If you’ve been struggling with acne for a long time, chances are you’re already familiar with retinol. The vitamin A derivative is particularly important for the production of new skin cells, which is also why we typically find it in anti-aging creams. More recently, this ingredient has even found its way into foundations, cleansers, and even sunscreens. But is this ingredient really safe to use? The answer, of course, is yes — but only in certain situations.
Today, we’re taking a look at how the regenerative properties of vitamin A can help acne-prone skin. Even more importantly, we’ll learn how to use it correctly. But first, let’s go over our favorite products.
Top 5 Rated Acne Retinol Products on Amazon
Best Retinol for Acne — Moisturizer for Oily Skin: LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer
Believe it or not, oily skin still needs hydration. Still, if you’d like your skincare products to dry out your skin a little bit, this moisturizer will do just that.
Why we like it:
- Excellent packaging with a convenient pump
- 71% organic ingredients
- 5% Retinol
- 7 ounces of product
You might want to choose the LilyAna Naturals Cream Moisturizer if:
You need to get your sebum production under control. Even though this product can control sebum production and encourage cell turnover, it’s also very gentle on the skin. The formula also includes aloe, sunflower and jojoba oils, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, and shea butter, all of which will make sure that your skin is getting the nutrition it needs while you’re using retinol.
Best Retinol for Acne — Gentle Moisturizer: Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer w Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamins
If you find our first contender a bit too powerful, this one is an excellent runner-up.
Why we like it:
- Attractive packaging with a pump on top
- Packed with hydrating ingredients and vitamins
- Gentle formula, great for beginners
- 7 or 3.4 fluid ounces of product
You might want to choose the Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer if:
You’re just getting into vitamin A products; the Body Merry Retinol moisturiter is a gentle formula to start with. The Body Merry moisturizer is mostly based on aloe juice and sunflower oil, which are carriers for the hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Basically, there are more jojoba oil, shea butter, and vitamins E and B5 in this cream than there is retinol. So if you’re worried about whether you should try a product that contains vitamin A, this cream should be gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin types.
Best Retinol for Acne — Serum: Tree of Life Retinol Serum
If you prefer a runny consistency for your facial skincare products, there are also serums you might want to try.
Why we like it:
- Glass bottle with a dropper top
- 10% hyaluronic acid
- 2% Retinol
- 1 ounce of product
You might want to choose the Tree of Life Retinol Serum if:
You discovered facial oils and don’t want to go back to creams. If you have sensitive skin and anything white and goopy — including moisturizing creams — causes it to break out, you might want to try a serum. This one contains all the good stuff you saw in the previous two products: jojoba oil, witch hazel, green tea, vitamin E, and more nutritious ingredients that won’t dry out or irritate your skin.
Best Retinol for Acne — Antioxidant Serum: Paula’s Choice SKIN RECOVERY Antioxidant Serum with Retinol
Paula’s Choice serum is a great example of a vitamin A product that can even be used during the day — as long as you layer the right SPF over it.
Why we like it:
- The product comes in a tube
- A mixture of oils and vitamins
- Strong active ingredients with antioxidant-rich additions
- 1 ounce of product
You might want to choose Paula’s Choice SKIN RECOVERY Serum if:
You want a product you can take from your evening routine into your morning routine. As with most of the products on our list, you probably shouldn’t use it during the day. However, as we have already explained, you could just apply SPF 30 or higher over the treatment to protect yourself. Besides, this product has so many antioxidant ingredients that it would be a shame to keep them in the dark. After all, antioxidants are the perfect defense against sun damage.
Best Retinol for Acne — Sheet Mask: Azure Cosmetics Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol Anti-Aging Sheet Mask
Lastly, we wanted to mention that vitamin A is also available in formulas that are neither fluids nor creams.
Why we like it:
- 5 sheet masks
- Contains vitamins A, B5, E, and collagen
- 74 ounces
You might want to choose the Azure Cosmetics Retinol Anti-Aging Sheet Mask if:
You want to enjoy a spa-quality treat for your face. After you wash your face in the evening, you can apply your favorite tonics and serums. Then simply top that off with a sheet mask. Some 20 minutes later, take the mask off and pat the remaining fluids into your face. If necessary, put on your night cream, and go to sleep. And remember to put SPF on before going out in the morning!
The Effects of Vitamin A on Acne-Prone Skin
Most people only have a vague knowledge of where they can get different vitamins through their diet. Still, vitamin A isn’t really a thing that pops into anyone’s mind when it comes to a diverse diet. Usually, we get it from liver and fish oils, as well as milk and eggs. The vitamin actually plays an important role in preserving the efficiency of our internal organs, our eyes, and our immune system.
Now, the first reported topical usage of vitamin A happened about 50 years ago. At that time, some dermatologists started prescribing vitamin A solutions to treat acne patients due to the vitamin’s anti-inflammatory properties. These solutions typically contained a synthetic version of retinoic acid, tretinoin.
However, as patients continued the treatment, they noticed that the solution didn’t only have a marked effect on their acne — it also had anti-aging properties. In fact, the topical solution visibly decreased wrinkles and signs of photodamage. After sufficient testing, this acid became one of the rare FDA-approved ingredients for use in anti-aging products. Nowadays, most people will be familiar with this form of vitamin A under the brand name Retin-A, which is a medication available only with a prescription.
Fortunately, retinol isn’t such an exclusive ingredient. In fact, it’s actually a much less potent version of its synthetic cousin, as it’s only a natural form of vitamin A. Even so, retinol is still incredibly powerful — so let’s see exactly how it can help with acne.
But Can It Treat Acne?
Because retinol isn’t an ingredient that requires a prescription, most people can get it pretty easily. As we’ve mentioned, you can now get vitamin A cleansers, foundations, sunscreens, even lipstick. But should you? Let’s weigh the pros and cons, starting with the beneficial properties of the vitamin A derivative:
- It prevents the collagen that holds our skin cells together from breaking down. In fact, it actually encourages collagen production, which makes the skin more resilient.
- It penetrates deep into the skin and infuses it with proteins and moisture, which, in turn, makes the skin thicker and smoother.
- Like vitamin C, vitamin A also has some skin brightening properties, which is why those first acne patients noticed an improvement in skin tone and texture.
- Finally, vitamin A also prevents the skin cells from sticking together and clogging, which is what causes acne in the first place. That means that it will also help expel any dirt you might have in your pores and also regulate sebum production. These properties are the very reason why vitamin A was used for treating acne in the first place.
However, there’s a good reason why tretinoin isn’t available without a prescription. The more potent version of vitamin A also comes with more intense side effects, including dry skin, flakiness, irritation, and redness.
Furthermore, we should also note that vitamin A is incredibly dangerous when exposed to direct sunlight. That is the main reason why it shouldn’t be in sunscreen or foundation, no matter how well it works as an acne-prevention or anti-aging ingredient. So how can you make sure that you’re being as safe as you can be when using retinol?
Tips for Applying Vitamin A Products
As we have already explained, vitamin A products are incredibly effective for reversing sun damage and signs of aging. However, there are some caveats to that claim: namely, that they can also irritate the skin. But, there are ways to get around that:
- Only use retinol at night in order to avoid sun damage (although you may just get away with simply slathering SPF over the treatment)
- Moisturize liberally or as needed
- Apply SPF in the morning, and keep applying it every few hours
- Try to stay away from direct sunlight altogether
- Stop using the treatment if your skin reacts too badly — otherwise, you can use it every night
If your skin is still having adverse reactions to the retinol product you’re using, and you’re not ready to give up, there’s one last trick you can try. Because some vitamin A products can be so intensely drying, you can combine them with carrier oils, moisturizing creams, or both.
Simply pour some of the oil or cream into your palm, add a few drops of retinol, mix and apply. For extra hydration, you can mix it into an oil, apply the mixture, and then top that off with your favorite moisturizer.
If you’ve never tried retinol, you’ll want to start with a formula that doesn’t contain a lot of it. Many manufacturers offer products with 2.5% of retinol. However, beginners should start with something closer to 0.05%, just to be safe. So now that we know how to use these products, the only thing left to do is see some recommendations for the best retinol for acne!
Welcome Clear and Smooth Skin with Vitamin A
So that’s everything you need to know about vitamin A derivatives. On the one hand, the benefits they come with make them an essential part of any skincare routine. However, we should also be careful to avoid possible adverse effects. Still, there’s a product out there that will suit just about anyone. All you need to do is find it — and this article should help with that!