If you follow me on Instagram (here!) and watch my stories, you might have seen me dealing with a pretty bad reaction to a face mask last week. I immediately washed it off to reveal some SUPER red and angry skin that looked like a serious sunburn. I washed it off quickly enough and my skin wasn’t burned too badly, but it was still an intense situation that had me freaked out for a bit! Here’s what happened and how I got my skin back to normal.
I applied the mask on my bare skin, and the directions recommended leaving on for 10-20 mins and then rinsing. I started feeling super hot and tingly and noticed red patches in under 5 minutes, and am so happy that I decided to rinse it off immediately. The burning got worse as I rinsed my face and when I was done, I was left with what looked like a terrible sunburn. My skin was so hot and irritated, and the redness covered my entire face. It was uncomfortable and not cute! Thankfully, I was able to clam the redness down within few hours and by the next morning, my skin was already feeling and looking better. It took a few days of super-simple skincare, but I’m back to normal and definitely learned my lesson!
WHY IT HAPPENED
So the mask I reacted to was one that I’d used and loved before and had no issue with at all. It’s an exfoliating enzyme mask with some pretty active & effective ingredients like Vitamin C, Licorice and Pumpkin (which has similar qualities to lactic/glycolic acids). I think I reacted so strongly to it this time because the night before I used the IS Clinical Active Serum which has sugarcane extract (also a natural source of glycolic acid) and white willow back (a source of salicylic acid). Using these two on consecutive days proved to just be way too much for my skin! I didn’t know how strong the ingredients of both products were, so this is just a friendly reminder that when you see pumpkin or sugarcane (or tomato, pineapple, papaya, kiwi, broccoli, carrot and more!), they can actually be quite active/strong ingredients and might not be ideal to use the same night as other ingredients or products in your regimen.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE HAVING A REACTION TO SKINCARE
First of all, if it looks or feels like an emergency, get medical help or advice ASAP. Serious things to look out for could be rapid swelling, numbness, changes to vision, trouble breathing, or more. Once you rule out an emergency, your priority should be handling your skin carefully and minimizing any potential damage/discomfort. FYI, this was obviously an unintentional experience for me, but these tips could be helpful for other situations like post-derm/laser/hair removal treatments as well!
- Wash it off! In this situation, the first thing you need to do is remove the product. You want to use lukewarm to cool water, as very hot or super cold water can make things worse. I tried using a cloth as I was washing the mask off, but even the super soft texture felt like scraping on my skin. So use lots of fresh water and just rinse, rinse, rinse. I rinsed for a few minutes, took a break and then rinsed twice more.
- Don’t use any cleansers or other skincare products unless absolutely necessary. Most things should come off with water. Even the most gentle cleansers often have ingredients that could irritate the skin further when your skin is compromised. You might want to rush and apply a mist or moisturizer too, but I waited a few hours to allow my skin to breathe and re-adjust before putting anything on it and I think that really helped.
- Try a cool compress or ice pack. I wrapped an ice pack in a damp washcloth and sat with it on my face for about 10 minutes. It really helped calm the initial burning and redness, and it felt amazing. Again, make sure to not put anything freezing or hot directly onto your sensitized skin, but wrapping a cloth around something frozen was fine for me and helped a lot.
- Go very easy on your skin for the next few days. Even once my skin was back to looking normal the next day, it still felt a little raw and tender to the touch. Our bodies are so resilient and adaptable, but they also need time to heal! I avoided all foaming cleansers, toners, treatments, oils and face makeup for about 3-4 days after my reaction. I probably wouldn’t have had another burning situation, but allowing my skin to recalibrate and rest was a much better idea than overdoing it and risking sensitizing it further and causing breakouts, peeling, more inflammation (which is the root cause of almost every skincare concern), etc. I used 4 products once a day and that was it!
- SUNSCREEN! Whenever your skin is compromised at all, it becomes exponentially more sensitive to the sun. Whether you’re dealing with acne, post-treatment skin, sun/wind burned or chapped skin, etc, you want to use a gentle but effective sunscreen to minimize any further damage (and in the case of treatments, protect the investment you made!). Regardless of season or time of day, you want to be extra diligent about sunscreen use during this time.
PRODUCTS I USED AND RECOMMEND FOR SENSITIZED SKIN
Bioelements Absolute Moisture This is the most gentle moisturizer I own and the only thing I trusted to use on my skin the night it happened. I’ve had it for almost a year now and never think to talk about it because it’s just so basic, but it’s actually one of my essentials (especially now!). I’d used it multiple times a week in the months before, and loved mixing it with treatments like retinol or oils for facial massage and extra hydration. If you have sensitive skin this is a must have. It’s completely fragrance free and super soothing while not being sticky, greasy, irritating or too heavy.
DermaQuest Sheer Zinc SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen Yet another unsung hero of my collection that I never appreciated enough until now! This sunscreen is so simple and gentle, yet it forms a serious physical barrier between your skin and harmful rays. I’d prefer not to use a tinted product in this situation, but of all the sunscreens I own (over 5!), this is the most appropriate for super sensitive skin. 100% unscented and free of irritating ingredients.
Lina Hanson Global Baby/Sensitive Serum This serum (it’s a lightweight oil) is something I never EVER want to live without. I used it as a body oil for a while but $50 for 1.7 oz is a little painful. If I used it as much as I wanted, I’d need a new bottle at least every month, and that just feels excessive. It’s the only thing that makes any small bumps on my arms/legs feel smooth, so I’m still using it just mixed with my Necessaire lotion to ration it a bit more. Anyway, I used this as a gentle oil cleanser (to remove the sunscreen) and as a serum/moisturizer while my face was recovering. This serum has the most unbelievably gentle natural scent that instantly comforts and calms me. If you have a baby or know anyone who has a baby, I can’t imagine anything more luxurious or beautiful to give the mother as a gift! It’s the thing I look most forward to using every time I shower (and made this experience a little less annoying!).
I used the most gentle cleanser I had, but don’t want to recommend it because it didn’t work as well as I wanted for removing the oil residue and sunscreen. It was so emollient and moisturizing that I didn’t feel like my face was clean enough even though it was better than feeling stripped or more irritated from using something else that I had.
Finally, a bonus shout out to any hat that can protect your face further from the sun. I love sitting outside to eat lunch every day and Rob and I both enjoy the beach and sitting in the sun, but I did NOT want my face getting any uva/uvb rays and sunscreen can only protect so far (I’m not perfect with reapplication and it is HOT down here so I’m always wary of it sweating off). This straw visor is my favorite hat lately; it’s so cute but still practical with an adjustable back and wide brim. (side note: I never ever in my entire life thought I’d wear a visor, but here we are and I don’t regret it and am not embarrassed by it one bit. Anything for avoiding sun spots!)
This experience was a first for me and although it was scary at first, it wasn’t so bad! I think the trick is just handling it really gently and not overreacting or overcorrecting too much. I forgot to mention that right after I rinsed the first time, I used a super gentle toner because it was the only thing I had with aloe in it but it made things worse right away. I rinsed that off also, and decided to just let my skin breathe and cool off instead. I know OTC/drugstore aloe vera gels and lotions often have lots of additional fragrances/dyes and harsher preservatives, but I’d be interested to see how pure aloe would feel and help after a skincare burn like this. Most grocery stores now have aloe leaves in the produce section that you can store in your fridge and use as skincare and/or in smoothies, etc. LMK if you’ve tried it raw and what you think!
Bottom Line: In the future, I’m going to be even more careful about considering the ingredients in my products and how they interact with other things that I’m using!
Have you ever had a bad reaction to skincare or something similar happen to your face? How did you handle it? Any other tips or things you wish you did/didn’t do? Let me know in the comments below!