I Chemically Burned My Skin Right Before My Wedding Day

Just what every bride dreams of

I tell you what, nothing bands women together like sharing their wedding day mishaps. And given the past year of fires, pandemics and floods, it’s safe to say there’s been plenty to share.

Taking heed from many friends’ advice and let’s be honest, warnings, I chose to forego a year of stressful wedding planning (which was quite likely to end in disaster at the rate things were going anyway) in favour of a semi-swift shotgun. Eight weeks to be exact. Less time, less stress was my logic.

Most brides would be worried about the venue, photographer and dress on such a short timeline but as a beauty editor, my brain went straight to my skin. Would eight weeks be long enough to achieve the best blinding glow of my life?

I know you’re probably thinking that surely as a beauty editor I would’ve had good skin already. But you see the thing is, our job is quite literally to test and try out products. That means both good products and (sometimes) bad products. We put our faces on the line (I know, cry me a river, right). And so taking time out from trying products requires time and planning, of which I didn’t have a lot of.

Therefore my first move (naturally) was to get any testing I had to do out of the way as soon as possible. Fast forward to four weeks before the wedding and I had one last product I needed to test before committing myself to a trustworthy-products-only routine.

The outstanding product in question had retinol in it, which as we know is an anti-ageing wonder and one of the most scientifically proven products around. 

But because of its potency and my urgency to get on a pre-wedding skincare regimen that wouldn’t upset my complexion, I wanted to try it swiftly; a first impression of texture, smell and feel only. Get it on my skin, get it off.

Now, I’m not going to name the product because I do wholeheartedly believe it wasn’t the product’s fault. It was definitely mine. It went on perfectly fine, felt nice (soothing even) and there were zero issues upon application. The burn came when it was time for removal.

Let me be the silly example of a very important lesson: Do not mix retinol with BHAs (AKA salicylic acid) or AHAs (AKA lactic, glycolic, citric, malic acids). 

You see, my favourite cleanser right now is Fenty’s Total Cleans’R Remove-It-All Cleanser ($36 at Sephora – still stand by it), but at the time I didn’t realise it contains salicylic acid.

Always. Read. The. Label.

So as I went to wash off the retinol test and embark on the ‘best skin of my life’ journey, my skin experienced a slight tingle. Then it became red. Then it became sore. And then it dawned on me; I was experiencing a chemical skin burn.

chemical burn on skin
My skin a few hours after the burn

Do you want to know the best part? I was booked in to have a facial just a few hours later. That’s why I needed to test the product and get going. 

I didn’t have time to call or cancel. I thought as soon as the facialist saw my skin she’d turn me away and say she couldn’t risk aggravating it further. I spent the whole journey there with ice wrapped in a wet paper towel pressed to my cheekbone and feeling sick.

I was convinced there was no way my facial was going to happen and my wedding skin plan would be thrown. I still think that would’ve happened at most places.

But, I was lucky. And I had booked in at Jocelyn Petroni

Serena, the beauty therapist performing my facial, assessed my skin and catered my treatment to the sensitivity. With the aim to calm and repair, she suggested a round of Omnilux (LED Light Therapy), which heals the skin at a cellular level.

I was on the verge of tears before arriving at my appointment, and the fact she was able to make me feel instantly better and positive about the big red mark on my face is a testament to her professionalism.

However, my skin wasn’t going to be fixed from one session and it was still a big setback. Following my first facial, the burn remained red for a few days before drying up, turning tough and beginning to peel. Delightful.

I kept things simple at home to avoid any further aggravation. I only cleansed with micellar water (the $8 Garnier one – gentle, scentless and effective) and would follow this with La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane Ultra Dermallergo Serum ($55 at Adore Beauty); a serum with the sole purpose of calming and strengthening the skin barrier. I also brought out the big guns, Creme De La Mer ($470 for 60ml at That was it for my entire evening routine. Three steps. Simple and oh so safe.

sensitive skin products

Two weeks after the fateful incident, my red mark had disappeared, my skin was soothed and the only remaining sign that it had even happened was the rough texture.

I had another appointment with Serena at Jocelyn Petroni and this time, we didn’t have to hold back. I had what’s called ‘The Complexion Boosting Facial’ ($280) and if there’s only room in your budget or timeline for one pre-wedding treatment – make it this one.

45 minutes, a double cleanse, peel (tailored to your skin type) and Omnilux later and my skin had been lit the hell up and all texture seriously smoothed out. I couldn’t believe the dull to beaming glow difference.

post facial skin
My skin after ‘The Complexion Boosting Facial’ in different light

For the first time since the burn, I was stoked with my skin. What a turn-around it had been and how grateful I am that I had time to heal.

If I could only share one piece of beauty advice for brides-to-be, it’s to not try any drastic treatments or products close to your wedding day. It can be tempting to book in every nip, tuck, peel and laser you can think of (after all, it’s a great excuse) and I’m still all for all the treatments (hell, my facials saved my skin), just don’t book it in with no time spare for damage control (should the worst happen, which it won’t, but it could).

During my final two weeks, I stuck to my simple routine (while welcoming a gentle, trustworthy lactic acid back in every third night to exfoliate) and had one final calming facial an entire five days before the date.

Prior to this experience I had never, ever chemically burned my skin before. But if it’s going to happen, Murphy’s Law will make it happen right near your wedding day, so please, learn from my mistake.

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