CeraVe Healing Ointment Fixed (and prevented) My 'Retin-A Face' aka, 'The Retinoid Uglies'

Okay, it may not look this bad - but this is pretty much how Rein-A face or "Retinoid Uglies" feels.
 If you've ever tried Retin-A, very strong chemical peels (or have just been sun burned rather badly), you'll relate to this post. You manage to get enough moisturizer on your face to spackle down the dry patches of skin and get some sunscreen and makeup on. Everything looks mostly even - or so you think. That was my delusion this past Wednesday.

I waited for my face to be completely dry after cleansing, and then applied my tretinoin (0.1 %) cream. After about 15 minutes, I put on my moisturizers in layers - MD Selections Hyaluronic & Ferulic Serum, Elizabeth Arden's Ceramide Day Cream SPF 30 (which I use mostly for the ceramide benefit, rather than the SPF), and topped it off with Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 sunscreen. Elta's SPF 50 is one of the gentlest sunscreens I've found and doesn't have as chalky-blue a cast as Shiseido's WetForce SPF 50 sunscreen. I like both, but the chalky color of Shiseido's WetForce isn't something I want to bother with every day.

I felt like I had taken care of all of the dryness and was ready for makeup. I used Shiseido's Lifting Foundation with a bit of Estee Lauder's Double Wear High Cover Concealer under my eyes. Everything seemed to go on smoothly, so after setting with Cle de Peau translucent loose powder, I was ready to go.
Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift and Firm Day Cream Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30. I tolerate this well, but it does have fragrance and may bother some users.
This comes in tinted and untinted - I use the untinted simply because the tinted color looked unnatural on me.
A couple of hours later, in my local Starbucks bathroom mirror, I saw the disaster. 
Retin-A face. (Also known as the Tretinoin Uglies.") 
This isn't a picture of me, but this is roughly what I looked like:  All over my face. There was no way I was going to be able to cover that with makeup.
I checked my makeup bag to see if I had any moisturizer with me and all I had was my travel tube of CeraVe Ointment and Arden sunscreen. Normally, I wouldn't put ointment on my face during the day, only at night. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I got hooked on this from Target's monthly "Beauty Box" sample (see full review here: and have been finding more uses for it almost every week.

Here's a breakdown of what I did. Maybe, if you get Retin-A Face, it will help you, too.

1. With a damp paper towel I very carefully and very lightly wiped off the flakiness. I didn't try to get all of it, just the worst of it.
2. Before the dampness evaporated, I smoothed on about a pea sized dab of CeraVe Healing Ointment ointment. Everything smoothed down. I could tell if I looked very closely that there was still a little dead skin and some unevenness, but it was mostly smooth.
3. Re-applied the Arden Ceramide SPF 30 cream which was the only sunscreen I had with me.
4. Re-applied a thin layer of Estee Lauder's Double Wear High Cover concealer under my eyes and over a couple of the reddest patches. I didn't brush it in with my fingertips - just tapped lightly so I wouldn't disturb the moisturizer (or patches of dry skin) underneath. (The MAC version of this is a better value, but I do love that Lauder's compact has a mirror.)
5. I very lightly set my face with MAC Mineralize pressed powder. I have to say, this powder seems to go on smoothly no matter what the heck is going on with my face. I am so impressed with it!
Then I stood back and checked my work. Everything was smooth. I couldn't believe how beautiful my makeup looked. My face felt so much better too - no tightness, dryness or stinging.
But that's not even the best part!
Three hours later, when I got home, my makeup was still completely in place - no flakes, no streaking, no fading, no creasing under my eyes.
I used it that night after my tretinoin cream to see if it would prevent the morning redness and peeling, and it absolutely did. My skin looked radiant and smooth - which never happens when I'm in the beginning phase of tretinoin use.
I then thanked the Beauty Gods and Goddess, and CeraVe, for making CeraVe Healing Ointment and selling it in a 12 oz tub (for about $22.).

After looking at the ingredient list, I should not have been surprised this worked so well. CeraVe Healing Ointment has ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and lipids - setting it pretty far above my usual "emergency retinoid care" which included occasional use of Vaseline, Boiron Homeoplasmine Ointment (herbal extracts + Vaseline), and Neosporin (topical antibiotics + Vaseline.)  

(I do a lot of crazy things to my face. My emergency kit is pretty well stocked.)

There are a couple of drawbacks to CeraVe Ointment being used on the face:
  • Despite the claim, this will still feel heavy and a little greasy. It doesn't soak into facial skin with the same ease and speed as it does on body skin.
  • It may cause breakouts for people prone to acne - especially those sensitive to mineral oil or wax-based products. See ingredient list below for reference.
Conclusion: If you use retinoids, or chemical exfoliants or peels, consider keeping a tube (or a jar) of CeraVe on hand to help with the peeling and discomfort.  However, if you have acne-prone or very oily skin, this might cause more problems than it helps. If you try it, do so cautiously and use only where and when you need it - not as an all over facial moisturizer.
*Note # 1: As always, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary.) These results are my own, and I am not making any guarantees. Please consult your doctor to find out which products would work best for you while you're on tretinoin.

*Note # 2: I am not being compensated by anyone for recommending any product in my reviews.

CeraVe Healing Ointment: Mineral Oil, Paraffin, Ozokerite, Dimethicone, Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Ceramide 1, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-11, Tocopheryl Acetate, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Carbomer, Panthenol, Water, L-Proline, Xantan Gum.

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