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Tretinoin Purge Tips: 8 Ways to Avoid & How to Use Tretinoin


Posts may contain affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy here.

The dreaded “Tretinoin Purge” is a real thing and can be incredibly discouraging. When you’re trying to clear your skin or improve aging, the last thing you want is for your skin to look even worse. The good news is, this does not need to happen and I’m going to teach you several Tretinoin purge tips, ways to avoid it, and how to properly use Tretinoin.

Be sure to also read our article on The difference between Adapalene vs. Tretinoin vs. Retinol.

What is the Tretinoin Purge?

The dreaded “Tretinoin Purge” is a reaction from using Tretinoin which triggers an increase in acne breakouts, redness, skin irritation, and peeling. It is typically caused by misuse of Tretinoin which is why I am going to show you exactly how to properly use this ingredient Tretinoin purge tips to avoid negative reactions completely.


1. Use a Good Moisturizer

It is imperative that when you use Tretinoin, you also use a moisturizer. This is true even if you have oily skin. Tretinoin is incredibly strong and your skin is going to need a nice thick moisturizer in the evening to help irritation and keep the moisture levels in your skin balanced.

In my opinion, there is no better moisturizer than Cerave Moisturizing Cream. It is simply amazing to use in the evening after applying your Tretinoin. This cream is also safe for sensitive skin and fungal acne.


2. Use a Tretinoin Gel or Micro-Gel

Tretinoin gel tends to be far less irritating and pore-clogging than the cream. The Tretinoin Micro-Gel is actually a slow-release formula that gradually releases itself into the skin. This means less irritation without sacrificing strength. If you have acne-prone skin, use the gel form.

3. Use Less Tretinoin

When I see others use Tretinoin, they are typically adding way too much. Tretinoin is so strong, you only need a very small amount, the exact size of a pea.


4. Mix Tretinoin with a Serum

To further reduce the potent effects of Tretinoin, you can also add a pump of your preferred serum with a pea size amount of your Tretinoin and mix them together in your hand. This will add additional moisture, reduce the potency, and it also helps the tretinoin spread better onto the skin.

I use both The Ordinary Niacinamide Serum and on days that I use my Tretinoin I mix is a pump of Trader Joes Hyaluronic Serum, both of which are safe for sensitive skin and fungal acne.

5. Use Your Tretinoin Every Other Day

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using your Tretinoin every other night instead of every day. People underestimate the amount of time you should give your skin to get used to this ingredient. Think years, not months. The more gently you ease into your routine, the better the results will be.

I have been using Tretinoin for 2 years and began using Adapalene 1 year before that. I still only use my Tretinoin every other day and if my skin is visibly peeling or irritated, I give it an additional day to rest before using my tretinoin again. You always want to give your skin the time it needs to heal.


6. Use a Gentle Cleanser

When using Tretinoin, you should only use a very gentle cleanser that will not strip away your skins moisture barrier. I love Vanicream Gentle Face Wash which is an amazingly gentle foaming facial cleanser. It is also excellent for anyone with sensitive skin.

7. Reduce Your Percentage

The very first thing I did when I suffered from the awful Tretinoin Purge, was to immediately reduce my percentage of tretinoin from 0.05% to 0.025%. The company I was using increased my dose far too quickly. Once I reduced my dose, my skin immediately began to clear. I went from the worst I’ve ever seen my skin to now having the most amazing skin. I do not even need to wear foundation anymore. Trust me there is no need to use higher than Tretinoin 0.025% Gel if you are experiencing any irritation at all.


8. Switch Your Sunblock

Most people who use Tretinoin are immediately told they need to use a strong SPF Sunscreen. This is absolutely true, however, the problem is that most facial sunscreens are awful and clog your pores. This alone can cause what looks like a Tretinoin Purge but is actually a reaction from your sunscreen, especially if you live in hot and humid climates.

I searched high and low for a good sunscreen that did not dry out my skin, irritate my skin, clog my pores, or pile over skin care products or makeup. It wasn’t until I researched products that do not trigger yeast on the skin, acne, or irritation that I discovered my two holy grail sunscreens, Aqua Skin Milk SPF 50 and Tizio 3 Tinted Primer SPF 40.

Aqua Milk is a $15 Japanese sunscreen that feels like moisturizing silk on the skin. The Tizio Primer Sunscreen goes on just like a primer, think Benefits No Pore, but better since it has SPF 40. On days I am out in the sun, I use both!

My skin after healing from the tretinoin purge

My Tretinoin Skincare Routine

Below is a breakdown of my entire Tretinoin Skincare Routine. I suffered from the dreaded Tretinoin purge and this is how I immediately reverse course, healed my skin, and went on to have the most amazing clear skin of my life. Use this routine to prevent the Tretinoin purge or get rid of one you’re suffering through.

Night-Time Tretinoin Routine (Done Every Other Day)

  1. Wash with Vanicream Gentle Face Wash
  2. Apply The Ordinary Niacinamide Serum
  3. Add 1 Pump of Trader Joes Hyaluronic Serum to the palm of my hand along with a pea-size amount of Tretinoin 0.025% gel. Mix in my hand and apply to face and neck.
  4. Apply a quarter size amount of Cerave Moisturizing Cream to my eyes, face, and neck

Here is my entire daytime routine as well. I am very particular with what I use on my face and every product is safe for sensitive skin as well as fungal acne safe. Fungal Acne is actually Malassezia which is an overgrowth of yeast on the face. This can cause irritation, adult acne, and rash-like bumps across the surface of the skin that are itchy. Many products have ingredients that trigger both yeast and irritation.

I have found a great resource for purchasing my 0.025% Tretinoin. Good skincare should be easy to obtain and affordable. You can also start easing into your routine with Adapalene gel which can be easily found at any drug store or supermarket.

Remember, using Tretinoin, whether it be for acne or anti-aging is not a sprint, it is a marathon. If you are suffering from the Tretinoin purge, it is your skin’s way of telling you that it is irritated. This is a sign that you need to back off and re-evaluate your routine. Trust me, you may think that you can just keep pushing through, and eventually, it will get better. However, in reality, you are making your skin worse by causing more scarring and hyperpigmentation. When it comes to Tretinoin, I learned the hard way that less is more.

If you found these Tretinoin Purge Tips helpful please comment below and let me know. Feel free to ask any questions you may have.


DSC_1770 cropSondra Barker
I created this site for purveyor of exceptional eats and escapes; our team is always on a journey to find the perfect bites in the most wonderful places.

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