“Wait, wasn’t retinol supposed to treat my acne?! Then why do I have more pimples than ever?!”
If this is happening to you right now, calm down. I know you want to throw that retinol cream in the bin, but hear me out first.
Retinol CAN help clear up your acne. It just needs to make it worse first.
Let me explain:
Why retinol causes breakouts
Did you know your skin renew itself about every 28 days? It gets rid of old and damaged skin cells and replaces than with new, smoother cells.
Retinol speeds up this natural exfoliating process. If you have dry or normal skin, all’s good.
But if you have oily or acne-prone skin, chances are a breakout is already brewing underneath the surface of your skin. By speeding up the exfoliating process, retinol unveils it much sooner.
In another words, retinol isn’t causing the problem. It just brings to the surface now what would naturally have appeared one or two weeks later.
It’s annoying as hell but totally normal. It’s called “purging”.
How to deal with retinol breakouts
You have two options:
- Wait it out: the purging period rarely lasts more than a month.
- Fight it: the best weapons are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
Both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide exfoliate skin, getting rid of the dead cells that would otherwise end up in your pores and clog them up.
That’s where the similarities ends. Here’s what they do differently:
- Benzoyl peroxide: it kills the bacteria that causes acne but is very harsh and doesn’t work well with retinol. Use it in the morning only on your acne and retinol at night.
- Salicylic acid: it gets inside the pores, exfoliating them from within and soothes redness and inflammation. It’s gentler than benzoyl peroxide.
Personally, I’d try salicylic acid first and, if that didn’t work, upgrade to benzoyl peroxide. You can find my fave products with both here.
Did retinol “make” your breakout? Share your experience in the comments below.