The 'retinol uglies': 6 women share how retinol seriously messed with their skin.

Did anyone else start using retinol only to wake up one day looking like Two-Face? Cause SAME. Retinol can be a real bitch, especially if you don't know how to use it properly. But even if you do know what you're doing, it can still trash your face around. But in a good way!

That's because it takes time for your skin to adjust to this powerful ingredient. It's important to remember that retinol is a real heavy-lifter - so knowing exactly how much to use it, and when to use it, is crucial. But even if you're doing everything right (ahem...not slapping it on like your hyaluronic acids and using SPF always), know that it can take a while for your skin to get used to it. 

Here's how to achieve glowing skin. Post continues below.  

Video via Mamamia

And while the timing is different for everyone, the side effects are just as broad and can range from redness and flaking to dry skin, irritation and full-on skin purging (read: a reaction to an active ingredient causing your skin to break out).

This, friends, is what the Internet calls the "retinoid uglies." Cute!

Listen to Mamamia's podcast for your face, You Beauty, where we talk about the difference between retinol and retinoid. Post continues below. 


And because no two skin types are the same, everyone is going to have a different experience. So, we hit up a group of women who have each experienced the 'uglies' and asked them about what it was like, and their tips for getting through it.


Tell bad was it? "My skin flaked off like crazy and was red and itchy. I used a small amount of prescription retinol every three days. I kept at it and then after six weeks, it just stopped the extreme shedding. Now my skin is great, and I have started using it every second day."

What did you do? I found the thing that helped is not to exfoliate with a cream as that made it worse as the skin is shedding. It is very tempting though. I ended up buying a Foreo Luna (the small one used for travel) and used that morning and night. It removed the skin that was coming off without any irritation."


Tell bad was it? "I had a reaction to retinol. The area around my eyes puffed up like I’d been punched, even though I didn’t use it around my eyes."

What did you do? "I stopped using retinol and had a break. But now once a week I use a Korean beauty retinol, which is quite mild with no ill effects."


Tell bad was it? "I've just had a painful experience when I've accidentally doubled up my use (I have sensitive skin) which has caused irritation. So be careful - it's powerful stuff."

What did you do? "There is a great enzyme mask from Skinstitut, which is helpful in removing flaking skin gently. But just a heads-up - I wouldn't use it on the same day as the retinol, or it may cause irritation. My advice is to go very slowly and ease your way in, because it's worth the wait."



Tell bad was it? "I just went gung-ho with the retinol not knowing at all about easing in and even went and got my brows threaded. The horror! I thought my whole face was flaking off in front of my eyes."

What did you do? "I had a break and switched to something lower strength."


Tell bad was it? "I went to TOWN on my face one evening and applied both retinol (I'd only been using it sporadically at the time) and vitamin C to my sensitive skin. I basically burnt a whole layer of skin off my face. Just for the lols, y'know? I woke up the next day and it was red, swollen and puffy. My foundation did nothing. The concentration I was using was probably too high, but I was also 10/10 just using it wrong."

What did you do? "I immediately ceased using it. After repairing my skin barrier for what seemed like 10 years, I dropped to a lower strength formulation and worked my way up to using it every second night. I am now no longer an idiot with my actives and my skin LOVES retinol. Gimme."


Tell bad was it? "I used to flake so badly that I had to time it so my fake tanning routine wasn’t affected! I would also have my skin lift when waxing every time, even though I never put retinol near my eyebrows!"

What did you do? "Now I use retinol twice a week and have upgraded to the strongest Cosmedix retinol. I haven't had any issues since."

Feature image: Getty

Do you use retinol? Have you ever experienced any side effects? Share with us in the comment section below.