Retinol for acne; how retinol can help clear your skin

Once reserved only for the walls of a dermatologist's office, powerful active ingredient retinol is now probably the most talked about in the skincare world. That’s because of all the ingredients readily available in skincare products, retinol is arguably the most transformative. Whatever your skin concern is, there’s a chance that retinol can help treat it. 

Most people probably know retinol for its anti-aging properties. And while it absolutely helps to plump skin and iron out wrinkles, there is a lesser-known skin concern that retinol also helps treat; acne. In fact, retinol could be a smarter all-rounder when it comes to both treating blemishes and keeping them at bay. 

The beauty of retinol is that it comes in just about every nuance of formulation you could ever want. From cleansers to serums to eye creams, you can find retinol in every corner. And no matter which option you decide is right for you, it carries with it a powerhouse of benefits for your skin. If you suffer from breakouts or acne, incorporating retinol into your skincare regime will not only help clear the skin but also plump, smooth and improve the skin's texture. Sound too good to be true? Allow us to explain… 

What is retinol?

First things first, what is it? Retinol is a type of retinoid (an umbrella term for the entire family of over-the-counter and prescription vitamin A derivatives). While all different products will vary in strength and concentration, it’s best known for its ability to plump, firm and diminish the appearance of wrinkles on the skin. 

But it also has a suite of lesser-known benefits, including brightening, reducing pigmentation and even treating acne. 

How does retinol work?

Retinol works by accelerating the rate of cell turnover in the skin, which means your skin is producing new cells more often. This boosts collagen and elastin production which causes the skin to appear plumper and smoother. Increasing cell turnover is also a God-sent for those who suffer from acne, as it helps clear pore congestion and regulate sebum production - all things that can have a significant impact on pimples and acne. 

Can retinol help to treat acne?

Yes, yes, a million times yes. Because retinols work to increase cell turnover, they can in turn help to prevent all kinds of acne from blackheads to cysts. That’s because retinol works on a cellular level to help kickstart the cell turnover rate, which can result in less inflammation and slow down the skin's oil production. These are all key skin functions that are known to cause and exacerbate breakouts. 

And the impact retinol can have on acne-prone skin is two-fold, because not only can it help treat and ward away breakouts, but it can also help to fade stubborn acne scars and marks that might linger on the skin. Cell turnover is not just an effective way to unclog pores, it can also help to rejuvenate damaged and dead skin cells, such as acne scars and pigmentation, to make room for new ones. 

The benefits of using retinol to treat acne

Unclog pores

Retinols are known to stimulate collagen production, which can tighten skin and clear out clogged pores. It can also help to minimise their appearance on the skin. Decreasing oil and sebum production, stimulating collagen and also decreasing the surface layer of dead skin cells - can lead to smaller appearing pores. 

Reduces inflammation 

If you’ve ever suffered from acne, you’ll know that quite often the skin will appear red and ‘angry’ which can also often be painful to the touch. This is usually a result of inflammation, which causes breakouts to become swollen and irritable. Retinol possesses anti-inflammatory properties that are known to calm the skin, which will reduce the appearance of acne-related inflammation. This can also lead to a move even skin tone, and reduce the redness that often coincides with acne. 

Promotes skin renewal

As mentioned earlier, retinol’s most significant impact on the skin is its acceleration of cell turnover. When new, healthier cells replace old damaged ones the skin will appear smoother and more radiant. This will also help to remove acne scars, improve the texture of the skin and reduce the visibility of blemishes and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation caused by acne. 

Clears acne scarring

Even after we are victorious over acne, the battle can often leave detrimental effects on our skin. A reminder of bad skin days gone by, discolouration and scarring are widespread even after an extensive battle with acne. Retinol works to treat these in the same way it targets fine lines and wrinkles, by smoothing and plumping the skin and replacing damaged skin cells with new ones. 

5 tips for incorporating retinol into your skincare routine

1. Speak to a skincare professional

Before incorporating any active ingredient into your skincare routine, we always recommend speaking to a skincare professional. This is particularly true if you have sensitive skin, or have had adverse reactions to skincare products in the past. They can assess your specific skin type and condition and recommend which products are right for you, and how you should be using them. 

2. Introduce retinol gradually 

Retinol has such transformative effects because it is by and large, a very active and potent ingredient. And while this is amazing for the skin, it can also lead to some irritation if not introduced properly. 

When it comes to introducing retinol to the skin, it’s crucial to not try to use too much too soon. Beginners should start using it only once a week, then slowly build it up over time once the skin creates a tolerance. Diving head-first into the deep end will probably lead to irritation and flaking, patience is required to reap the best results unfortunately. 

3. Trust the process

    Like all good things in life, noticing skin improvements will take time. Be patient, trust the process and in around three to six months depending on the products you’re using, we guarantee you will start to notice a difference. Because we become so accustomed to the face staring back at us in the mirror, we also recommend tracking your progress (usually by taking selfies) so you can truly appreciate the journey you’ve been on! 

    4. Remember consistency is key

    As with all active skincare success, application and consistency are the keys. We advise using your retinols only at night, after your cleanser and before your night creams. That’s because, with good quality ingredients and serums, absorption will be rapid - meaning there is no need to delay applying a moisturiser. Keep this up consistently and you’ll be glowing in no time! 

    5. Combine with gentle products 

      Once your skin barrier becomes stronger you may be able to tolerate layering your actives. But at the beginning, we recommend hitting pause on your other active ingredients on the nights you are using retinol. That’s because using too many active ingredients all at once can be a recipe for redness and inflammation. 

      The best retinol for acne

      Skinsmiths PRO Strength Retinol

      This age-defying elixir harnesses the benefits of retinol to stimulate collagen production and cell turnover while also incorporating SauvigNZ - a natural antioxidant complex. This defends the skin against daily exposure to UV and pollution, while also preventing bacteria from building up on the skin, reducing breakouts. 

      Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum 

      The Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum is a fast-acting formula that combines 3 retinol technologies as well as hyaluronic acid to reduce the sign of premature ageing and increase cell turnover. This will work to reduce the appearance of active breakouts, while also preventing further breakouts and lessen your chances of getting long-term post-acne pigmentation and scarring. The hyaluronic acid will also work to keep the skin barrier happy and healthy. 

      Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream

      This luxurious night cream is the perfect end to your nighttime skin ritual. This preventative and corrective retinol helps to intensely hydrate while also strengthening the skin’s protective barrier. All working to resurface the skin and reveal a clearer more glowing complexion. 

      Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum 

      With its myriad of benefits, it’s no surprise that retinol also works wonders on the under-eye area. The Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum is the best in the bizz, working to improve the look of wrinkles all around the eye area (including the lids!) 

      Ready to try retinol for acne?

      If you’re feeling deflated about your acne, or feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing works, it could be time to give retinol a go. Book a free consultation and your local Caci clinic to find out how retinol could help you wave ta-ta to acne for good.