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How Tretinoin Changed My Skin

My skin has definitely been through it. I’ve tried it all from Proactive to Epiduo and everything in between - you name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve always struggled with acne even since I was a kid. My first memory with acne was probably in the 4th grade at just 10 years old. It was always embarrassing for me and I’d feel ashamed and cover it up with makeup. Now, at 23 years old, I’ve come a long way - for the first time in my life my skin is relatively clear. Don’t get me wrong, my skin is nowhere close to perfect but it has changed immensely. One of the main reasons for such a large change in my skin recently was beginning the use of a prescription retinoid, Tretinoin.

Tretinoin is a commonly used cream medication used to treat acne and decrease the signs of aging. Retinoids can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen and also keep skin pores clear by renewing your skin cells. Though tretinoin may sound like a miracle cream for your skin, which it definitely can be, it also has its ups and downs. I went through many stages throughout my tretinoin journey but keep reading for my highlights on a few!

Purging Phase

When talking about my tretinoin journey, I like to break it up into 3 stages known as the purging phase, the dryness phase, and my favorite, the glowing skin phase. One of the first phases everyone warns you about is the purging phase. It’s like you finally get prescribed a medication that is going to help clear your acne but first, it’s actually going to give you more acne before it gets better! Like what?! Without getting too sciencey, tretinoin can often cause your skin to purge and get worse before it gets better. This is because the medication helps to speed up the skin cell turnover process which can help pull out some existing breakouts both already present and underneath the skin.

Dryness Phase

Okay, so you just breakout and purge for a few weeks. It’s okay, you can handle it and maybe even cover it up with some makeup every now and then… wrong. Suddenly the dryness phase creeps up on you and your skin starts to feel tight and begins to peel all the time. Welcome to the dryness phase of tretinoin! For the first 2-6 weeks of using retinol like tretinoin, it can cause your skin to peel because of the cell turnover cycle. So during this time, I was definitely using as many moisturizing and hydrating products as I could to quench my skin’s ongoing thirst. Throughout the time I consistently used ESW Beauty’s The Pink Dream Moisturizing Raw Juice Mask and Avocado Banana Milk Hydrating Plant-Based Milk Mask. Both masks contain key ingredients like watermelon and avocados that are like hydration powerhouses for the skin! These two masks along with a variety of other hydrating products helped me get through the dryness phase.

Glowing Skin Phase

Last, but certainly not least is the glowing skin phase! You could definitely say this is the best phase of the three. The phase where all the purging and dryness fade away and you are left with glowing, smooth and radiant skin. In my journey, it took me about 5 weeks to get the glowing skin phase but it was definitely worth it. Now my skin is soft and I rarely have any breakouts!

Through all the ups and downs, tretinoin seriously helped my skin out for the better and throughout all the purging and dryness phases, I wouldn’t have changed my mind in a second. I am so happy with the results I have now and I’m proud of where I am in my acne journey. I would say if you are nervous about starting a retinol because of all of the side effects, definitely still give it a chance because I did and now I don’t think I’ll ever look back!


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Explore the brand behind the blog! We are ESW Beauty, a clean skincare brand inspired by healthy living! All of our products are formulated with clean & vegan ingredients, are cruelty free, and made sustainably. Learn more about us below!

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