Retinol Burn - How to avoid it, prevent it & treat it

Some of the retinol lovers amongst us have been there.

You've picked up a highly coveted Retinol serum that everyones talking about (such as our Egyptian Gold Retinol serum) ..

Splashed it onto your face here there and everywhere; & waited for that post retinol glow to appear..

Now sometimes for the majority of us thats how it goes down, stress free.

But for some it can lead to irritation, redness, super super sensitive skin and dryness which is also know as Retinol Irritation or sometimes even Retinol Burn or Allergic Reaction - now whilst these things can happen with all cosmetics its more common with Retinol. If  your skin is broken, compromised, irritated or stressed now may not be the best time to start your retinol routine.

This is due to how Retinol Works, 

Excessive retinol stimulates cell division in the deepest layer of cells known as the basal layer where your skin keeps Melanocytes that protect your skin from the sun and gives skin its colour. An excess of retinol causes an abundance of cell division, these cells then rise to the surface of the skin without the necessary bonds to hold them together. When these  cells reach the surface, the skin may begin to peel because the required lipids and bonds have not yet formed. 

In the absence of these protective bonds, other skincare products can penetrate deeper into the skin than intended, resulting in increased skin sensitivity, stinging, and redness. Retinol is on the irritating end of the skincare spectrum naturally, meaning that its misuse or overuse can quickly trigger a negative reaction. If you have sensitive skin, you may experience a faster reaction to retinol.

In this blog post we set out the main ways you can ease yourself into a retinol routine and how to cope with it if it happens to you

Because, sometimes it's hard to know when to stop using retinol & when to proceed with caution but, we got you!

The best and only way to start your retinol journey is by Patch Testing! We Repeat Patch Testing!

This step is vital to every cosmetic product you use as it will help determine whether you will react to the formulation. 

Every formulation is different and everyones skin is different so even if you've used another Brands Retinol Serum, you still cannot skip this step. 

This step can save your skin from allergic reactions, irritation and reactive breakouts which could cause longer term damage to your skin barrier - which is the opposite of what we want, right?

How to Patch Test Retinol:

Step One: Apply the product to a small area of cleansed and dried skin where you are unlikely to accidentally wash or rub it away such as inside of your arm or bend of the elbow. Size wise, a 50p Sized amount will do and try to apply the same thickness you would when using the product normally / as recommended on the box.

Step Two: Leave the product on the patch of skin for 24 hours so the product can react with your skins specific chemistry and PH.

Step Three: You can repeat the patch test just to be on the safe side if you notice your skin has changed since the last time you patch tested because a reaction may not happen in one instance but can happen if say your skin becomes sun damaged or compromised, so it is important to continue testing the product to assess suitability and when you need to adjust the routine.

Step Four: If during or after the patch test your skin reacts negatively to the product (such as but not limited to - intense itching, burning, painful redness, swelling, blistering or rashes) then you should wash it off as soon as possible and stop using the product because this is what we would call retinol burn. You should use a Cold Compress to relieve the skin and seek medical advice symptoms persist. 
Signs you also shouldn't continue using the product include an allergic reaction: Wheezing, Intense Painful Skin Reactions such as Hives, Breathing Trouble - Contact a DR as soon as possible if you experience this.

-If your skin is absolutely fine with no reactions then you should start slow - adding a drop or two to you nightly routine after cleansing, 2/3 times a week if your skin will allow and build up more days as your skin becomes used to it. 

-If your skin has a little bit of redness but not uncomfortable in any way it may be likely that your skin is a little sensitive to the retinol formula and you may want to try patch testing again using the Sandwich / Or Buffering method:

This method you would apply your moisturiser or oil to the skin, wait 10 minutes, apply the retinol, wait 15 minutes and then apply more moisturiser.  

If your skin has no reaction after patch testing this way, then we'd suggest this method of application to start your retinol journey and build up tolerance this way. 

Because with Retinol Irritation from retinol products, if its slight redness and peeling then its likely to be a “worse-before-better” type of situation. The side effects such as dryness, tightness, peeling, and redness — especially when first starting out are extremely common and with the buffering method you can ensure your retinol journey be stress free for your skin.

Because once you introduce Retinol to your routine in a few months you'll see the benefits: More Collagen Production, Stronger Skin, Smoothed Lines, Less Pigmentation.. the list goes on.

Usually retinol irritation will heal by itself within 1 - 4 weeks - use cool compresses, Ingredients like aloe vera, vaseline and Cica and fragrance free moisturiser. Use an SPF 50 and Avoid Strong Sunlight for a while.

If your skin allows and you choose to continue using your retinol by adjusting These side effects usually subside when the skin acclimates. But your skin will thank you later!

So the takeaway from Patch Testing is that there are clear signs you need to stop using completely, signs you need to acclimatise your skin and signs you may need to switch to a lower % - Either way its so important to listen to your skin.


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