Tretinoin purging is when the skin gets worse before it gets better. Tretinoin speeds up the skin cell turnover process, causing some initial breakouts, drying, and peeling. These symptoms eventually go away and leave clearer skin underneath.
During the first 3 weeks you are using tretinoin, your skin may become irritated. Also, your acne may seem to get worse before it gets better. It may take longer than 12 weeks before you notice full improvement of your acne, even if you use the medicine every day.
Many tretinoin users experience a “purge” during the first several weeks of treatment. During this period, acne — the very problem tretinoin is supposed to treat — often gets worse, resulting in everything from the occasional whitehead to severe breakouts.
Remember, your skin is undergoing a more rapid cell turnover than it's used to. All of the substances that were clogging your pores get pushed to the surface layer of your skin, and because things are happening at a faster pace, you may experience light inflammation, contributing to breakouts.
It can take up to 12 weeks to see results from using tretinoin.
After 4 – 6 weeks
After 4-6 weeks, your skin will get used to tretinoin and will begin to be noticeably smoother and more even. A lot of the initial irritation will settle down and true “retinization” of your skin is in full force.
Although tretinoin may take only a few weeks to yield some results, other studies of tretinoin as an acne treatment show continual improvement over the course of six months to even one year, meaning that tretinoin is a viable long term treatment option.
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.
Is there a way to avoid purging? If you're considering adding a retinol, acid, or peel to your routine but don't want to deal with the side effects, you can minimize purging. Dermatologists suggest the “ease in” method. “For example, during the first week, apply the retinoid two times a week,” Mraz Robinson says.
Skin purging typically looks like tiny red bumps on the skin that are painful to touch. They are often accompanied by whiteheads or blackheads. It can also cause your skin to become flaky. The flare ups caused by purging have a shorter lifespan than a breakout.
Purging usually lasts between two to four weeks, according to Dr Phillips. “Efficacy is partly determined by the formulation and strength of the product; however, on average, most people will start to see a difference after a month,” he says.
If you notice an increase in irritation or flaking, it's OK to take a break for a couple of days. Just don't stop using the medication completely without consulting your health care provider.
While tretinoin can remove one-half of the hormonal acne equation and significantly reduce acne outbreaks, it's not proven to have any effects on your body's sebum production. If you have oily skin, you might need to use an additional treatment alongside tretinoin to get your body's sebum production under control.
In the first two weeks, your skin's oiliness will start to decrease. Before your first month of treatment ends, you may experience the “Accutane purge.” Skin purging looks like acne exacerbation.
Tretinoin works by unblocking the clogged follicles that cause cystic acne. In treatment, they're usually used together with antibiotics. As the tretinoin opens up clogged follicles, the antibiotics enter and get rid of the bacteria that cause acne breakouts.
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.
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.
If you stop using the medication or are inconsistent with your treatment, any improvements you see may disappear over time. Always use the product as prescribed by your healthcare provider (Rodan, 2016).
You can use moisturiser before you apply retinoids, and you can even mix the two together. This is likely to lessen side effects, and keep your skin hydrated. Myers believes that “gentle exfoliation is your best friend” and can help to remove some of the dry, flaky skin that may be irritating you.
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.
Most people can expect to see results within four to six weeks and will continue to see results for as long as they use it. While it's possible for tretinoin to eliminate some dark spots and discolorations, it's also possible for acne to come back once discontinuing tretinoin.
Tretinoin is a more potent retinoid than retinol and will show results faster. While these active ingredients both combat signs of photoaging (aka wrinkles, rough skin, uneven skin tone, and enlarged pores), tretinoin-based products like Night Shift are more effective for fighting acne.
Contrary to popular belief, tretinoin is not a “bleaching agent” or medicine designed specifically to lighten your skin tone. While tretinoin can even out patches of hyperpigmentation and cause a mild change in your skin tone, it doesn't affect melanin synthesis.
Generally, it is fine to use tretinoin every night, but you may not want to because of the initial side effects, especially when you first start. You should only use tretinoin as prescribed to avoid significant skin irritation, redness, and other side effects.