“Help Me” Helped Me Clean Up My Skin

Philosophy’s Help Me Retinol Night Treatment promises some serious results, and three months later, my skin looks great.
Publish date:
February 1, 2015
anti-aging, philosophy, acne treatments, retinol, vitamin a, skin purging

I haven’t always treated my skin very well. I spent most of my early twenties tanning, smoking, and eating a lot of garbage foods--basically all the things you shouldn’t do. Although I can’t undo the damage I did back then, Philosophy’s Help Me Retinol Night Treatment has really improved the quality of my skin.

What Is Retinol?

Just so we’re all on the same page, retinol is a lower-strength retinoid containing vitamin A and acts as a chemical exfoliant for the skin. Retinoids are used for a number of skin-related issues, like anti-aging, acne, and reducing fine lines. Help Me claims to minimize fine lines and skin discoloration, as well as minimizing pores. There are a lot of retinol creams out there, but I picked this one because it’s meant to be a much gentler OTC retinoid, and that means less side effects.

Retinol has SIDE EFFECTS? Oh yes--burning, peeling, stinging, general pain, and redness. No big deal, right? You’re also at an increased risk of sunburn if you don’t remember to slather on some SPF during the day (I use Clinque’s Age Defense BB Cream that has SPF 30 every day and haven’t burned once). After three months, I’m happy to say I still don’t know what it feels like to have my skin painfully peel off.

The Purge

The only side effect I’ve experienced with Help Me is a purge.

This was the WORST.

Since retinol is rapidly exfoliating your skin as you sleep, it’s also pushing any lurking breakouts to the surface of your skin so they all happen at the same time. The way you can tell if you are purging or just reacting badly to a product like this is to look at where your breakout is occurring. If your zits are showing up in places they’ve never been before, you’re likely having a reaction, but if your zits are showing up strategically where they have always and only shown up, then chances are you’re purging. The bad news is that if you do purge, you’re going to have a lot of zits. The good news is that it doesn’t last for very long. For me it lasted about two weeks.


Help Me comes in a 1.05 ounce tube, almost like a tube of super glue, minus the awful smell. It doesn’t really smell at all. I apply a thin layer (a glob about the size of a chickpea) all over my face after cleansing every other night, and my first tube lasted just over two months.

It’s a fairly thick cream and a little bit goes a long way. You don’t have to use a moisturizer on top of the cream, but I do after Help Me has dried into my skin (on the few nights I’ve forgotten to moisturize after, my face has felt dry and tight the next day). But because it’s a retinol cream, you should only use it at night.

The Results

So far I haven’t seen any reduction in fine lines or wrinkles on my face and I certainly haven’t seen a reduction in the size of my pores—because Magic Creams and Potions don’t exist. But I have seen a huge difference in the evenness of my complexion and in the way that my skin handles acne. After the initial purge wore off, my skin has broken out only infrequently, and when it does, the breakouts are small and stick around for a quarter of the time they used to.

I wish I could go back and tell 20-year-old me to ditch the tanning beds and make healthier choices, but until a Tardis lands in my back yard I’m stuck with what I’ve got—and Philosophy’s Help Me has made what I’ve got just a little bit better.

  • What side effects have you had from using a retinoid, and how did you make it stop?
  • Have you had any awesome outcomes from using Help Me?
  • Do you use retinoids for something unusual?

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