Reactions vs Responses - this is an important topic that Therapists need to be able to differentiate, and guide our clients through product transitions. Namely when using a Retinoid. Retinoid is the family name for derivatives of Vitamin A, and includes Retinoic Acid (prescription only), Retinol, Retinyl Palmitate, and Retinaldehyde.
So, you've decided to start using a Retinoid as you've heard about all of the wonderful benefits it has for your skin. It helps with skin texture, strengthening the skin, lightening pigmentation, building collagen, unblocking follicles, clearing acne and congestion - the list goes on. And you're ready to dive in all guns blazing to start reaping the benefits of this amazing vitamin.
After a couple of uses your skin is red, irritated, inflamed, dry, flaky - what on earth is going on? I hate this product! It was expensive, my skins horrendous and I must be allergic to Retinoids - right? Wrong.
When we think about the role of Retinoids and how they work their main function is to increase and regulate cell renewal, and make way for new cell production. So when the above symptoms occur technically it means that the product is doing its job (by creating cellular change) and is usually presented in the early days of use as dry flaky skin because of this.
When skin is not accustomed to using a Retinoid it could be responding to the delivery system, the strength/concentration, the dosage or you may have an impaired skin barrier. This is why I prefer to call these symptoms a response rather than a reaction and are to be expected at some stage during the journey of using Retinoids. Symptoms of an allergic reaction are hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face/lips/tongue, or throat. You should immediately discontinue use and seek medical assistance if you have any of these symptoms.
In my clinic 95% of my clients are using a Retinoid of some description - and they all get the same spiel on how to use it to avoid the response when they first start out. It can sound like a broken record to my product savvy clients, however CosMedix in particular use two potent derivatives of Vitamin A which are unique to the range so I can expect responses when I prescribe them.
Recommendations for Retinoid use:
* Evening use only, on cleansed skin. Daily SPF compliance is essential.
* To build skin tolerance start by using every 2nd evening for a week, if no response go to every evening.
* If there is sensitivity (redness, dryness, flaking, tight, shiny, irritated) use every 3rd evening for a week, and build up to every second then every evening.
* If symptoms continue to persist, go to every 4th evening (and so on) until your skin can tolerate.
* Less is more - use only the recommended amount of product.
* Symptoms can last 2-8 weeks.
80% of my clients don't experience the above symptoms and can tolerate using it every evening very quickly. But if you do experience the response and adjustment time above, know that it is completely normal and continued use of the Retinoid will (over time) improve the symptoms.
Tips to deal with the symptoms while your skin is responding:
* Avoid direct heat on the skin - luke warm water is appropriate for cleansing.
* Avoid intense exfoliation during this time. Gentle enzymes once a week will help reduce the flaking appearance and hydrate the skin.
* Use a nourishing mask 1-2x per week to help with dryness and irritation.
* Moisturise as often as needed, or use a soothing/anti inflammatory balm.
* Avoid touching, scratching, and itching your skin.
* Decrease usage at any time until your skins tolerance has been built up.
Building a close relationship with your Therapist will ensure you have the support on hand to get through a Retinoid response and get the right advice for you. Choosing clean, professional grade Cosmeceuticals with advanced ingredient technology means you and your skin will be enjoying the benefits of Vitamin A in no time.
Dermal Therapist (AACDS, ITEC, NaSA)