At the start of any Tretinoin (generic Retin-A) treatment routine, your prescribing doctor or dermatologist will warn you about how things are likely to get worse before they get better. They will warn you that you are going to see redness, peeling, itching, and sometimes even breakouts before your skin starts to look better. This phase is sometimes colloquially known as the Tretinoin Purge.
The dreaded Tretinoin Purge is a part of most, if not all, Tretinoin routines. After a chat with your doctor, you should know what to expect — but are you really prepared?
Let’s get into the details of what a Tretinoin Purge is, why it happens, and how to support your skin through the initial troubles. You’re on your way to gorgeous, healthy skin!
First of all, what is Tretinoin?
Tretinoin is a prescription medication (usually prescribed as a cream) that treats acne, fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and saggy skin. Retin-A is the more widely-known, branded version of Tretinoin.
Tretinoin helps skin in two main ways: it prevents pores from being clogged (in other words, it is a comedolytic) and it increases skin cell turnover. This means fewer blackheads and also more fresh skins cells reaching the surface of skin in less time. Tretinoin can seem too good to be true — after all, it’s a skin treatment, known to not only blast away acne, but also boost collagen production, dissolve unwanted pigmentation, and even treat skin lesions before they turn cancerous. It’s all in the science though!
The Infamous Tretinoin Purge (also known as the Retinoid Uglies)
Chances are if you are searching up Tretinoin Purge, you are either looking into Tretinoin for your skin issues, or are currently subjecting yourself to the purge.
You’ve come to the right place. We are here to help you learn what to expect, explain how to potentially combat symptoms of the purge, and remind you of the light at the end of the tunnel. Fear not! Everyone gets through it, and you will, too.
The Purge: What To Expect
A few days into Tretinoin use, you will find that your acne starts drying up. Don’t celebrate too soon, however, because within that first or second week, you’ll also start to see dry skin flake off of your face, or wherever else you are applying Tretinoin. Two weeks to a month in, you may find your skin turning red, inflamed, or dry. Patches may even flake off in sheets!
Just Remember: It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better, But It WILL Get Better.
The Tretinoin Purge can be likened to your skin keeping house and taking out trash from the inside. In other words, your skin is pushing out the accumulated oil and dead skin cells. As a result, you are seeing your skin worsen before it gets better. The purge is a period every Tretinoin user suffers through before their skin turns into the smooth, healthy baby skin we all want. Try to trust the process.
Alternatively, during the Tretinoin Purge, your skin might feel too dehydrated, and start over-producing oil. This is also very common and completely normal. If this is the case with your skin, try moisturizing more, both in the mornings and at night, and also try asking your provider for their opinion on antibiotics. Some patients in the midst of a Tretinoin Purge find it helpful to use a combination of Tretinoin, oral antibiotics, and topical antibiotics for the best results. A commonly prescribed antibiotics, in these scenarios, are Doxycycline and Clindamycin Phosphate.
You can also look into seeing a dermatologist to help you with a skincare routine to combat the Tretinoin Purge. They will help you identify a moisturizer that is right for you. sometimes even recommending separate ones for morning and evening.
Since everyone’s skin is different, everyone’s experience with the Tretinoin Purge is also different. While some people find that moisturizing helps, others find that they need to moisturize less! If you find that this is you, you can try tapering off your moisturizer and only use it every other day for a week. This will give your skin a chance to get adjusted and for the Tretinoin to start working its magic. Moisturizers can help with skin dehydration, but in some cases, they can impact the effectiveness of the Tretinoin.
By the third or fourth month, you might start seeing improvements — hang in there! We know it is difficult to feel broken out and inflamed as we are going through the purge, but just remember that it will pass within a few weeks!
Some Tretinoin Purge Pro Tips
Some people report success with using Benzoyl Peroxide simultaneously with Tretinoin to battle their acne, but we advise against this as it may make the inflammation worse. A topical antibiotic like clindamycin phosphate is typically prescribed and has been found to be better in combination with Tretinoin.
If you find that your face is too red and inflamed to sleep comfortably against a pillow, then it’s a good idea to try to use a different sleeping position while you are undergoing treatment. Some patients find that some fabrics are more comfortable and less irritating to their skin — look for cotton, or other soft, natural fibers.
Finally, if you expect to need to use Tretinoin long term, it is a good idea to speak to a doctor and work out a skincare plan that covers nutrition, sunscreen usage, and a look into any underlying issues that may be the cause of pertinent skin conditions. This ensures that you can have a holistic plan that covers all the bases to create beautiful, healthy skin.
When To See A Doctor
You should speak to a doctor immediately if you feel intense burning or itching upon application, or experience severe blistering or crusting.
People who have documented allergies to Vitamin A or any retinoids, women who are pregnant, and those with eczema should inform a doctor of their conditions before beginning Tretinoin. People who have been using or are using other retinoids or products that contain sulfur (such as Salicylic Acid) should inform a doctor about all products they are using and should generally allow for some time between changing treatment plans.
Before starting treatment with Tretinoin, it is advised that you thoroughly and completely discuss current medications and your medical history with a trained professional.
Talk to an Alpha Doctor or Nurse Practitioner Today
If you’re struggling with acne, wrinkles, dark spots, or saggy skin, there are prescription skin care options available to you. With Alpha, you can consult with a doctor or nurse practitioner, be examined, and receive your treatment quickly and conveniently from your own home. Our doctors are experts in building custom treatment plans and are happy to walk you through any questions or concerns.
While not for everyone, Tretinoin offers a powerful treatment option for those who suffer from acne, wrinkles, saggy skin, and dark spots. If you are concerned about the possibility of negative side effects or drying, you can be assured that with Alpha, you are always able to consult a professional without the weeks- or months-long wait at a physician’s practice.