Retinol helps with both anti-aging and acne, among other skin issues. It can leave your skin silky smooth, however, before you get to this point, you may experience a period known as the Retinol Uglies. As the name implies, this refers to the period of time when you first start using retinol and your skin gets worse before it starts getting better.
However, since your skin does get worse at first, you may wonder whether or not the retinol uglies are normal or a sign that you should break up with your retinol. You may also wonder just how long the retinol uglies should last. Here is what you need to know about whether or not the retinol uglies are normal and about how long they last. Let’s get into it!
First Off: Are The Retinol Uglies Normal?
In short: yes.
The retinol uglies are very common for people who first start using retinol. Retinol uglies are also known as retinol irritation or retinization. They’re natural and a sign that your retinol is working, but nonetheless, they’re not a pleasant period of time.
The retinol uglies are especially prevalent on areas of the face where the skin is thinnest, such as around your nose and mouth. Symptoms may be helped with appropriate skincare measures.
However, whether or not you experience the retinol uglies depends on the strength of the retinol you’re using, your skin, and how you’re looking after your skin while also using retinol. If you’re using a low-strength retinol and you don’t really suffer from skin issues like dryness or sensitivity, you may not experience the retinol uglies at all.
Why Do The Retinol Uglies Happen?
Retinol is a form of vitamin A applied topically. It increases skin cell turnover and exfoliation for healthy new skin cells. What this means is that when you first start retinol or when you increase the strength of the retinol that you’re using, this can temporarily worsen your skin as it increases cell turnover.
Basically, your skin is purging the dead skin and bacteria which can temporarily trigger problems like acne, flaking, peeling, and more. The retinol uglies are the definition of it gets worse before it gets better. People with sensitive and/or dry skin experience worse retinol uglies for longer.
However, once your skin is done purging, your skin should be smoother, clearer, and brighter than it was before. Patience and consistency are key.
How Long Do The Retinol Uglies Last?
This depends. The retinol uglies can last anywhere from a few days to over a month, depending on your skin type, how often you use the retinol, and the concentration of retinol used. Flare-ups typically last about 4-8 weeks, or 1-2 cell cycles.
However, if yours lasts longer than this, this could mean something deeper is going on, you should talk to your dermatologist. Bear in mind that if you have sensitive or dry skin, you may experience worse retinol uglies for longer.
What Can You Do To Minimize The Retinol Uglies?
If you’re experiencing the retinol uglies, you may be tempted to hole yourself up in your home like a chrysalis, waiting for the transformation to complete before you show your face in public again. However, given how long the retinol uglies can last, this isn’t exactly possible for most people.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do in order to minimize the retinol uglies, such as:
- Drinking plenty of water
- Applying the retinol at night
- Wearing sunscreen (retinol increases skin sensitivity to sun)
- Starting with a low retinol percentage
- Exfoliating gentler
- Using a hydrating moisturizer and a hydrating cleanser
- Using a facial steamer to help get rid of bacteria
- Avoiding using AHAs, BHAs, harsh scrubs, astringents, vitamin C, and the like with retinol, as the combination can dry out/irritate the skin
- Doing a retinol sandwich – moisturizer, retinol, moisturizer
You may need to stop retinol use for at least a week before getting certain treatments, like facials, chemical peels, waxing, etc, since it increases skin sensitivity.
Should You Stop Using Retinol If You Get The Uglies?
It’s understandable to want to stop using retinol during the purging period. However, if you stop, this will also stop the purging process, causing it to start all over again if you go back to retinol. Instead, you may use a lower strength and gradually increase the strength as your skin acclimates to the retinol.
You may also switch to using retinol 2-3 times a week and slowly increasing the usage to every day as your skin gets used to it.
If you experience intense redness, peeling, or burning, stop immediately and talk to your dermatologist.
Aesthetic Solutions To Improve Your Skin
Intermountain Aesthetics provides all sorts of aesthetic treatments to improve your skin, including skincare products. From chemical peels to injectables and more, we’re here to help you feel confident in your skin. Contact us today to learn more about our skincare solutions and how we can help you achieve the skin of your dreams.