This viral retinol serum replaced all my acne-prone skin products

When I think back to my formative beauty years, those classic memories of stealing from my mom's makeup bag are only surpassed by one thing: the vivid nostalgia of strolling through the extremely limited skincare section of my local supermarket during my weekly grocery shop. With each purchase, I would ask to add yet another deep cleanser or blemish-fighting clay mask to my growing collection of products that promised to clear up my acne-prone skin. Back then, everyone told me I'd get rid of my stubborn hormonal spots, but now I'm in my mid-twenties, and I can't say my skin tone ambitions have strayed far from those teenage dreams.

One thing that has changed, however, are the products you'll find on my bathroom shelf. What was once a stash of tea tree face washes and now-banished body scrubs has been replaced by one (unexpected) ingredient: retinol. Specifically, CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum.


As a former lover of exfoliating acids, I wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea of ​​giving up the oh-so-satisfying instant glow of my favorite salicylic acid toner and gradually incorporating retinol into my skincare routine (not to mention waiting for the effects). While retinol is known for its ability to stimulate skin cell turnover, reduce the appearance of fine lines and under-eye wrinkles (yes, retinol eye creams are now widely available), and improve hyperpigmentation, its benefits for adult acne and clogged pores are far less advertised. And it's no secret that it takes long-term dedication and patience to reap the benefits of retinol, so I was a little hesitant at first.

Despite my cynicism, the recurring viral posts finally convinced me and I decided to buy a bottle of CeraVe's alleged liquid gold. Now, down to the last few drops, I can safely say that it's a real standout in my skincare collection: in fact, it's replaced all my usual quick fixes.

To put it in context, my skin condition fluctuates enormously throughout the month (as is typical with hormonal acne in adulthood), so I keep my routine relatively simple: a gentle cleanser, an active serum for spots and acne scars in the evening, moisturizer and an SPF for acne-prone skin during the day.

As recommended, I gradually incorporated a small pump of the Resurfacing Retinol Serum by using it once a week in the evening as an active step before gradually increasing the amount to three. In terms of texture, it's relatively weightless; a classic watery serum that absorbs quickly and without leaving a noticeable mark. It's not the most sensual skincare product, but that's not what it's for.

I like to think of the benefits of this serum in three categories: barrier care, toning, and exfoliation. First and foremost, it uses a blend of three essential ceramides to nourish and improve moisture retention in your skin's protective layer. For me, this meant my skin looked balanced and hydrated both after application and the next morning. Of course, using retinol on acne-prone skin can be risky, as acne itself is an inflammatory problem, but CeraVe's barrier-building approach means this serum is easily tolerated.

For complexion, it uses niacinamide to calm and improve uneven pigmentation, including post-acne erythema or annoying red spots that appear after a breakout heals. It also refines overly enlarged pores: a godsend for people with oily skin like me.

Finally, we come to the encapsulated retinol, which gently accelerates skin turnover to reduce acne scarring and promote a clearer complexion over time. Side note: It's also paraben and fragrance free (if that's important to you).

In summary, my skin has definitely cleared up since opening the first bottle. While the formula can't completely stop my hormonal breakouts—nothing can, no matter what the brands promise—the lifespan of my cysts and pimples has significantly shortened, my blackheads have drastically reduced, and my acne pigmentation has finally faded significantly. Best of all for me, I haven't suffered any of the irritation or extra sensitivity I expected when I started my retinol journey. That and the fact that it has completely streamlined my skincare routine. My previous list of skincare products for acne? Clearly in the rearview mirror now.

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