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Retinol ruined my skin – How to cure it & Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t panic, any amount of redness or irritation caused by retinol can be healed completely. I promise.

When we try new things, some f*ups are bound to happen but isn’t it how we sometimes discover the best inventions for us? Well, Retinol is that invention, so chill out & read on all retinol does and don’ts & take maximum benefit of the ingredient.

Over peeled skin of a woman due to exceeding the amount of retinol application

Skin Irritation – Over Peeled skin due to exceeding the amount of retinol application

Know Retinol & Its Benefits

  • Derivative of Vitamin A. This anti-aging ingredient penetrates deep into the skin layers & eliminates dead skin cells, sebum & acne-causing bacterial growth from within.
  • Retinol Increases Collagen production by promoting new young healthy cells in the skin
  • Help clear acne & acne marks.
  • Improves Elasticity & texture of the skin
  • Decreases wrinkles & fine lines
  • Help fades dark spots & hyperpigmentation

Now, we want all of that without making mistakes

How? Read these cautions carefully

Avoid Retinol Mistakes in skincare routine

  1. Apply Retinol only at night.
  2. Always wear sunscreen when you’re out during the day. Retinol makes the skin photosensitive.
  3. Do not mix Retinol with any other ingredient except niacinamide & hyaluronic acid & azelaic acid. It doesn’t gel up with any other ingredient. So unfriendly I know!
  4. Cut off other acids or chemical exfoliants when you’re starting your retinol journey. This can minimize excess flaking.
  5. Do not use it very close to your eyes, mouth, or nose. (Tip, apply Vaseline on the corners of your mouth & around eyes before applying retinol for extra protection)
  6. For sensitive skin types & beginners, always start with a low concentration, like .1/.25% & gradually increase the percentage to 1%. At high concentrations, retinol can ruin your skin.
  7. Never exceed the quantity of more than a pea size. Too much retinol can ruin your skin.
  8. Don’t forget to wear it on your neck as well. The skin on the neck ages faster.
  9. Don’t forget to layer it with a good moisturizer followed by sunscreen.
  10. Start with using it twice a week & then gradually increase it to every other night.
  11. GO SLOW with the amount and usage. Don’t just shock your skin. Skin adjusts & accepts a new ingredient with time.

A girl with Redness and irritated skin caused by retinol

Side effects- Retinol Irritation 

Now, what if you have already done some Retinol damage or have gotten Retinol burn?

Let’s treat Retinol burn/damage

A happy girl with healthy healed skin from retinol burn

  1. Take cold showers or ice your face (wrapped in a thin cloth). Avoid hot showers at any cost.
  2. Avoid using scented cleansers or moisturizers.
  3. Use Thermal spring water to calm the skin (Try from La Roche Posay)
  4. Use a mild cleanser & don’t use any exfoliating fancy gadgets to wash the face, simply hands.
  5. Give a lot of moisture & hydration to the skin for it to feel better. Apply moisturizers loaded with ceramides (Helps in skin barrier) & Hyaluronic acid.
  6. Now, seal the skin with a light layer of Vaseline. It locks in all the goodies we’ve given & lets the skin heal faster.
  7. Stop using any other exfoliants, acids, AHAs, BHAs, peroxides, and salicylic acid until you are completely healed.
  8. Cica Balms, Glycerin & Aloe vera, are great soothing & calming agents for that miserable retinol-burned skin.
  9. Product suggestion- Try Avene- Cicalfate + restorative protective cream
  10. Apply sunblock before stepping outside. Remember your skin is already in a vulnerable state. UV rays at this point can make it worse.

Don’t stress & do more damage. Relax & follow these points, within a few weeks, your skin will come around to its normal state.

The safest way to apply Retinol in your skincare routine.

A girl applying moisturizer before Retinol to be safer and avoid any irritation

Use the Sandwich method

Use the Sandwich method of ‘moisturizer-retinol moisturizer’, which Means a thin layer of moisturizer then retinol then moisturizer again. This will prevent any possibilities of irritation.

Who shouldn’t use Retinol?

  • If you’re trying for pregnancy, are pregnant or breastfeeding. DO NOT apply retinoids of any sort.
  • If you have skin conditions like Rosacea or Eczema, unfortunately, retinol is not a great choice for your skin. It will make your dry skin worse.
  • Don’t use Retinol on cuts, or burned or inflamed skin.

How to store Retinol properly?

Do you think you are applying the ingredient every damn day & with no prominent results?

Sometimes, poor storage conditions of the ingredient can also make it rancid & ineffective. This is probably because your product was not stored in its ideal condition & has gone bad already. Where to store it then?

Retinol loves cool, dark places. Places away from Sunlight, to extend & maintain its shelf life. Hence, your bathroom cabinets work great.

Retinol Packaging

Does Packaging matter? Oh YES!

Retinol packaging is literally everything, which surprisingly very few people know of. Air Exposure means retinol death. There are 4 types of packaging in the market.

  1. Tubes (Best)
  2. Pump bottles (Better)
  3. Serum bottles (Okay)
  4. Jars (NAH)

Tubes are undoubtedly the best & the safest form to use Retinol & Jars are the least preferred way.

Tube packaging of retinol

Tube packaging

The retinol family could be very confusing hence this diagram will bring you maximum clarity with the whole Retinol world. It’s the Retinol family tree.

Knowing the Retinol family in the easiest way for the most clarity

Retinol family tree diagram for the easiest understanding

I have made this Retinoid Family tree diagram for your easiest understanding

Retinoid is the head of the family with its 7 children

  1. Retinol (the most popular child)-0.1% – 1.0%
  2. Retinyl palmitate (it’s almost pointless so don’t even bother)- 1%
  3. Retinal (not easy to find in products because of serious stability issues but an alternative to retinol if you’re looking for something with more efficacy)-0.1%-1.0%
  4. Retinoic Acid or Retin-A (Gold standard retinoid, very commonly given as Tretinoin by doctors for treating mature skin issues. 20 times more powerful than Retinol. Only available by prescription)-0.01-0.1%
  5. Adapalene (Can get over the Counter. Solid effective in treating acne)-0.1%
  6. Tazarotene (Used for Hyperpigmentation, acne scars & anti-aging benefits. Only available by prescription)-0.1%
  7. Isotretinoin (Oral retinoid you can say. It’s used to treat severe cystic acne).

Extra Retinol tip (only for experienced pros)

In order to experience the deepest level of skin penetration, you might want to use it after you exfoliate, so your skin is maximum receptive to it.

Also, People with Ivory skin should start using Retinol from their mid 20s as their skin is more prone to early signs of aging compared to dark skin.

Any Retinol Alternative?

Try ‘Bakuchiol’ if Retinol doesn’t suit you at all! It’s derived from plants & is popularly known as ‘Vegan Retinol”. It suits even sensitive skin types.

I hope you know about Retinol a little better now. And one last tip- people with Ivory skin tend to develop aging signs earlier than the dark skin tones hence start with the Retinol journey by mid 20s. Take care.

Love ~Beauty Stroll

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By Aayushi S
By Aayushi S
Aayushi is a New York based freelance writer and a content strategist. She is a computer science graduate, a health and skincare fanatic and is also the founder of “Beauty Stroll “. She aims to make science-backed skincare easy to understand for her readers.

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