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Should I Use Retinoid to Treat Acne?

POPSUGAR / paid for by / Galderma Differin

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The first step to treating your breakouts is understanding your ingredients. We've partnered with Differin® to help you achieve your best skin.

Chances are you've probably come across retinoids in your quest for better-looking skin. While the skin-care ingredient, which helps with cell turnover, is a popular go-to for targeting many concerns, one of its more surprising uses is to treat recurring breakouts. If you're looking to incorporate the powerhouse ingredient into your routine to target mild to moderate acne or even occasional flare-ups, we broke down everything you need to know with the help of a dermatologist below.

First off, what even is a retinoid? How does it differ from a retinol?

Retinoids work like Vitamin A, which is an important building block for healthy skin, so they've become the basis for many acne medications. Retinol is a specific type of retinoid, but isn't really used to treat acne, unlike the much more powerful retinoids.

What makes it so good for treating acne?

Because they regulate skin cell turnover and reduce inflammation, retinoids are great for preventing acne before it occurs. According to Heidi Waldorf, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City and Nanuet, it's best to think of them as "sweepers." "In addition to exfoliating the skin surface, they loosen the sticky cells in the sebaceous follicle (the originating location of acne) to loosen blackheads and whiteheads and to prevent future acne," she explained. One type of retinoid in particular, adapalene, is the first FDA-approved retinoid available over-the-counter to treat acne. These newer acne-fighting retinoids, like

Differin® Gel, are designed with improved tolerability in mind, resulting in less redness and skin irritation.

How should you incorporate it into your regimen?

Apply a pea-sized amount of retinoid all over the face once daily followed by moisturizer. "Start using your retinoid every other night for two weeks, then gradually increase to nightly use as tolerated," Dr. Waldorf said. "Avoid astringents and toners, which can dry the skin and make it less tolerant of the retinoid." Specifically, avoiding products containing alpha hydroxyl, salicylic acid, or glycolic acid, and other acne-drug products is recommended.

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