It could leave you flaky instead of glowy.
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The Major Mistake You’re Making Before Your Facial Appointment
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No matter where you go to get your facials done, your aesthetician is sure to ask you what your daily skincare routine is.

Every time I start to list off each step, I get nervous as if I'm a contestant on America's Got Talent and the aesthetician is Simon Cowell. However, I recently learned aestheticians aren't judging my product lineup — rather, knowing what ingredients I use helps them create the best possible facial experience for my skin. 

Recent application of retinol and other exfoliating actives, like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), can completely change the facial your aesthetician has in store for you. Some more specific examples include prescription tretinoin, glycolic acid, and even benzoyl peroxide, says Austin-based aesthetician Renée Rouleau.

If any of these have been incorporated into your skincare routine within the previous week before your appointment, your aesthetician will most likely skip chemical and physical exfoliation, Rouleau adds. Think scrubs, peels, masks, microdermabrasion, and dermaplaning — all of which transform dull, rough complexions into plump, glowing skin. They also decrease the appearance of pores, dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. 

Instead, your aesthetician will most likely focus on deeply hydrating your skin. After all, the retinol and acids in your skincare routine are already working to brighten and smooth like exfoliators typically implemented during facials, albeit at lower intensities.

"Remember, the job of these ingredients is to increase skin cell turnover," says Mona Gohara, MD and Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. "If the cells are primed to slough and mechanical irritants are added to the mix, irritation and redness can result."   

Not only that, superficial dryness may occur two days after slathering on retinol and acids. Subsequently, invisible cracks form on the surface of your skin, Rouleau says. "Ingredients [later] used in a facial can penetrate through these cracks, hit the nerve endings, and cause a stinging sensation," she explains. 

Plus, when your face is dried out like that, the flakiness you may be experiencing is probably not ready to be removed during your facial. In fact, the exfoliants your aesthetician typically reaches for "may lift away 'live' cells that are attached to dead, expired cells, leaving the skin red and irritated," Rouleau adds. 

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To avoid any discomfort during your appointment, the experts recommend discontinuing retinol, AHAs, and BHAs about a week before getting a facial. This pause will also save your skin from unnecessary post-facial inflammation. If you're planning to get a peel or microneedling done, a break from retinol and acids is especially crucial to avoid irritation during and after your appointment, says David Kim, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. 

For those who aren't truly sure what their next facial appointment has in store for them, Dr. Gohara recommends calling ahead to ask — that way you'll be 100% sure how to change your routine accordingly, she adds. Also, if your skin is visibly showing signs of dryness and irritation or you're experiencing a rosacea flare-up, breaking out, or have cold sores, you may want to consider canceling your appointment entirely, Rouleau and Dr. Kim mention. 

About a week after your appointment, Dr. Kim says you can begin to incorporate your favorite retinol and exfoliating products into your skincare regimen again. By then, Rouleau says your complexion will have adjusted nicely to the benefits of the facial. 

I'm a tretinoin and AHA devotee, so I understand how hard letting go of them can be — especially when you know they're working hard to keep your complexion glassy and radiant. However, giving these powerful active ingredients a break will help you make the most of your next facial appointment. Next time, you'll walk out with brighter, happier, healthier skin than ever before.