can retinol help with acne
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and a common skin care ingredient that may help treat mild to severe acne and improve the appearance of the skin

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and a common skin care ingredient that may help treat mild to severe acne and improve the appearance of the skin.

Available in serums, gels, toners, and wipes and directly applied on cleansed skin, retinol works by exfoliating the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) to remove dirt, dead skin cells, and oil from the pores. Tiny molecules of retinol can also go deep into the middle layer of the skin (dermis) and increase the production of collagen and elastin. 

Retinol can unclog blocked pores and improve cell turnover, which can reduce inflammation and help the skin repair itself.

Are there any side effects to using retinol?

Retinols come in various concentrations, and it is important to perform a patch test 24-72 hours before using retinol over a large area of skin. Some people complain of mild itching and burning on the skin with retinol application.

Start with a concentration of 0.5% and then gradually increase the strength as your skin adjusts to it. Make sure to use sunscreen while using retinol because it can increase sun sensitivity. Never apply vitamin C serum, salicylic acid, or any other exfoliating agent over retinol because it can cause extreme skin irritation. Do not use retinol serum if you are pregnant and lactating because retinol is known to be teratogenic, especially if ingested.

What is acne?

Acne is a common skin condition caused by pores clogged by oil, bacteria, dead skin cells, etc. They mainly appear on the face, forehead, chest, shoulders, and upper back. Acne mainly presents as whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, cysts, and nodules. 

Multiple factors can lead to the development of acne, including genetics, hormone fluctuations, stress, high humidity, oily skin, and certain skin care products. Although common among teenagers, they can affect anyone at any age. 

Advanced medications and therapies may help eliminate or minimize the underlying factors that contribute to acne.

9 treatment options for acne

  1. Benzoyl peroxide: Available as a leave-on gel or face wash, which mainly targets surface bacteria that aggravate acne. Lower concentrations and milder formulations are less irritating to the skin.
  2. Salicylic acid: Used as a cleanser or toner to remove the top layer of dead skin cells. It prevents the hair follicles from clogging by dissolving dead skin cells on the surface of the skin.
  3. Azelaic acid: Can effectively kill microorganisms on the skin and reduce inflammation.
  4. Oral contraceptives: Reduce acne formation associated with menstrual cycles and hormonal fluctuations or polycystic ovarian disease.
  5. Steroids: Treat severe acne and can be injected into large nodules to reduce inflammation.
  6. Lasers (ablative and nonablative): Primarily used to treat acne scars by using heat to promote collagen growth. Heat is applied to the scarred area and stimulates the body’s wound healing response to produce new collagen.
  7. Chemical peels: Used to exfoliate the top layer of the skin and reduce the appearance of acne scars. As the top layer gets removed, the new skin that grows in is smoother.
  8. Photodynamic therapy: Involves using medication and a special light or laser to minimize oil production and bacteria.
  9. Dermabrasion: Rotating brush is used to exfoliate the top layers of the skin and treat acne scarring. Microdermabrasion is a milder form of this treatment.


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Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2021
Image Source: iStock Images

Blair W. How to Get Rid of Blackheads. WebMD.

Cleveland Clinic. When Should Men See a Dermatologist for Adult Acne?

Rao J. Is acne vulgaris more common in men or women? Medscape.

American Academy of Dermatology. Skin Care Tips for Men.