Other options if irritation from retinoids occur

Irritant reaction to all tretinoins/retinols since turning 35. Face turns beet red/burns within 1 week of using. I know they are the gold standard for anti-aging. What can I use for anti-aging that is comparable? Thanks.

Some patients just don’t tolerate retinoids. No matter how many they try or different ways to apply it.  When it consistently causes irritation, sometimes you just need to give up. Sounds like you may be at that point.

4 main reasons for not tolerating retinoids:

  1. It’s just too strong. Try going back to a very gentle one like a retinol 0.25.
  2. Chemicals in the base cream. It may not be the retinoid, you may have a reaction to something in the base. Try several and see if you can find one that’s better. If not, “patch testing” through a dermatologist is an option to try to identify the culprit chemical.
  3. You’re using too many other irritating skin care products with it. Try dropping out all the acids, scrubs, and high potency vitamin C. Use just a bland moisturizer for a week or two and see if that helps.
  4. You’re not using enough moisturizer. Try using plenty of moisturizer and putting the retinoid on AFTER the moisturizer. Wait 5 min and then apply the retinoid.

Still no? Here are some options:

  • Cell growth factors.  Try the TNS Recovery products.  These are made from the broth that very young cells are grown in, and then concentrated into a skin serum.
  • High potency antioxidants. One of the few areas where more expensive is better. Try the C&E Ferrulic or the Phloretin CF by SkinCeuticals.
  • Hydroxy acids. There are many of these. We have a few and you might look at the ZO line also.
  • Plant based “brightening” products. Lytera is a good product in this category. Multiple plant based agents, as opposed to hydroquinones, help to slough old pigment and even skin tone.  Retinoids have a similar effect.

Need some other ideas? Try getting a microdermabrasion once every 4-8 weeks for 3 visits and see the improvements in your skin!

Hope this helps,

Dr. Brandith Irwin
Founder, SkinTour
Director, Madison Skin & Laser Center
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Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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