It can range from minor pimples to cystic acne, as well as dryness, redness, and peeling. Also, it is important to remember that retinol isn't the direct cause of acne.
Retinol is a natural vitamin A derivative often found in anti-aging creams. It can also be an effective ingredient for treating acne and acne scars.
You might also get more breakouts once you start using retinoids. Keep calm and stick with it. “It's common to see acne get worse before it gets better, as the retinoids can cause a mass 'purge,'” says Robinson. Basically, as skin cell turnover increases, new clogs rise to the top.
Skin purging happens when new ingredients, like retinol, promote increased cell turnover, which causes clogging and worsening breakouts. This is particularly the case as oil and debris that is trapped deeper underneath the skin comes to the surface.
That's right: It may be tempting to stop using said retinoid or exfoliating acid altogether, but resist. “If it's an Rx retinoid from your doctor, they gave it to you for a reason,” Mraz Robinson says. “Stick through this 'it gets worse before it gets better' phase.”
In general, retinol is one of the more gentle varieties of retinoids, however, “if you're going to experience shedding it will begin on day three to five of daily night time use, and this usually continues for about five to 10 days depending on your skin type and the percentage of retinol you've used,” adds Ejikeme.
Purging is slightly different, appearing on the skin mostly as blackheads or small skin-coloured bumps just under the surface of the skin. But it is also possible for purging to cause similar spots to a breakout, too.
Peeling, redness, and irritation are common onset reactions for some people when they first start to use retinol. Some reactions get so bad that the common term used to describe the list of effects has been dubbed the “retinol uglies”. Note from a skincare expert: Many things in life get worse before they get better.
Dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D., considers whiteheads and blackheads “mild” and therefore, “over-the-counter products that contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinol should do the trick.” According to Dr.
“If you're overusing your retinol, or if you're using a retinol that's too strong for you, it can lead to peeling, irritation, and excessive dryness, which may have led to retinol's association with skin thinning,” she says.
Not unlike a society quietly bubbling with rage, the bad stuff lurking in your pores needs to come out at some point. As your skin starts getting accustomed to the retinol, in the first two to four weeks of use, your cell turnover will increase and your pores will... well, purge, and all breakout hell will break loose.
Causes of Cystic Acne
Cystic acne occurs when bacteria, dead skin cells, and sebum (the substance that makes your face feel oily) get trapped beneath the skin's surface and become infected. This leads to a large, swollen cyst (bump) that can hurt just to touch.
Retinoids work best if you use them daily. Specifically, they should be used at night because some types are deactivated by light and air. It's important to start slowly and allow your skin time to adjust. Using too much too quickly can cause redness, dryness, and irritation.
Best overall cystic-acne treatment
He recommends Differin, the only prescription-strength retinoid that's available over the counter. “Differin should be the first OTC product someone with cystic acne should use,” adds Dr. Samer Jaber, the founder of Washington Square Dermatology.
It can take three months or more to clear up acne cysts. Treatment often involves taking oral antibiotics and applying prescription-strength topical gels or creams to the skin. Cystic acne treatments include: Antibiotic creams, gels solutions and lotions to kill bacteria and decrease inflammation.
Your first port of call should be retinoids, thanks to their ability to speed up cell turnover and fade superficial scars in the process. That said, deeper, more indented scars are less likely to respond, according to Dr. Mahto, who rates The Ordinary's Granactive Retinoid 2% in Emulsion, £8.
Generally, it takes a few weeks to see results, but some OTC options may require months of regular use. Most dermatologists said you'll need to use retinol for a few weeks before you see results, but you should see improvements by 12 weeks with most products.
Retinoids are a “great option” to regulate cell turnover and prevent the pores from becoming congested, noted Garshick, who added topical retinoids work on all types of acne, but “are especially helpful” for blackheads and whiteheads.
Some people have noticed acne breakouts after using retinol, though this is a rare side effect. Eczema flare-ups, skin discoloration, swelling, and stinging are also rare occurrences. Side effects are likely to disappear after a few weeks of regular use, so it's important to give your skin time to adjust.
After two to six weeks of using tretinoin, it's usually okay to start using an exfoliant. However, it's best to use exfoliating products as sparingly as possible while using tretinoin to avoid potentially irritating your skin.
While retinol definitely gets a bad rap when it comes to skin purging, it's not the only culprit. "Any ingredients that cause cell turnover can cause purging, and that includes exfoliant acids like alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids," says Dr. Farber.
Purging is a sign that the product is working and you should continue with the treatment as prescribed. After a few weeks of purging, your skin and acne will have noticeably improved. Breaking out is when your skin is reacting because it is sensitive to something in the new product.
"You can definitely prevent [the retinoid uglies]," he says. "First, make sure it's applied to dry skin. Apply every third night for the first two weeks, then every second night for the next week, and so on so that your skin can get acclimated to it.
Should you use retinol under your eyes? Yes, definitely. While it is true that retinol – a form of vitamin A – is a powerful ingredient and the skin under your eyes is delicate, there's no reason why you should miss out on the amazing benefits of retinol.