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Can You Use Retinol While Purging? Yes, BUT...

by Yu-Jun Park 11 Mar 2024

Hang on to your vanity mirrors, ‘cause we’re diving into the hot and steamy world of skincare! 

Or to be specific — all you folks dealing with the bittersweet phase of purging (we’ve all been there).

And your beloved retinol.

Is it safe to keep using it during this period of skincare upheaval, or should you put it on ice?

My skin is purging. Can I still use retinol?

To understand the answer, let’s first look at how purging works in the first place.

None of us enjoy the purge, but it does eventually end. 

And what are you left with? Skin as smooth and glowing as a sunrise Instagram snap (#NoFilter needed, you gorgeous thing!)

"But why," you ask, "is retinol triggering this purge?" 

Here's the science bit. Retinol, in its primary role as a cell communicator, tells them to function like young, healthy versions of themselves - like a tough-love life coach for your skin, if you will.

What does this have to do with purging, I hear you ask? 

Well, healthy cells are fast cells. They're speedier than a greyhound on a caffeine buzz. The quicker the cells, the speedier the turnover process. 

And where do all those hidden zit-zapping bacteria reside? Right in the skin layers that are being quickly shed. 

Retinol is basically like an efficient, no-nonsense boss. It prioritizes getting everything sorted and in tip-top shape. And sometimes, that means forcing all that gnarly bacteria to face the music and vacate the premises. Ouch, indeed. 

But guess what? The purge is actually a sign that retinol is doing its job. 

Now, let's address the Tenderfoot Elephant in the room: Does one continue using retinol amidst the purge?

Pause for dramatic effect... Yes! You absolutely should! 

Now, we appreciate this may cause your eyebrows to migrate northwards in surprise, but hear us out.

Like a good thriller novel, when you’re in the thick of the purge, it can feel like it will never end. The plot thickens, the suspense builds, and the breakouts keep appearing. 

But just as investing time in a good page-turner rewards you with a satisfying ending, sticking with retinol through the purge offers a reward too. And that reward is the magnificent, radiant skin of your dreams.

However, there's a caveat. Don't go full throttle with retinol application, particularly if you’re new to it. It’s a powerful compound, so you don't want to launch into using it every day, only to overwhelm your skin. Treat it like the delicate flower it is!

So, start off slow—use it twice a week, then every other night as your skin develops resilience. 

Listen to your skin—it's smarter than you think. If irritation persists, don't feel deflated. You may need to re-evaluate your product choices or consult a dermatologist. It's about finding your groove—and then your glow will naturally follow.

So, m'dear, keep your chin up (blemishes and all!) for the purging saga does eventually conclude! 

And with persistence, patience, and a carefully thought-out plan, you'll see that retinoid payoff and marvel at your smooth, lustrous skin, in all its ripe-peach glory.

So, can you still use retinol while your skin is purging? Quite simply, the answer is a resounding "Yes!"

How long does it take for retinol purging to stop?

Brace yourself, this journey is more "fantastic voyage" than "15-minute mask". 

A ride you, as a retinol user, might be reluctantly familiar with. 

Here's the lowdown: The retinol purge phase, much like any good rollercoaster, shoots up and drops between four to six weeks. 

This timeline isn't arbitrary or plucked from a magic skincare hat. It's a calculated estimate, based upon cellular turnover, or how quickly our skin generates fresh cells.

Our skin operates like clockwork, unlike that unreliable friend that always shows up at parties fashionably late. It has its own timetable of undressing and dressing itself, shedding off old cells and replenishing with new ones, all in a time period of 28 to 50 days. 

This is known as the skin's cell turnover rate, and it varies from person to person based on your age, skin type, and overall skin health.

So, when you introduce your skin to retinol, it's like you're setting a bustling pace for this often plodding process. 

Retinol zips around, speeding up cell turnover like a rocket pushing through the Earth's atmosphere. Your skin's natural rhythm simply can't keep up, and that results in purging. 

But here's the good news, your skin is not some stubborn old coot refusing to adapt. On the contrary, our skin has an uncanny ability to adapt and adjust. 

So, even though the initial reaction to retinol usage might feel like you're reenacting a scene from the Wicked Witch meeting water, this purging phase won't last forever.

Just imagine. Your skin is throwing a cellular party, and the bouncer named Retinol is fast-tracking the tired, old cells out and welcoming the young, fresh cells in. 

You might initially feel the pinch of the purge, where breakouts become the uninvited guests, but picture the party settling down once everyone's had a chance to mingle and adjust.

To help put things into perspective, consider this: When you start a new workout regime, your body aches in places you didn't know could ache.

But with time, the body becomes accustomed, stronger and more flexible. The same logic applies to your skin when you introduce retinol. 

So, what will life be like on this side of the purge period?

Well, once the purge phase takes its final bow, your skin will evoke a radiant, smoother, and more youthful aura. 

Gone will be the days when you felt like a cactus in the midst of roses. As a new-fangled fan of retinol, consider this challenging phase as your rite of passage into achieving clear, vibrant skin.

To sum it all up, retinol purging is a temporary affair. It's significant, yes, but ephemeral. 

With persistence, and a dash of good old optimism, you will sail through the unpleasant purge phase to uncover healthier, rejuvenated skin beneath. 

After all, beauty may be only skin deep, but the journey to achieving it is rich, profound, and absolutely worthwhile!

How do you calm down a retinol purge?

By now, we know that the purge is a rite of passage for all adventurers on the beauty journey. It's like a wild Spring Break trip for your face, only less fun. 

We know, it sucks. But before you bury your head under a pillow, let’s go over some damage control strategies.

Don't underestimate the lifelong friend that is your moisturizer. Think of your skin as parched soil in desperate need of hydration after a retinol session. 

The moisture provides a protective layer, minimizes dryness, and reduces that dreaded retinol-induced irritation. 

This isn't just about lathering up with any lotion you find; you need products charmed with hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, the strong knights that keep your skin barrier strong. 

Now onto the other MVP of your skincare regimen: SPF. 

This iconic duo of letters gets the sideline too often when it should be front and center. Retinol, while a marvel, makes your skin more susceptible to sun damage. 

So, make that sunscreen your faithful shadow. Lock it on, rain or shine. It acts like your skin's personal bodyguard, shielding it from unforgiving UV rays that would otherwise intensify retinol's irritating effects.

And an additional ninja pro tip?

Consider liposomal retinol your secret weapon. 

This cutely named super-substance wraps retinol in a bubble-like structure — shout-out to those spiffy little liposomes. 

These nanoscopic miracle workers ensure retinol gets safely delivered into your skin, minimizing the risk of irritation. A techno scientific comfort blanket for your skin, liposomal retinol promises a smoother transition during the purge and might be the friend your skin has been yearning for.

This cutting-edge approach to retinol hinges on achieving skin harmony, leading to less inflammation, fewer blemishes and ultimately, a more gentle retinol purge experience. 

Don't just aim for the glow, be the glow! As you zero in on the purging end-game, these tried and tested tips will be your playbook.

Is is better to put retinol on wet or dry skin?

If your daily routine includes retinol, you’ve probably wrestled with the question of whether to apply it to dry or damp skin.

Well, strap in. We’re about to take a deep dive into the pool of retinol knowledge to answer precisely that!

Because it is indeed the case that when it comes to retinol and your skin, timing is crucial. It isn't merely about the time of day; it's also about the state of your skin during application. 

Intriguing? Let's break it down.

Interestingly, it's not a great idea to apply retinol on wet skin. 

Sound counter-intuitive? Here's the science. 

Your skin can absorb more retinol when it's damp, agreed. However, higher absorption might actually lead to increased sensitivity and irritation. 

This conundrum arises due to how retinol works on your skin. 

This vitamin A derivative hastens cell turnover, encouraging new, fresh cells to surface while bidding adieu to the old and dull. 

But this isn't a gentle nudge. It’s more like a loud wake-up call to your skin that can potentially trigger irritation. 

When you add dampness to the equation, it’s akin to turning up this wake-up call to max volume. That’s right - damp skin increases the penetration of retinol, potentially resulting in redness, drying, peeling, or even burning sensations.

Now onto dry skin, it turns out this is your best bet when applying retinol. A clean, dry face provides the ideal canvas for this potent worker-bee ingredient. It allows retinol to do what it does best without unnecessary side effects.

But here's the kicker - by 'dry', we don't mean parched or dehydrated skin. That can create a different set of problems like excessive dryness, since retinol tends to decrease oil production. The goal is to have your skin comfortably dry. 

So, after cleansing your face, gently pat it dry to remove excess water. 

Then, wait for about 15 minutes for your skin to get to the optimal state of dryness before applying your retinol. 

Leaving this window allows your skin's natural oils to resurface, creating a protective layer that mitigates potential irritation from retinol.

The bottom line? Retinol, even after decades in the spotlight, continues to be an enigma for many. But its magic is undeniable, providing one understands its nuances. 

While there's a lot to remember - from the right potency to the correct frequency of application - perhaps the most cardinal rule is applying it on dry skin. 

So next time you find yourself reaching for your bottle of retinol post-shower or face-wash, pause. Let your skin dry, let it breathe, and only then let the retinol work its sheer magic. Your skin will thank you!

And with that dear reader, consider your crash course in retinol science complete.

Now armed with this knowledge, go forth and glow!

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