What can be more irritating than first-time use of retinol?

How to protect your skin while enjoying summer outside

Let me get straight to the point: I love retinol. I believe in its government and probably its god too. When I had that disastrous acne breakout from hell almost three years ago, the aesthetician made me use PCA Skin’s Intensive Clarity Treatment for two weeks leading into my chemical peel. At the time, I was a first-time retinol user so the 0.5% retinol concentration was exactly the dosage I needed. My skin began sloughing off 36 hours after I started using the treatment. In case you’re wondering what “sloughing” means, that’s a fancy term for peeling. When a skincare product sloughs your skin, it removes all of the dead skin cells to reveal softer, smoother, and brighter skin. 

While I am still emotionally scarred by that 14-month long acne nightmare, I remain grateful for the two good things that came out of it. Firstly, I learned about the Holy Grail of skincare ingredients, retinol, and I developed an appreciation for sunscreen. Just so we’re clear, wearing [a mineral] sunscreen is an integral part of your skincare routine no matter the season or your skin complexion. However, when using skincare products that contain retinol and other light-sensitive agents, it’s even more critical to wear sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30. 

Dry heat versus humidity 

While many people are working on their summer bodies, I am working on my summer skin. I live in LA where it’s usually 70 and sunny… until it’s not. As you may know, most of California experiences desert-like conditions which means that the heat here is very dry unlike cities like Chicago or Nassau (Bahamas) where the humidity is simply uncalled for! Drier conditions mixed with not a cloud in the sky are not as wonderful as it seems. Not for your skin at least. I have never experienced skin dryness, tightness, and irritation as I did during my first few months in LA. I neglected to adjust my skincare routine to make up for the lack of moisture in the air. Although I hate humidity, it poses benefits for the skin. For starters, you won’t ever have to worry about lacking hydration. The moist air is good for your skin and the reason why island girls like me always seem to glow. 

Be sensitive towards your skin 

If you have sensitive skin, any product can potentially irritate it; not just retinol. However, if you use retinol, your risk of skin irritation increases tenfold! This is why it’s so important to follow the instructions provided with your skincare products. While there are many retinol products that you can use during the day, I find that the more potent, effective ones are best used at night while you are asleep. 

For those of you who like to live on the wild side, please understand that retinol and the sun are not friends… they’re not even frenemies à la Kourtney Kardashian and Sofia Richie. They are enemies! That said if you must spend time in the sun while wearing retinol follow the instructions below.

7 easy ways to not suffer from sun damage this summer

  1. Sit in a shaded area that is not receiving direct sunlight
  2. Wear a hat or lightweight scarf and shades like the Old Hollywood movie star that you are
  3. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
  4. Use a face spritzer like Masktini’s Woke Bae Whenever Moisture Spritz for added moisture on the face
  5. Travel with a zinc-based mineral sunscreen so that you can reapply every two hours at most
  6. Keep your hands, phones, and other foreign objects off your face because ew, it’s gross otherwise
  7. Do not pick your face no matter what! 

Masktini contributor, Otishka, wears a scarf and sunglasses like an Old Hollywood movie star

Side note: if you need an Old Hollywood reference, otherwise known as babushka, here's one from one of my many #quarantine self-timer photo shoots (for the win).

I want you to have an enjoyable summer coming off of COVID-19 and being sheltered in place for what felt like a century. Besides spending time doing the things you love with the people you love, looking good will help you to feel good too! You won’t necessarily feel your best with irritated skin, will you? Be honest. I don’t think so. 

If you’re still apprehensive about retinol, don’t worry, I understand. Get started with a milder retinol-based product like Masktini’s Night Ranger Overnight Renewal Mask and follow the seven steps above. I promise you that you will be pleased with the results and avoid any skin irritation only if you follow these instructions. Drop a comment below if you have any other tips for how to protect your skin while using retinol products!