Tips & Tutorials
Ingredient Stories

What's Up With Retinol Burn?

Controlling acne is a battle, and you want to go in with big guns, but you don't want to go in with guns that are too big, like prescription-level retinoids, or guns that smell, like benzoyl peroxide (which also stains your clothes).

men's night cream

That's why we use retinol in graduated levels in our Repairing Night Cream. But still, early-stage irritation can be an issue. Here's why:

Ch-Ch-Changes to Your Skin

Retinol alters your skin's production anatomy, particularly in the top layer (the dermis) and the deeper layers (the epidermis). 

Put simply, retinol increases the frequency of your skin cell turnover. As the dead skin cells shed, the newer and healthier cells emerge but they're exposed on the surface of your skin prematurely. It's like your skin cells are being re-trained, and that's why you might see redness, discoloration, and irritation in the first 24 hours. This is known as irritation contact dermatitis, or retinol burn. 

Retinol also modulates and reduces the amount of natural oil, or sebum, that your body produces. By reducing the oil, the resulting dryness will help control acne, but that's where you’ll also get redness and irritation.

control acne

Don't Jump the Mothership  

But don’t worry. This irritation is your skin getting accustomed to the retinol — and evidence that it’s working. As your sensitivity to retinol decreases, your skin should calm and return to its typical texture, usually within a week or so. 

Here’s our take on it: if you’re trying to control acne and you put a cream on your skin and nothing happens, it's probably not that effective. There is a tolerance factor we take into account when formulating regimens. Prescription-strength ingredients can be really strong, oftentimes too irritating to tolerate, and that's the number one reason why many guys don’t continue with their regimen. 

The First Rule To Beating Acne

Remember, the most important element of treating acne is sticking with the program. And so our face wash and night cream in the Essential acne regimen is designed so that you can stick with it. Over the first 60 days, we slowly increase the percentage of active retinol. By being gentle and by not drying you out, it’s a regimen you’re more likely to use every day for as long as it takes to get your acne under control, which is usually 90 to 120 days. 

If you are having some irritation, try applying the Repairing Night Cream every OTHER night in the first week or so. 

Have any questions? Our customer care guys are happy to answer any and all of them — even questions about the 1974 Philadelphia Flyers, the best way to extract a tie from a vacuum cleaner bag, or where to party down in Iceland. 

And if you're curious as to what you can expect in the first three weeks of a complete four-product set, check this blog post

Ready for personalized skincare?