Retin-A for problem skin – the journey so far using Tretinoin

As somebody who has had clear skin for pretty much all of their life, I was absolutely heartbroken last year to find myself suffering with a stubborn bout of adult acne. My skin was absolutely full of spots, blemishes and dry patches and felt unbelievably sore and irritated. It took me a really long time to get my skin back to health again, so imagine my horror when my skin started to play up again just a few months ago.

Despite having a great skincare routine, following a healthy diet and taking regular exercise, my skin still wouldn’t behave. I decided that I needed something more potent to help me along in my quest for clear skin once again.

Tretinoin 0.1% gel

Tretinoin 0.1% gel

I’d read up enough about Retin-A to know that it was a really beneficial treatment to put onto my skin and after trying out Indeed Labs Retinol Reface a while ago and not really seeing much difference to my skin, I decided to try something a little stronger.

I found out about Tretinoin which is a derivative of vitamin A and is used on the skin to treat acne, fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and rough skin. The treatment causes the cells of the skin to grow and die more rapidly which is why Tretinoin is well known to cause flaking skin and redness. This speeds up the cell renewing process revealing fresher, less problematic skin underneath.

According to medical reports, improvements in sun-damaged or skin with hyperpigmentation can be seen within the first three to four weeks of treatment with dark spots fading after around six to eight weeks. Wrinkles decrease or disappear after around three to six months. Some people have reported that their acne has seemed to improve within the first few weeks of use.

The treatment comes in either a gel, cream or capsule form. I opted for the gel which comes in the following strengths from weakest to strongest: 0.01%, 0.025%, 0.04%, 0.05% and 0.1%. The gel strength which I have is 0.1% – the highest strength.

My experience

I was so excited to get hold of my Tretinoin and read up carefully about the application process and what to expect. On the first evening of using my Tretinoin, I cleansed my face with my usual routine and waited the recommended 20-30 minutes before applying the treatment. This is done to ensure that the skin is thoroughly dry and help to alleviate irritation of the product.

Here's day one of starting treatment with very unhappy skin!

Here’s day one of starting treatment with very unhappy skin!

Day one: I was advised that a pea-sized amount was enough to cover the whole of my face so I took a small amount and carefully spread it firstly over my problem areas – my chin, jaw line and cheeks. I was careful to avoid contact with my eyes and lips. I’d read that many people experienced either a stinging or burning sensation when applying tretinoin, I only felt a mild warming sensation which wasn’t uncomfortable at all.

Day two: When I woke up the next morning, my skin had already started to peel and looked a little red. After cleansing my face in the morning, I found that my skin felt extremely tight and stung a little. I made sure to moisturise throughout the day.

On the second evening of applying the gel, I felt quite a strong burning sensation which was actually quite unpleasant. I had mixed a moisturiser with the tretinoin and after a few minutes the burning subsided and my face felt normal again.

Day three: The next morning, my skin didn’t appear to be peeling so I applied a little makeup and went out for Sunday lunch. After lunch, I popped to the powder room and was absolutely horrified to find that my skin was literally hanging off my face around my mouth. Even worse that nobody had told me despite sitting next to me at the dinner table for over an hour! The only thing I had to hand was a suncream so I applied this to my face. Big mistake. The suncream was blue. I looked like I had a blue beard. So for the rest of the afternoon, I braved the world with my strange blue beard and just put up with it.

The third evening of applying the cream really stung and I was getting a little worried that the gel was too strong for my face. If this was the case, I would have to start using the gel once every other night rather than every single night. After a few minutes, the burning subsided again.

Day four: This morning I woke up to find my skin looking healthier and was happy to see that my acne looked less inflamed. My skin could almost pass for semi-clear! My skin didn’t feel quite so tight and wasn’t peeling as much as it had on the previous days. Even my mum commented at how fresh my complexion looked. I applied my normal moisturiser throughout the day and didn’t really see any peeling until the evening.

I applied the Tretinoin again in the evening with the moisturiser and was pleased to only feel a mild warming sensation again.

Day five: Today is day five and I have woken up once again with clearer, fresher looking skin. After just five days I have already seen a remarkable improvement in my skin which I didn’t think was even possible. Although my skin does feel a little tight, it feels much better than it has in a long time. With continued use, I have every faith that this little wonder gel will work miracles and give me my skin back!

Day five - much clearer skin with a healthy glow

Day five – much clearer skin with a healthy glow

A few things to note

  • Tretinoin makes the skin more sensitive to UVA and UVB, it’s really important to wear a high SPF each day to protect your skin
  • The treatment will make your skin look a little red and peel – this is completely normal. Don’t give up too soon! As embarrassing as it might be to have peeling skin while you’re out and about, think of the benefits you will reap in the longterm. Your skin WILL get used to this in time and the peeling will subside
  • Tretinoin is not to be used during pregnancy and nursing – the effects of Tretinoin within pregnancy and during nursing is not really known, so the manufacturer advise that it should not be used during these times to exercise caution
  • This is not a quick fix, it’s a longterm commitment. Starting to use Retin-A from a young age will be beneficial to skin and help to keep a youthful complexion with happy, healthy skin
From day one to day five

From day one to day five


© This post is copyright of Rachael Divers 2014.

Rachael Divers Makeup Artistry

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