The Acne Expert

What is Retention Hyperkeratosis and do I have it?

Posted by Mary Freihofner on


Retention hyperkeratosis is a very common and benign condition that plays a roll in the acne process. Put into terms we can all understand, it occurs when skin cells along the walls of sebaceous glands do not slough away as they should. Instead they get sticky and adhere to the lining of the follicles and also often form layers at the top of the skin. 

My favorite term to describe RHK is 'top dry' because often people feel like their skin is dry on top but oily underneath.

The reality is that every person with acne has RHK but the degree of the issue is different for different people. 

The solution to reduce this process is a chemical exfoliation and a manual exfoliation. In your kit you get the comedolytic effect of the 10% benzoyl peroxide and the manual exfoliation with the pink buff

In general it is ideal if you can use the pink buff once a day but if you feel like it is too rough for you do what is comfortable.

To use the buff most effectively it is best to use it after the skin cells have been moist. When dead skin cells are moist they plump with water and this is when they will scrub away most effectively. Ideal times to use the buff are 1) with cleansing 2) end of a shower 3) after a DIY yogurt mask.

Even if you do not see RHK on your skin it is there to a certain extent and the buff will be helpful. When any of the clogging material found in acne skin is put under a microscope what is always seen is the persons dead skin cells, their oil and any very sticky product ingredients. So it is always helpful to reduce the amount of dead skin cells contributing to the mix.

Keep your buff clean by washing daily with soap and water and spritzing with alcohol or diluted bleach. A new sponge should be used every four weeks. 

If you have questions please tune into my Live Q&A on Instagram where you can send me questions any time!