Skin Recovery When You’ve Overdone It

Skin Recovery When You’ve Overdone It

“I’ve wrecked my skin!! Now my face is red, stinging, crazy sensitive, with little peeling patches. I thought an expensive glycolic serum (from a major shop no less) would be a great way to improve roughness and dark spots. Wrong! Now I’m worried I’ll look even worse when, and if, my skin recovers. What should I do?”


No one is immune to making skincare mistakes. With all the chatter on the internet, it’s easy to buy into the idea that more is better. (Tip: it’s not)  So when that extra powerful exfoliant or homemade mask, or even the innocent mixing of incompatible products has your skin crying out for help, what do you do? If you’ve overdone it, it’s smart to do some serious damage control so you avoid long-term negative effects.

Our Lead Aesthetician Bekah spells out what to do when you’ve overdone it.

The first step is to restore the skin barrier.

Your idea of using a glycolic serum probably wasn’t wrong, but the one you used was wrong for YOUR skin. Lots of missteps can create surprise problems. No matter the product, if your skin is red, patchy, itchy, or stinging, it’s common to want to cover it up and shut it up. But at this stage, your skin requires tender loving care. For now, put away any product, cleanser, moisturizer, spray with chemicals or fragrance, or anything “active” like Vitamin C, retinol, or acids.   

Use the gentlest cleanser you can find. Avene has a super gentle cleanser called Xera Calm. From the company, “Unique oil texture that lathers to seal in moisture and restore skin’s barrier. Helps to maintain a healthy balance without stripping the skin’s natural microbiome.” We agree wholeheartedly.  Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser is a good alternative and is easily found in most stores. Just remember, no actives, acids, retinol, fragrance, etc.

Support for the restoration.

Protect your skin and give it some support in restoring the skin barrier. Avene again comes to the rescue. Their Cicalfate + Restorative Cream protects and boosts your skin’s efforts to self-repair. Many Ulta stores carry this product. We do too. It’s a good product to keep on hand.

Use a fragrance-free mineral-based sunblock any time you go outside or sit near a window. Compromised skin is already vulnerable and adding sun to the mix simply magnifies the potential for unwanted pigmentation.

The more elegant formulas are mostly invisible without the typical white cast associated with zinc or titanium oxide. We like Alastin’s SilkSHIELD® All Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 with TriHex Technology® (untinted version while your skin is recovering).

The next step is patience.

Your skin needs time to recover, so don’t expect a miracle turnaround in just a day or so. As long as your skin is red, irritated, or itchy, stick with the recovery steps. Avoid makeup if possible – and sun exposure. Be sure sun protection is used daily, not just now, but every day going forward.

The final step is to provide some ongoing pampering.

Although it may be a bit expensive, little compares to SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore for drier skin types. Although billed as an antiaging cream, any dry skin will benefit from this cream that refills cellular lipids. One patient referred to it as a “baby’s kiss to my desperate skin”.

*If overdoing it has created wounding, blistering, or crusting, see a dermatologist. Open wounds and breaks in the skin are an invitation to bacterial infection which could cause significant problems.

If you’re an adventurous soul who can’t resist the risk of experimentation, consider having a rescue kit on hand before that next step into the unknown. Avene and Alastin both have kits to help you through the skin recovery.

Recovery Kits

Recommended Products


Alastin Silkshield (Untinted)

Avene Cicalfate+

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid