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Retinol in skincare is great for anti-ageing but you can overdo it and end up with retinol skin burn. Find out how to quickly and effectively treat a retinol skin burn

Neal's Yard Argan Oil was purchased by The Happy Sage.

a pipette of retinol serum

I'm always on a mission to keep my skin as dewy looking and elastic as possible, you can't stop the ageing process but you can have a damn good try at slowing it down!

I have tried many lotions and potions over the years but one thing that does have good results is retinol.

I was recently contacted by someone who had been a bit over-enthusiastic with a retinol based serum they were trying and this had resulted in a retinol skin burn. I've had one of these myself on more than one occasion, so thought I'd share the quick and easy way to effectively treat a retinol skin burn.

If you want to read all about retinol and discover which company offers the the best natural alternative serum to retinol, then read on.

Or jump straight to How to heal a retinol skin burn.

What is retinol?

Retinol is derived from vitamin A and is rated as one of the best ingredients for anti-ageing. You can buy skin care products over the counter which have retinol or a slightly milder version, retinyl palmitate in them. You can also obtain stronger products on prescription from your doctor in the form of creams and gels to treat conditions such as acne.

What are the benefits of retinol?

Retinol can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and can help smooth the skin. It can also brighten the skin by fading pigmentation spots and help balance out uneven looking skin.. It is also good for treating blackheads and clogged pores which is why it is often prescribed as a treatment for acne.

How does retinol work?

Retinol works by increasing the skin cell turnover so that new skin is closer to the surface. It also helps to boost collagen production and this can give the skin a more plumped up look.

How long before retinol works?

Four to six weeks should give you a more dewy and healthy look but for improving collagen, the lessening of fine lines and lightening of pigmentation spots, expect to wait about six months. Read more about how you can use a collagen supplement to improve your skin.

How do you use retinol?

Retinol is best used once a day in the evening. Always start with a low strength product and apply a couple of times a week building up to daily if you do not have any reactions. As you build a tolerance you should be able to move on to a stronger strength product.

Products to avoid when using retinol

When you use retinol your skin will be more sensitive to the sun so you need to ensure that you wear an SPF30 product on your face during the day. Avoid the use of exfoliators and peels whilst you are using retinol and any products with AHA's or BHA's in them as well. Also be careful not to use other products containing retinol as the same time. If you have sensitive skin try a patch test before you apply it to the whole face or mix it in with a facial oil when applying to soften the side effects.

What are the side effects of retinol?

When starting to use retinol products expect to see redness, dryness and then some peeling. This is the retinol working to slough away the top layer of skin cells. You may also experience some stinging or a burning feeling. If you use retinol too frequently, start with a strong strength product or use another chemically irritating skin product at the same time you may get a retinol skin burn.

What does a retinol skin burn look like?

A retinol burn can look and feel very much like a normal burn. The skin will be very red and angry looking, dry and peeling and there will probably be a strong burning or stinging sensation. The skin may also be weeping a clear fluid and start to feel tight and scab over with a darker coloured crust. Go straight to How to Treat a Retinol Skin Burn.

Best natural alternative to retinol

You can also try a natural alternative to retinol. You get the benefits that retinol can provide but without the unfortunate side effects! I use Resurfacing Serum by Aurelia London. This product contains an ingredient called bakuchiol which although not a form of retinol, works in the same way to produce the same benefits. The serum also contains 5% niacinamide which targets blemishes, redness and helps to control sebum production. It also has Aurelia's unique signature PROTIDA™ technology which helps to promote collagen and limit cell damage.

This product really has it all and is fantastic for sensitive skin. It improves uneven skin tone, helps reduce pigment spots, tightens pores and it is also safe to use during the day. I use this product at night underneath Aurelia's night oil. Read the review of Aurelia Cell Repair Night Oil.

Aurelia Resurfacing Serum from £36.

Aurelia Cell Repair Night Oil from £22.

The Ordinary have recently developed a new form of retinol called Granactive Retinoid™ that has been shown to offer better results against multiple signs of aging than retinol but without the irritation. Definitely worth a try if you have sensitive skin!

If you are unfortunate enough to get a retinol skin burn then don't panic! It probably looks dreadful but you'll be surprised at just how quickly you can calm it down and heal it.

How to treat a retinol skin burn

There is one fabulous product to use if you want to treat a retinol skin burn, and I speak from personal experience here! Neal's Yard organic argan oil.

Argan oil is rich in omega 6 essential fatty acids which protect, regenerate and stimulate the skin helping to keep it soft and supple. It aids in skin healing and has a calming and soothing effect on the skin. The oil is often used in products that regenerate the skin and in products for around the delicate eye area. It is also said that the oil is high in vitamin E which is exceptionally good for healing wounds and burns.

You need to make sure you get a really good quality organic argan oil and that is why I recommend Neal's Yard organic argan oil, but there are other excellent brands. I've used this product on my retinol burns with phenomenal results overnight.

To treat a retinol skin burn:

Using a good quality organic argan oil. Wash your hands thoroughly and then put your finger tip over the end of the bottle and tip the bottle carefully. Then use your finger tip to apply the oil to the sore area of the face. You can either pat the oil on to the skin if the burn is very bad or rub very gently in small circles if you are able to. You will find that although the skin stays looking quite shiny the oil sinks in and dries off quickly.

Apply the oil about 4 times a day and always at night. Always dab the retinol burn with a clean tissue before re-applying the argan oil.

Can I put Vaseline on a retinol skin burn?

No! Vaseline (petroleum jelly) will completely seal the skin and leave it unable to breathe and heal. The beauty of argan oil is that not only does it soothe the skin and reduce inflammation, but it also promotes the healing of the skin whilst still allowing it to breathe naturally.

How long does it take for a retinol burn to heal?

Using the method outlined above you will find that the burn starts to heal really quickly and you can get a huge improvement in redness, burning and peeling in less than 24 hours (sometimes even overnight). Continue with the treatment until the wound has fully healed.

Leave make-up off the retinol burn area until fully healed (although you can use ion the area around the burn). Don't be tempted to try and disguise it with concealer, you will just end up delaying the healing.

You can try and help speed up the process by making sure you are getting enough iron and vitamin C in your diet. Try taking Spatone liquid iron supplements and some Cytoplan Cherry C vitamin tablets to boost the healing process, as both of these are required for good skin healing, as is plenty of protein in your diet.

Once you are well on the way to healing and you want to wear make-up again, why not try a natural brand? Read my review of Inika Organic Liquid Foundation with Hyaluronic Acid.

Neal's Yard organic argan oil £21 for 50ml

If you have issues with cold sores then take a look at natural ways to heal cold sores. I haven't met a cold sore yet that wasn't nuked by these methods!

Healing cosmetic skin burns

You can also use Neal's Yard organic argan oil to treat other forms of cosmetic skin burns as well. I have used it on my face when I have reacted very badly to skin care products or cosmetics and also after using a 5% w/w benzoyl peroxide gel on my face one night (for acne) and then using a facial exfoliator the next morning without thinking!

Argan oil is such a fantastic all rounder product to have on hand, I've always got a bottle. You can use it on sunburn, dry skin and as a facial serum under your moisturiser. You can also use it on your nails, a dab on on your eyebrows at night and to tame dry frizzy ends on your hair. A true multi-tasking product!

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