Stores & Services
Find a Sephora

Happening at Sephora

View all


From makeovers to personalized skincare consultations

Free Classes

Get inspired, play with products & learn new skills

Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Post in Acne-Prone Skin

Retinoid burns!!

Help!!! I started tretinoin (0.05%) to help with whiteheads and blemishes. I used it once at night for about three days and now I'm left with burns!! I've stopped using it, but it's super painful to wash or even touch my face. What products or things should I do to help it?

Re: Retinoid burns!!

@jessicale09  Sorry you’re going through that. Did you use it 3 nights in a row? Or were those 3 nights separated by several days—maybe one night a week? Your prescribing dermatologist should‘ve instructed you to start off using it just once or twice a week for a few weeks, to avoid such a painful reaction. Gotta really ease your skin into tretinoin. If you did use it once a week for 3 weeks, then maybe ask your derm for a different retinoid your skin might tolerate better, like adapalene. Heck, you could even be one of the folks whose skin won’t tolerate vitamin A in any form (tretinoin, adapalene, retinaldehyde, retinol, etc.), so you might need a completely different acne-fighting solution; your derm can help with that. 


Meanwhile, to deal with the irritation, strip your skincare routine way back to basics: 


  1. Gentle cleanser - when my skin’s very irritated, I very gently massage The INKEY List Oat Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm 5 oz/ 150 mL onto my skin and then let it sit for 5-10 minutes as a soothing oat mask. Then I gently massage another cleanser right on top of that cleansing balm and rinse everything off together. That second cleanser should also be gentle; something like e.l.f. Pure Skin Cleanser, CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, or even CeraVe Cream-to-Foam Cleanser. You might find you don’t even need a second cleanser. 

  2. Occlusive moisturizer - ideally something that contains petrolatum, the most water loss preventing skincare ingredient on the market. You also want something that contains no strong active ingredients while your skin’s damaged/irritated. My usual choice is Vanicream Moisturizing Cream, a very thick cream with a simple ingredient list. Or I’ll use a petrolatum balm like CeraVe Healing Ointment or Aquaphor Ointment (avoid Aquaphor if your skin’s sensitive to lanolin). I’ve even used Aveeno Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream (a body lotion) as a facial moisturizer to calm my skin down. Some folks swear by La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Balm B5 as a skin soother. 

  3. Broad spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF 30) during the day - if you’ll be outdoors at all during the day, or driving/riding in a vehicle’s window seat, or sitting at/beside a window while indoors, then you definitely need to stop the sun from making your skin irritation worse. Do you already use sunscreen daily? If you find chemical sunscreens burn now that your skin’s so irritated, try a mineral (zinc oxide) one instead. 


If your dermatologist gives you more or different instructions, follow them. 


Do not use any exfoliants until your skin’s healed. No AHA (glycolic acid, lactic acid, etc.), PHA, or scrubby cleansers. Exfoliation at this point will only worsen your skin damage. BHA (salicylic acid) is questionable here… I temporarily stop using it when my skin throws irritation tantrums, but your mileage may vary. Ask your derm about it. 


I hope your skin feels better soon!

Re: Retinoid burns!!

Yes I did use it three nights on a row which may have been the problem. I was actually prescribed this by my pediatrician (I'm under 18) for my blemishes and pimple-like bumps across my face. I will definitely use ur advice! Thank you!!

Conversation Stats
  • 2 replies
  • 1 Hearts Given
  • 2 Contributors