7 Soothing Products to Get Us Through the Retinol Scaries

Preparation is a must when you’re using retinol for the first time ever. I’m not one to enter any pursuit lightly, so before selecting a product for my virgin skin, I researched. In other words, I read a lot of articles about the anti-aging, acne-clearing, and collagen-stimulating rewards of this wonder ingredient. Since I’m a total newbie, I knew I needed to start with a low-percentage formula to ease my skin into the fold. That meant finding the best retinol for sensitive skin.

I’m no stranger to acids or other potentially harsh skincare ingredients—I’ve used glycolic acid as well as other AHAs and BHAs in the past—but I didn’t want to throw my skin to the proverbial wolves. After consulting some of my co-workers for product recommendations, I bought a bottle of the First Aid Beauty Retinol Serum with a 0.25% concentration of retinol formulated for beginners like myself and those with sensitive skin.

My skin went through a fairly uneventful acclimation phase in the beginning; maybe a few more pimples than normal, but nothing I wasn’t prepared for. About two and a half weeks in, I started to experience the dreaded retinol scaries. The skin near my jaw and around my mouth began peeling and the vitamin C serum I used every morning started to feel more tingly than normal. Then I did something most dermatologists would probably caution against: I added a new product to my skincare routine.

Since retinol can make your skin more photo-sensitive, I’d been religious about applying SPF every day. One fateful day I switched to a face sunscreen that had some extra L-ascorbic acid because the brightening, vitamin C-laden ingredients sounded like a nice way to treat my skin. Unfortunately, this product sent my retinol purge into overdrive. I immediately broke out in a red rash and the parts of my face that were already peeling started stinging and burning too.

Not one to panic too much, I looked for the most gentle and soothing skincare products I could find. In another probably-not-derm-recommended turn, I again changed up my routine—this time switching to super calming products with zero fragrance or other irritants that would make my face angry. Because retinol can also be drying (and my skin was already molting like a snake thanks to the expedited cell turnover), I looked to products that would provide extra moisture and hydration. About a week after my mishap, my skin was much happier and the burning, stinging sensation is firmly behind me.

These are the products nursing my skin through a retinol purge. I love them so much, I don’t think I’ll stop recommending them anytime soon.

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum

I’ve used First Aid Beauty products for years and love how gentle everything is on my skin. When I saw a steady stream of positive reviews for their retinol serum, I wanted to try it right away.

Aveeno Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser

This gentle cleanser from Aveeno lives up to its name—it truly is ultra-calming. And the fragrance-free formula is exactly what my sensitive skin needs after a few weeks of using retinol.

Mario Badescu Facial Spray With Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater

This is the lone exception to my new fragrance-free skincare rule. I’ve trusted this Mario Badescu facial spray for years (it has a cult following for a reason) and use it to prep my skin so it can better absorb the serums and moisturizers that follow in my routine.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum

I started using this hydrating serum from First Aid Beauty a few months ago and don’t plan on turning back anytime soon. It’s common knowledge that retinol can be drying, so this serum provides a moisturizing boost thanks to its hyaluronic acid-rich formula.

Glossier Priming Moisturizer

Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer is another fragrance-free staple in my skincare routine. At its core, this is a no-frills moisturizer that I swear by.

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

One of the most parroted pieces of advice to retinol newbies is to use a daily sunscreen since retinol can make the skin more photo-sensitive (daily sunscreen is also just good to use in general). This clear gel formula from Supergoop! agrees with my skin, even though the inclusion of Frankincense doesn’t make it completely fragrance-free.

Cerave PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

My fancier, more expensive night creams are on an indefinite hiatus thanks to this moisturizing night lotion from Cerave—and more than 1,500 five-star reviews on Amazon agree. The brand’s signature mix of ceramides and skin-restoring ingredients go to work at night to help my skin feel revived and fresh by morning.

Have you tried any of these products? Let me know in the comments below!

The 5 Active Ingredients You Actually Need In Your Skincare Routine

How do you approach your skincare routine? Is it with a certain sense of abandon, incorporating any and every strong active ingredient? Or have you taken a more measured route – stepping back, consulting a professional, and considering what will work best for your skin? If you’re in the first camp, a little swotting up is all that’s required to get you back on the beauty straight and narrow. Thanks to LA-based celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, who has worked with everyone from Julianne Moore to Emma Roberts, we have her book Glow From Within to consult on the rules of skincare. And Vargas knows a thing or two about what makes for a robust, radiant complexion. 

An advocate of a “pillar-based”, 360° approach to the skin, Vargas has conquered all manner of concerns in her time as a facialist. “Beauty isn’t skin deep,” she says. “Today, most of my clients know that they need to eat nutritious meals, avoid particular foods, and drink enough water to achieve their own brand of youth.” Other positive lifestyle choices she recommends are good self-care, paying attention to your body, prioritising sleep, reducing stress, and doing some exercise. She sums it up as making “time for connection and joy” in her book.

As for products, “I recommend a minimalist regimen,” Vargas says. “Cleanse at night and apply a serum or a mask for sleeping. In the morning, cleanse or rinse, apply a serum, moisturiser and a sunscreen,” she says. “I also exfoliate twice a week and do a beauty mask once a week.” Finding the right cleanser for you is relatively straightforward – simply use a gentle formula that targets your skin issues and doesn’t leave your face feeling tight after washing. So far, so simple. But Vargas is also enthusiastic about another, potentially confusing pillar of good skincare: active ingredients. So where to start?

Vargas says any effective routine should incorporate a retinol at night. “It’s great for all skin types, and using a vitamin C in conjunction for the day will help brighten skin.” Despite what many people think, good retinoids can be bought over the counter – brands like Skinceuticals and Medik8 offer an array of options that cause little to no skin irritation. Medik8’s Crystal Retinal 3 Serum is a brilliant entry point and will help to increase cell turnover, leading to more even skin tone, smoother texture and, of course, fewer fine lines. No 7’s new Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex is a good high street option. There’s also Vargas’s own brilliant vitamin C serum (the Rescue Serum), which combines vitamin C with super-hydrating squalene and elderberry extract, a powerful antioxidant. You can also find it more potently in Vichy’s LiftActiv Peptide C Ampoules, which contain 10% fresh vitamin C as well as hyaluronic acid within each capsule.

Exfoliation is also at the top of Vargas’s list when it comes to encouraging a glow back into the skin. “It usually acts as a mini facial and brings back glow immediately,” she says. She recommends a fruit enzyme-filled mask or treatment, with one or two other alpha hydroxy acids (actives that are excellent for keeping skin healthy and luminous), like lactic, kojic, mandelic or glycolic, to gently nibble away at the pore-clogging dead cells that can sit upon skin, making it look far less happy than it should.
Try Sand & Sky Emu Apple Enzyme Power PolishHerbivore’s Prism 20% AHA + 5% BHA Exfoliating Glow Facial,or Joanna Vargas Exfoliating Mask. Note that she recommends performing a treatment like this twice a week, rather than every day.

For hydration, Vargas is a fan of hyaluronic acid, the wonder molecule that can hold up to a thousand times its own weight in water, meaning it hydrates and plumps the skin as no other active can. Niod’s Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex is a great option, since it contains 15 different forms of hyaluronic (which means it’s more likely to conquer the skin barrier), or Dr Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Acid is also highly concentrated, with long and short chain hyaluronic molecules for better penetration.

Of course, there are other active ingredients that can prove beneficial in any good beauty routine, but as Vargas points out, these are the key power players that form the basis of excellent skincare. Listening to your skin and what it’s telling you, however, is also key – what works for one face won’t necessarily work for another. “Unhealthy skin can appear red, inflamed or irritated and, when pinched, may not bounce back but will tent up in a wrinkly shape. Or you could simply be struggling with breakouts,” says Vargas. If that’s the case, combat irritation with soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide, aloe vera, green tea or cica, to name four, then reconsider the product you’ve used and whether you might have overdone it. 

After that? Your fifth and perhaps most important active, SPF (which is actually a cocktail of different actives). Apply, and you’re ready to take on the world. 

VOGUE article

What Do Jade Rollers Do for Your Skin, Anyway?

Jade rollers aren’t a recent skincare innovation. They’ve been a staple in Chinese skincare routines since the 7th century, and are believed to have healing and protective properties. The handheld massagers are usually dual-ended with two jade stone heads that are ran across the face, which can de-puff skin and boost circulation.

How Does a Jade Roller Benefit Your Skin?

Jade rollers are believed to boost blood circulation, reduce swelling, and can help products penetrate deeper into the skin. Basically, they’re supposed to be a quick, easy cure for daily skincare struggles like dark under-eye circles and puffiness. The increase in circulation can also help smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. A jade roller can be used at room temperature or chilled in the fridge.

“The pressure and cold of the roller helps to improve circulation and increase lymphatic drainage,” Dr. Sperling (InStyle) explains. “They also can help to temporarily improve puffiness or help to rub in topical creams.”

On top of the skincare benefits, jade stones are said to be calming, so using one can potentially improve your mood. (Yes, really!) “You are also getting the benefits of jade as well,” says Vargas (InStyle). “It is a traditional stone that soothes the mind and releases negative thoughts.”

How Do Jade Rollers Work?

After cleaning your skin and applying whatever skincare products you typically use, Vargas (InStyle) says, “You want to roll your face in an outward motion.” Light pressure can work to drain lymphatic fluids, while light to medium pressure can help products penetrate deeper and boost blood flow. “The movements help increase blood circulation and collagen production to maintain a youthful glow serving as a sort of mini facial on the daily,” she explains.

For a firming effect, Park (InStyle) recommends starting with the cheekbones, and moving outwards. “Then, go against the jaw line to create more contour and definition,” she says. “Afterwards, move the roller down the back of your ears toward the clavicle, allowing the excess fluids to drain down to the lymphatic system.”

What Skincare Products Work With Jade Rollers?

A serum or face oil and a jade roller are a winning combo. These products will help the facial massager glide against your face, plus the tool can help their active ingredients get deeper into your skin.

As for what ingredients to use, there’s options. “I like to use firming peptides and work around areas with fine lines and wrinkles,” says Vargas (InStyle). “Plant-based stem cells are also beneficial when using a roller. Also, a hydrating serum is key since we all need hydration. You can also use brightening oils as well.”

When Should You Use a Jade Roller?

The beauty of this ritual is that it’s a great addition to any morning or nighttime skincare routine. In the a.m., a chilled jade roller can made sleepy, puffy eyes look refreshed, while in the p.m., the facial massaging tool is great for calming inflammation in the skin.

Do Jade Rollers Have Any Side Effects?

Jade rollers are safe to use every day, and for every skin type. But Dr. Sperling (InStyle) does note that they can spread bacteria and infection if they aren’t properly cleaned. Jade rollers also won’t help with inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or rosacea.

Is There a Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Jade Rollers?

It all depends on personal preference, but a cheap option won’t be made with a quality stone. “I would personally invest in a high quality jade roller, because you’re paying the price for a good quality stone,” says Park (InStyle). “Also, you’re investing in a beautiful piece that will allow you to use it daily as a ritual!”

OK, now that you know the deal with jade rollers, what do the before and afters of using one look like? Check out #jaderollers on Instagram to find out.

The Best Jade Rollers at Every Price Point

Have you used jade rollers before? Are you inspired to do so now? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below!

Does A Face Oil Really Work?

Well … oil-based cleansers are good to remove makeup, rosehip oil is used on the face and neck to give better slip for massage tools, or simply applied to the a very dehydrated face to give a more hydrated appearance (note this statement).

However, and it can vary from person to person, chemical formulation and dermatologist statements regarding facial oils prove that this step is not as crucial and beneficial to the skin as people have been led to believe via marketing.

Whether you have oily or dry skin, topical oils alone cannot give you a level of moisture that’s required for healthy skin. If you apply it on oily skin – you’re creating even more problems right there, or if you apply it on dry skin – it’ll only give the appearance of hydration, not the actual skincare benefits you’re looking for.

What does the oil do, then?

“Most oils that are applied to the skin end up forming more of a protective barrier on its surface, rather than actually penetrating the skin,” Dr. Hollmig states. So, although oils are moisturizing and may indirectly increase the amount of hydration in the skin, they are not technically hydrating (SELF Magazine).

The crucial factor here is the size of the fatty acid molecules that make up the oil. If they’re too big to get through the skin barrier, they sit on top and act as occlusives. If they’re small enough to get through, they may be able to penetrate to deeper layers and strengthen the stratum corneum. For instance, research suggests that jojoba oil and argan oil can actually help repair the skin barrier.

Plus, some oils come with other benefits, such as antioxidants or anti-inflammatory properties, that might make them beneficial for certain skin concerns. Whether or not an oil is the best choice for that issue is another question (TODAY).

Save oil for the final step of your skin-care routine. If you apply an oil first, any moisturizer that follows won’t be able to fully penetrate the oil barrier; it’s like applying lotion over a wet suit. Remember, oils are only the gatekeepers, not producers, of hydration, so load up on humectants first, and then pile on the oil afterward to keep moisture from escaping (The Cut).

Oils CAN clog your pores! But not all oils. Mineral oil is a chronic offender, as well as olive oil, oil du jour, and coconut, easily clog pores, too. So which oils don’t cause breakouts? The answer depends on you. Though there are oils that are less likely to irritate, like marula and argan, your unique genetic skin makeup will determine your oil tolerance. It’s annoying to admit, but trial and error is your best bet at determining what will work for you.

If you want to incorporate using a facial oil, consider your skin type and needs, conduct sufficient research, seek advice from a dermatologist and definitely do a test-run to see if your skin can handle a specific formulation of your chosen oil.

References
Video referenced
SELF article
TODAY article
PaulasChoice article
The Cut article