Retinol is one of those ingredients everyone’s always so excited to introduce into their routine. How could you not be when it promotes so many benefits and seems to be a resolution to all skin concerns: acne, ageing, congestion, pigmentation… the list could go on forever! A major question in more recent times when starting with retinol is, will retinol damage my skin barrier?
One thing that most of us underestimate when introducing retinol into our routines is just how strong it can be. Retinol’s potency is unlike many other skincare ingredients, and, when it's applied too heavily, our skin barrier becomes compromised, resulting in increased skin sensitivity amongst other things.
It’s almost a right of passage to experience a damaged skin barrier while starting out with retinol. In some ways, it’s part of finding out your skin's tolerance to this ingredient…as we already know, everyone’s skin is so different. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that I am encouraging you to overdo the retinol, I am just pointing out that everyone's sweet spot with the product will be a little different. You need to work out what level of retinol works for you in order to your skin the best results.
If your skin feels sensitive to touch, tight or is peeling after using retinol… read on babe, your skin barrier might have taken a hit!
Causes of retinol-induced barrier damage
Retinol's main job is to speed up the turnover of skin cells, allowing fresh skin cells to be reproduced at a faster rate. In the event that too much retinol is applied, this increase in cell turnover can trigger the release of inflammatory proteins. When these proteins are released, our skin can become inflamed. It can also impact the adhesion between the surface skin cells. This causes them to drift apart leading to redness, dryness, and a scaly skin texture.
When thinking about the way your skin barrier is constructed, an easy way to understand is to compare it to a brick wall. The bricks are your skin cells and they are held together by mortar, or in this case lipids, forming your skin barrier. The bricks are made up of natural moisturisers and keratin, and the lipid layer consists of fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides.
When retinol causes damage to your skin barrier, it results in the inflammation of the lipid layer of your skin which is where you will find your skin’s fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides. This is why it's important to keep on top of the skin's hydration levels when incorporating retinol into any routine to balance out some of the side effects.
Managing skin sensitivity
If you’re experiencing symptoms such as inflammation, sensitivity, acne, or discoloration, you’ll want to follow these steps to bring your skin back to life.
Pause the use of retinol
If you’re noticing your skin has been sensitive and you are experiencing redness or unusual texture, bestie, STOP. Continuing to apply retinol while you have a damaged skin barrier would be like having a hot shower with a sunburn, OUCH.
Evaluate what went wrong
Let’s take a step back and retrace our steps. Is the retinol you’ve been using too strong? Have you combined it with other active ingredients too early? Are you using other irritating ingredients that contain essential oils or fragrances? These are all questions you’ll be wanting to consider to make sure this doesn’t happen again!
Strip back your routine
The only way to reverse your skin's newfound sensitivity is to take your routine back to basics. This means a gentle cleanser, moisturiser, and SPF. Taking a break from actives will give your skin the best opportunity to repair itself.
Repair your barrier
Still carrying on with your simplified routine, introducing a barrier-supportive product will give your skin the dose of ingredients it needs to build back its strength. Our rebound serum was formulated for this specific purpose: barrier support. We realised that there wasn’t a product on the market that offered calming and supportive ingredients, to protect angry skin, that was free from active ingredients, and an all-in-one easy-to-use serum. Plus, it’s the perfect consistency for breakout-prone skin. It’s super lightweight and won’t clog pores like other alternatives on the market!
It’s formulated with the perfect amounts of Ceramides, Panthenol, Cholesterol, Centella, Calming Oat, and Copper Peptides to give you the perfect barrier support combo all in one bottle!
Give yourself time
As I’m sure you’ve heard before… trust the process bestie. It’s important not to rush when healing your skin barrier, these things take time. Slow and steady wins the race! It can take anywhere between 2- 12 weeks for your skin barrier to return to its full strength.
Create a plan of action
If your skin is fully healed and you’re feeling confident to return to the retinol, it’s important to re-evaluate prior to re-introducing it to your routine. We don’t want to waste all this hard work to end up back where we started with another impaired barrier. Some things to consider before are:
- Are you going to apply retinol less frequently?
- Are you going to apply a smaller amount of product?
- Are you going to apply retinol on top of moisturiser, to create a thicker barrier between your skin and the product?
- Are you using the right retinol for your skin?
- Are you going to dilute the product with moisturiser?
- Do you need a lower potency retinol?
These are all questions to contemplate prior to the first application and are vital to the health of your skin.
Skincare for sensitive skin
If your skin barrier is easily damaged, or your skin often feels quite fragile, it may be an idea for you to look at more gentle skincare products. Lucky, we have some recommendations for you:
gentle cleanser - cleanser for sensitive skin
You’ll want something that leaves your skin properly cleansed without stripping it of its natural oils. Our tbh gentle cleanser is suitable for both sensitive and acne-prone skin types (BONUS). It leaves your skin hydrated and feeling smooth while being able to cleanse away all unwanted congestion.
rebound serum for sensitive skin
As mentioned before, rebound is just a magic potion that delivers all your skincare needs and wants in one. It's suitable for all skin types, from oily to sensitive, and specialises in barrier support. If you want to read more about rebound and how it can improve your skin barrier, read here.
thirst trap- moisturiser for sensitive skin
Finding the right moisturiser if you have sensitive skin can be quite tricky as some have WAY too many complicated ingredients that can cause irritation. Our thirst trap moisturiser is the perfect option for sensitive skin it’s a lightweight formula that provides barrier support with pentavitin, amino acids, squalane, apricot kernel oil, jojoba esters, olive oil, and vitamin E. It also hydrates the skin with glycerin, pentavitin, sodium PCA, and genencare. This combination of ingredients is carefully formulated for sensitive skin and doesn’t overcomplicate things. It allows your other products to shine like your rebound serum!
skin shady- SPF for sensitive skin
If you thought you’d be getting away without SPF while your skin is sensitive, babe, you were W R O N G! Many people think that sunscreen is not suitable for sensitive skin types but, really this just means you haven’t found the right one for you!! Let me tell you, sensitive skin is even more prone to being burnt, especially skin that is sensitive from overdoing it on the retinol. SPF is probably one of the most important elements to stay on top of while you're repairing your skin barrier.
Luckily, skin shady is an SPF50+, providing you with top notch protection. It's white cast-free, breakout friendly, non-greasy AND super lightweight. What more could it do, right? Well, it also sits so perfectly underneath makeup, allowing it to double as a great primer too. It really is an all-rounder.
Now that you know how easy it is to overdo it on retinol, make sure to remember the signs, take proper care, and proceed with caution when symptoms of a damaged skin barrier creep in. I’ll finally reiterate my cliche tip one last time, slow and steady wins the race, especially with retinol.