When you first start using prescription topical treatment, you may notice your skin becoming red and flaky. The treatments can also make your skin feel dry and tight as well as give you a burning, itching or stinging sensation. If you experience the above reaction, please do not worry, this is a normal response when starting treatment. The steps below will help ease you into the treatment and minimise your reaction. However, if you do not have any of the above reactions it does not mean the treatment is not working.
Steps you can take to minimise initial reactions:
- It is very important to remember that these side effects are worse during the first few weeks of your treatment and that they are entirely normal.
- If you do experience irritation from the treatment, you can minimise this by using the product every other night until your skin starts to get used to it, which could take a few weeks.
- If the dryness, peeling and redness is too uncomfortable for you, try applying your moisturiser first, waiting 3-5 minutes for it to absorb, and then apply your topical treatment to your face.
- If your skin is extremely irritated after the first few days of treatment, take a few days off and do not use any medicated treatments until your skin settles down. Then, when you start using your treatment again, apply as above, but wash it off after 60 minutes. Slowly build up the amount of time you have the treatment on your skin until you can keep it on overnight.
- Once your skin gets used to the treatment and you are applying it on a daily basis, you may start seeing improvements within a few weeks. However, it can take up to three months of regular use for the full effect of the treatment to be noticeable. So please be patient with your skin!
Generally, topical retinoids are considered to have no allergic potential – meaning you cannot become allergic to them. Developing a true allergy to other anti-ageing preparations – such as niacinamide and hydroquinone – is rare.
Symptoms of true allergy to a topical treatment are throat tightness, difficulty breathing, feeling faint and/or swelling of the eyes, face, lips or tongue on the first or second use of the treatment. This reaction can occur within minutes or up to 24 hours after product use. Remember that this type of serious allergic reaction is very different from the local skin irritation that you get at the site of treatment application, such as redness, dryness, peeling and burning. If you think you have developed symptoms of a true allergy, please go to your local A&E department straight away and please let our dermatology team know.