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Breaking out after Tretinoin (Retinoid)? Here’s What To Do

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Our skin usually tends to breakout a lot when we use tretinoin, tazarotene or any forms of vitamin A, commonly called Retinoids. These breakouts, called purging and happens anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months. Though these forms of retinoids proves to give us the dream glass skin, before all of it happens you will have the worst skin possible which is the reason for a lot of people to discontinue it.

Why Retinoids?

Retinoids are basically all rounders, which was initially used for acne as spot treatment and gradually found safe to use all over the skin for hyperpigmentation, clogged pores which on the whole gives you a healthy radiant skin.

Retinoids: A Complete Guide, Types, Do’s and Dont’s, How to Start

Vitamin C – A Complete Guide | Best Serums 2023 and many more on Glow Regime


The contents on this website, products, and information are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice: the content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

More potent forms of retinoids starting from tretinoin to tazarotene needs a prescription. Retinoids generally are not for pregnant or breastfeeding moms and people with medical skin conditions.

Why does Purging Happen?

Scientifically, tretinoin and other retinoids have this ability to clear our skin by deep cleansing it. It works by bringing all the gunk and dirt deep inside your pores to the surface and gets rid of it gradually. This is the reason for you to purge on initial days of retinoid, when all the gunk is brought out to the surface of your skin, purging gradually reduces and skin improves gradually. It also promotes cell turnover which leads to visible peeling with more potent forms.

This may last for 3 months in maximum and will automatically turn normal in prolonged usage.

How do you know if it’s Caused due to Retinoid or is a Regular Breakout?

A normal breakout or a retinoid purging cannot be recognized, we have to wait for a span of 3 months to know the reason. Even after 3 months, if breakouts worsen or seems continuing, stop using the product and consult a dermatologist.

What are Post and Pre Retinoid Cares ?

Retinoids may be drying to skin. So initially start very slowly from once a week and gradually improve it to every night. Start with a very less concentration from 0.025% and improve. First of all retinoids should be applied only on nights. Before applying retinoids make sure your skin is dry and moisturize delicate parts like the skin around the eyes, around the ears, nose corners and lip corners. Vaseline would go well for dry to normal skin for this.



Only a pea/pearl size retinoid cream should be taken all over your face. Remember with retinoids, more doesn’t mean better results. Wait for it to dry for 20 minutes approx and apply a thin layer of moisturizer over it.

If you have sensitive skin, go for a sandwich method where retinoid lies between 2 layers of moisturizer. That is apply moisturizer on damp skin, leave it for 20 minutes and a layer of retinoid and after another 20 minutes moisturizer would go on top. Another option for sensitive skin would be using a microsphere formulation where the topical would be stored in microspheres and be released slowly upon application which leads to less irritation and redness.

The very next day, a SPF should be worn mandatorily with a minimum of 40 and triple plus. Without spf, sun will degrade retinoid molecules and its not going to work well and may even worsen your condition leading to permanent hyperpigmentation in some cases. So be careful with SPF.

For SPF, Derma Co and bioderma works very well.

The Derma Co 1% Hyaluronic Sunscreen Aqua Ultra Light Gel with SPF 50 PA++++ For Broad Spectrum, UV A, UV B & Blue Light Protection – 50g(dermaco)


RE’ EQUIL Ultra Matte Dry Touch Sunscreen Gel, Matte Finish Sunscreen For All Skin Types, Water & Sweat Resistant With Spf 50 Pa++++

Reequil Sunscreen

Purging Skin Care

Retinoids are basic, so cannot be combined with creams or moisturizers containing acidic actives. Use a decent moisturizer containg only ceramides and peptides. If skin peeling occurs do not try to peel your skin by yourself, give your skin some time. Do not touch your breakouts and try to pop it.

Only apply a plain moisturizer without any actives. A moisturizer with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides and ceramides would go well.

Bioderma, foxtale, dot and key, minimalist, chemist at play and acmist moisturizers can go well

Dot & Key Ceramides Moisturizer with Hyaluronic for Intense Moisturizing and Skin Strengthening | With Probiotic & Rice Water I Barrier Repair Cream | For Dry Skin, Normal Skin & Sensitive Skin | 100g

Dot and key sunscreen

Foxtale 5x Hydrating Ceramide Moisturizer for Face, Micro Hyaluronic Acid & 3 Ceramides, Lightweight, Fast Absorbing, Repairs Skin Barrier and Texture, Acne-safe, Men & Women, 50ml

Foxtale sunscreen

Minimalist 3% Sepicalm With Oats Face Moisturizer Cream for Sensitive Skin | Lightweight | Calming | Reduces Redness | Soothes Skin | 50g

Minimalist moisturizer

Chemist at Play Hydrating Face Moisturiser| Polyglutamic Acid | Intense Hydration & Moisturisation | Mineral Oil & Silicone Free | 50 gm

Chemist at play moisturizer

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer | 5x Hydration | Water Gel Infused with 9 Amino Acids | For All Skin Types | For Men & Women 50g


Do not use a facewash which strips off your skin or any other harsh facewashes. Opt for a mild gentle facewash without any acidic actives. For the first 3 to 4 months, do not use any actives along with retinoids and after 3 months start to incorporate actives very slowly into your skincare regime. Never forget your sunscreen the next morning.

my recommendation would be cetaphil and the oatmeal cleanser from minimalist

Cetaphil Face Wash by Cetaphil, Gentle Skin Cleanser

Cetaphil cleanser

Minimalist Gentle Cleanser 6% Oat Extract

Minimalist cleanser

Face waxing, chemical peels, lasers should be avoided since retinoid improves skin turnover, there is your new skin cells siting on top of your skin which is very delicate and fragile. Waxing is going to peel of that layer and may cause redness and hyperpigmentation. Instead skin shaving and threading can be opted. If you are planning for any of the above, stop using reinoids atleast a month before.

Can Retinoids Clog Up Pores?

Yes, retinoids in cream formulation can clog pores if you have oily to combination skin but not for everyone. There are 3 vehicles which has been proved safe as retinoid carriers. First comes the cream form which may be pore clogging to some oily skin friends and the next is a gel form which is more potent than creams so have more chances of irritation than cream formulations but will not clog up pores. The third as discussed above is for sensitive skin, they are slow working microsphere formulation.

Basically what works for you is a good formulation, for some oily skins cream works well and in some cases gel works well for normal dry skin so the above line goes.

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