Have you started having flaky skin, dry patches, or worsened acne after using tretinoin or retinol? First of all, don’t freak out; you’re not the only one, and it’s completely normal. You are just going through “Tretinoin Purge” or “Retinoid Purge.”
It’s quite similar to falling sick after your first jab of vaccination. So, don’t worry, there is nothing wrong with your skin, and all the claims that you heard about this magical active ingredient are not false. This is just your skin reacting to an active ingredient that you have recently introduced.
I have also incorporated tretinoin in my nighttime skincare routine, but before that, I did my research. Moreover, I consulted my dermatologist, took advice from people who are in their late 30s or 40s, and saw results.
Thus, I started using this in my early 20’s so that I don’t have to worry about fine lines and wrinkles later on. It’s an investment in your skin. However, every investment comes with risk, and so does this.
If you are curious to know more about this miraculous age-reversal ingredient that comes with a warning sign. I am going to share all the tips and tricks to deal with the Tretinoin purge.
So let’s get on this journey together.
What are Retinoids or Tretinoin?
You must have seen so many beauty influencers all over social media flashing the products with retinol. What’s the hype all about? Is it just a marketing gimmick?
Let me simplify this one for you, retinoid is actually an umbrella term that is used for a series of compounds. These compounds are either derived from or related to vitamin A. moreover, every beauty product that you have heard of must have some form of retinol in its product line.
Talking about tretinoin is an FDA-approved product for treating acne, dull and saggy skin, and dark spots. However, Retin-A was the very first approved version of tretinoin.
However, retinol is mostly used in beauty products, and tretinoin is mostly sold on prescription in many countries. As tretinoin is basically retinoic acid, it is more likely to cause dryness, flaky skin, or redness after the first application. Further, tretinoin is very effective for fighting acne and shows amazing results.
Does it do what it Claims?
Every other beauty product has the term ‘anti-aging’ on its packaging. However, tretinoin is the only scientifically proven ingredient that can actually reverse the signs of aging.
Anti-wrinkle– scientifically, when tretinoin binds to specific types of receptors in the nucleus, they promote the formation of more collagen and elastic fibers in our skin. Which makes your skin firm and plum giving you a youthful appearance. Moreover, as we age, we lose skin elasticity, and collagen production also declines. Which leads to wrinkles and fine lines.
Pigmentation– there can be many factors that can cause pigmentation or dark patches on your skin. It can be genetic or due to inflammation, whatever the cause might be. It all leads to the accumulation of melanin (a substance that determines skin complexion).
However, tretinoin separates these clusters removing hyper-pigmentation. Over time you’ll notice that all the dark patches will seem to fade away, giving you flawless skin.
What is the cause of the Tretinoin Purge?
After hearing so much about the miraculous effects of tretinoin, you must be excited about the results immediately. However, just after the first use, you might wake up the next morning with dry and itchy skin. This is the reason why many people discontinue the use of tretinoin.
Let me explain this, nothing happens overnight when it comes to skincare. Aging is a slow process you cant age overnight. Similarly, you can’t reverse the sign of aging instantly.
However, tretinoin does reduce oil production, which stops acne but also makes your skin feel itchy and dry. Another sign of purge is skin peeling which makes people really worried about their skin.
This happens because tretinoin increases skin turnover, which means if you start using them, you will experience peeling almost immediately. This makes it a bummer for the dry skin family, and if you use tretinoin close to your eyes, peeling will be even more noticeable.
However, this is just a phase, and you need to trust the process. Skincare is a long-term investment, and if you want the results, you need to have patience. As I said before, it is similar to falling sick after getting a vaccination jab it means it’s working.
Moreover, everyone’s skin reacts differently, but in most cases, if you are going through a tretinoin purge, it means it’s working.
What does Tretinoin Purging look like?
If you are experiencing acne breakout, redness, and dry skin after the application of retinol or tretinoin. You are going through purging it because these active ingredients increase your cell turnover. However, it happens in about 10- 20 percent of people who start using retinol or tretinoin in their skincare routine.
It is because these products bring up that keratin, the oil, and debris that is in your pores, and they look like acne break out, but that’s just your skin responding to the tretinoin.
However, purging can show up as
Some people think those tiny red bumps and texture on the skin are also purging. But that’s actually a sign of irritation and inflammation of the skin. Most people with sensitive skin experience it.
Even though purging can be such a bummer and make people discontinue the treatment. What many people don’t realize is that it’s actually a good sign that your skin is responding to the treatment.
Purging means your product is working as you continue with the treatment. You’ll experience fewer breakouts moving forward.
The Timeline of the Purge
As tretinoin is way more concentrated than retinol, its effect can also be drastic. However, the timeline varies from person to person depending on the skin type.
However, the purging starts soon after the first application or within a week. Now the BIG question arises. How long is the purge going to last?
Usually, it can last from around 4 to 6 weeks because it’s the time that your cells need to complete one complete cycle. After that, you’ll start seeing the actual results. However, your patience will be totally worth it, and this will become your holy grail product once the purge is over.
The intensity of the purge depends on various factors like your skin barrier, the strength of tretinoin you are using, and the combination of products you are using it with.
Furthermore, if your skin is sensitive, I would recommend you to begin with retinol, as tretinoin is way more concentrated and powerful.
However, if you are experiencing skin issues and purging for more than 6 to 8 weeks. You must consult your dermatologist.
Difference between Breakout and Purging
Just because you have acne bumps after using a new product does necessarily mean its are purging. This might be irritating your skin, and irritated skin is more likely to break out. So how do you tell the difference?
It can be hard to differentiate between the two. However, you need to notice how long does they last. If your skin has been breaking out for more than 6 to 8 weeks, it’s definitely not purging, and you might need to consult a dermatologist.
Moreover, if your skin is not getting better after 4 to 6 weeks, it might be a sign that the product is causing breakouts and irritation.
If you are getting acne bumps in the places that you don’t really break out. For instance, if you mostly get acne on your forehead and now you are experiencing it in different zones.
This is more of a sign that the product is not suitable for you and breaking you out instead of purging pre-existing acne.
Moreover, here people sometimes think red bumps and itchiness are also a sign of purging. When actually, these are signs of sensitivity, irritation, or even an allergic reaction.
However, you can have purging and irritation at the same time because tretinoin is highly concentrated and can be irritating to the skin.
How to deal with Tretinoin Purging?
Not everyone experiences purging, but if you are going through it. There is no way to completely avoid it, but you don’t have to be stressed out.
As there are some tips and tricks that will calm your skin down. These will really help you throughout those 4 to 6 weeks of tretinoin purging.
Use a Light Moisturizer to deal with Dryness
Even if you have oily, acne-prone skin, tretinoin can still make your skin dry and flaky. Moreover, if you belong to the dry skin family, you cannot do without a light moisturizer. You should use cruelty-free basic facewash on an everyday basis.
It will provide you required hydration and will help calm your skin. However, don’t choose heavy emollients instead, pick a gel-based moisturizer such as CeraVe, Cetaphil, or any other gel-based and light moisturizer.
Start Slow with Low Concentrations
You can’t completely avoid purging. However, you can reduce the intensity of the reaction. By starting slow with a lower percentage of the active ingredient. I personally began with 0.025 tretinoin which gave my skin time to adapt to the ingredient.
Eventually, you can increase the percentage slowly to get the result. However, a high percentage doesn’t mean faster results. It’s best to start with the lowest concentration and trust the process.
Start with 0.025, then 0.5, and gradually increase to 1 percent. However, by doing so, your skin will get the time to adapt to the ingredient and will respond in a much faster and better way.
Avoid Touching and Stretching your face
I know it feels oddly satisfying to pop a bump or a pimple that has been bothering you. However, by doing so, you are making it even worse, and there are chances it can leave a scar.
Moreover, touching your face over and over again means inviting more bacteria. Thus, it is better to trust the process and leave the pimples alone during the purge phase.
Use Tretinoin at Night
Your skin heals faster at night. Moreover, you should avoid going in the sun just after applying retinol as it may lead to sunburn. Direct sunlight can increase the intensity of purging, making your skin feel more irritated and can also increase inflammation.
Using tretinoin at night will give your skin enough time and the best environment to heal itself.
We all know the importance of sunscreen, and I cannot emphasize it enough to never skip it. Even though you are using tretinoin at night, your skin needs to be protected from sun rays at all times.
Exposure to direct sunlight can cause severe inflammation and sunburn. Which will make your purging even worse. So if you have to go out during the first few weeks of introducing tretinoin or retinol, make sure to wear sunscreen of appropriate SPF, at least SPF-30.
It’s important to know what skincare ingredient combination works best for you. Moreover, it is advisable not to use any other strong ingredients along with retinol or tretinoin such as AHA’s, benzoyl peroxide, Vitamin C, and other harsh actives.
On the other hand, Naicinemide can really help you deal with all the signs of purging. It will reduce inflammation and irritation, which makes it ideal to use along with tretinoin. You’ll be able to see the results soon after the use.
Keep yourself Hydrated
As we have already mentioned earlier, how important it is to use a moisturizer. It’s equally important to stay hydrated as it can help deal with acne and overall purging. Moreover, your skin will feel dry and itchy because of the tretinoin. Thus, staying hydrated will help you cope with this as well.
Accept and Embrace it
The best advice that I can give you from my personal experience is to just accept it and embrace your skin. This is just a phase, and it’s for the best. Thus, it is better not to feel anxious or stressed about this temporary phase, and this is just a part of the process.
Moreover, do your best and keep your face clean, which will avoid building up more bacteria. Lastly, all I want to say is that this too shall pass just have faith in the process and trust the science of your skin. Believe me, all the patience will be worth it!
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