthetic Clinic and uses medical-grade skincare creams at home.
Today I am writing this having only just recovered from my flakey face due to a retinol burn. There’s still a bit of a ‘situation’ on my neck (of which I don’t even remember putting it on there!) but hey, the worst is over. It’s been an emotional and impossible situation to run away from!
If you’re thinking about using a retinol cream, ensure you have a full skin consultation with a skincare specialist beforehand. This will make sure you keep your skin safe and healthy.
What does retinol burn look like?
My journey into face dandruff started about 10 days ago – after I saw a big write up on a certain retinol product, that began trending online. I hadn’t used it before and thought I’d give it a go. Everyone raves about retinol as it encourages faster skin cell turnover which means dead skin cells are removed quicker.
Dermatologists recommend we should all be using retinol as part of our skincare routine as soon as we hit 30. It’s a vitamin A cream that stimulates the skin cells to help repair them, boosting collagen. This means:
- Less fine lines
- No more crepey skin
- Clearing of pigmentation
- Less acne
It also refines your pores and gives your skin a baby soft feel and a wonderful glow. I mean what’s not to love! I was keen to get started again, as winter is the best time to use retinol.
Sensitive skin and irritation
Some of the main symptoms of retinol burn include:
- Dry skin
- Skin sensitivity
- Painful irritation
- Flaky skin
First night – I applied it somewhat sparingly and didn’t notice a thing. I just made it part of my overall skincare regime. The next 2 evenings – I repeated the process of applying retinol to my skin. Let’s just say the third time around things didn’t go quite to plan as I noticed a little tingling – but thought nothing of it. The sinister side of me likes to feel that something is working, so this didn’t panic me.
Queue the next morning – to say that my skin was feeling a little tighter is an understatement. If you can imagine plastering your face in egg whites and then letting it dry you’ll get an understanding of what happened. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened to my skin overnight (as an experienced user!) but with the application of any product (excluding my SPF) – there was burning, stinging…. and then all overall tingling! It wasn’t pleasurable. My skin wasn’t red or visibly inflamed – it just felt tight and mildly on fire.
The next day the dryness kicked in. This is where I abandoned consulting google and ran back to the clinic team for some sound advice. To my disbelief, I was experiencing what is called retinol burn. Retinol burn occurs after you use skin care products that introduce your skin to high amounts of retinol.
Retinol burn typically occurs within 24 hours. I knew I had been naughty as Melissa told me clearly when I first started, to go slow – twice a week at most and gradually build up my skin tolerance. However, in the world of instant gratification (as my skin had been fine in the past) I kicked off nightly.
How to treat retinol burn
So now with a diagnosis, my immediate thought was how to treat retinol burn. I was prepared to invest in whatever product was going to help me. Do I ride it out? Lather it in products? Put on a face mask? Exfoliate like a nutter?
The advice was to do nothing apart from splashing it with cold water. I just didn’t know what to do and felt a bit helpless. I had read that perhaps buffering it with moisturiser would have prevented it – but it was all a little too late! It was time to step away from the retinol routine until my skin calmed down.
It’s advised to do nothing but keep a very simple skincare routine to further prevent retinol burn or skin inflammation.
How long does retinol burn last?
Most sources claim it can take a week to normalise and it will usually clear up on its own and believe it or not, this can be a perfectly normal side effect.
So here we are 6 days later. After going back to basics, my skin has recovered (and looking better than ever) but the memory haunts me. The lesson to be learnt here is if you begin using retinol products– start slow.
How to avoid retinol burn
Retinols are fabulous products, but you need to attend a skin clinic for a full skin assessment to ensure you don’t suffer an allergic reaction. Don’t be tempted to buy a cheap one online, you need a thorough skin assessment to work out which concentration of retinol and composition is best for you.
Retinols and prescription retinoids vary in ingredients – some act as skin brighteners, some as skin tighteners. If you are investing in retinol, purchase the right one for you. Secondly, be guided by your skin specialist about how to start the creams and continue to use them.
Always invest in decent medical-grade retinol, as the method of delivery of the key ingredients into the skin, is so much more effective if clinically tested – rather than poor quality retinol that often only deliver about 15% of the good stuff to your skin. Medical grade retinol delivers around 80% of the key ingredients to the skin. So you can start off with a lower percentage cream and still get very powerful results (as experienced with my burn).
**UPDATE: as this goes live – I am now back using retinol! Hooray! **
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