Is Your Retinol Causing Your Breakouts? - Beach Beauty Bar and Acne Clinic

Is Your Retinol Causing Your Breakouts?

Does your skin hurt? Is it dry and itchy?

Are you currently using a prescription retinoid cream? 

While it’s true there is no magic bullet when it comes to perfecting skin, one ingredient comes pretty close: Vitamin A or retinol/retinoid. 

However, and this is a big however, not all retinoids are made the same.

What is Retinol?

Retinols are pretty much the gold standard in improving some of our most annoying skin complaints. A derivative of vitamin A, retinol has been around for decades and has been a go-to skin care solution for dermatologists. Retinols are used for all sorts of skin remedies, including fighting acne, reducing wrinkles, reversing sun damage, shrinking pores – it’s like waving a magic wand over your face.  

Did you know retinol promotes cell turnover?  

That means retinol-treated skin doesn’t just look younger – it actually IS younger, at a cellular level. Paired with a good moisturizer, they’ll do more heavy lifting than the rest of your skincare drawer combined.

Before you leap into a bottle of retinol expecting overnight fountain of youth results, here are some tips and reminders that will help you get the most out of it:

Too good to be true, right?

You’re probably wondering where the catch is. Maybe you’ve heard some not-so-good things about retinol.  

Truth is, there’s a temporary downside to using retinols. Retinol is famously known to cause irritation for many who use it, since it’s essentially re-training your skin cells to turnover at a faster rate.

There’s a “learning curve” for the skin during the first few weeks of use, which typically presents as dry flaky skin, redness, peeling, and overall inflammation. When you work with us, (acne specialists) we will slowly introduce retinol into your treatment program so that you avoid the “dry itchies” associated with Vitamin A.

The good news is, eventually your skin adjusts and you can increase the strength of the treatment and the frequency. After that, it’s smooth sailing.

Not all retinol is created equal

Many retinoid products are formulated with counteractive ingredients. They are often targeted more to anti-aging benefits and may combine Vitamin A with oils to benefit aging skin – but those oils could clog the pores of a person with acne-prone skin. 

Beware of comedogenic pore clogging ingredients used in retinol creams such as heavy mineral oils. Often, dermatologists prescribe retinol for acne but prescription retinols tend to be overly strong, have a drying effect, and often use a base formula filled with pore cloggers.

To counteract the dryness, glands beneath the skin might produce more sebum causing an acne flair up. 

Balance is key.

There are different types of retinoids

Along with retinol, there are a few other “R” words out there – namely, Retin-A and retinoids. Basically, retinol and Retin-A are both different types of retinoids.

Retinol is in over-the-counter products that can treat wrinkles and improve skin texture.

Retin-A (the brand name for Tretinoin) is a more potent form of vitamin A that treats acne.

They work the same way, but the difference is retinoids are stronger and work faster, whereas retinol is slower to work but gentler on your skin.

How to use retinol

  • It’s best to apply retinols and retinoids at night, right after washing your face. (Sunlight can deactivate retinoic acid, so it’s best to use it at night.)
  • Retinoic acid makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight because the newly surfaced skin is thin and delicate.
  • Use a dime sized amount and distribute evenly over your entire face, careful to avoid the eyes. 
  • Allow your skin to absorb the retinol (for 15-20 minutes) before you apply any other skincare product.
  • Always avoid retinol products in jar packaging. *Jars expose the active ingredient to light and air, making it oxidize faster and lose its effectiveness. Instead, choose products that come in opaque tubes or bottles with airless pumps.

Pro Tip!

Sandwich your retinol between moisturizer applications.

Moisturize before and after applying retinol. This will not interfere with the retinol absorption into the skin. It’s a process that both hydrates and acts as a buffer for a gentler experience. This technique is recommended for people who get dry after using retinols.  

If you want to reap the benefits of the ingredient without the gamble that you’ll encounter extreme dryness or peeling, moisturizer is key.

A Plus Refining Serum

In case you were wondering, we have our very own unique retinol formula here are Beach Beauty Bar! It’s called A Plus Refining Serum.

A Plus is a powerful vitamin A serum that takes your skincare routine to the next level. And we’re not just saying that because it’s ours! Our oil-free formula is developed with vitamin A propionate, peptides, kojic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, salicylic acid and aloe vera.

This powerful little guy packs a punch with an added key ingredient called niacinamid also known as vitamin B3. This particular vitamin improves the skin’s barrier and restore’s the surface of skin against moisture loss and dehydration by helping skin improve its natural production of skin-strengthening ceramides.

These specific ingredients help to nourish and soothe the skin while gently sloughing off the dead skin cells. Most retinol creams can be very stripping and drying which can be quite painful for our acne clients.

This formula was made with you in mind.

The Bottom Line on Retinol

If you decide retinol is for you, be sure to consider the safest way to use it. We recommend our clients consult with us prior to using products with vitamin A. Treatments should be applied at night if possible, and always practice strict sun avoidance when using these powerful ingredients on your skin.

Retinoids are fantastic, but even skincare’s superhero needs sidekicks to back it up.

For the best results, you should regularly cleanse and exfoliate your skin. You also should consider teaming up retinol with other anti-aging serums that contain vitamins and antioxidants. We love teaming A Plus Serum with our powerhouse Revital C Brightening Serum.

So there you have it! If you are prone to acne, retinol can be the miracle skincare ingredient you’re missing out on.

Wondering about which retinol is right for you? — Schedule an acne consultation, and we will provide you everything you need to know. 

Schedule an Appointment

Cheers to clear!



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