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Retin-A Micro for occassional cystic acne (30, F)

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Day 54. Coming up on the end of Week 8.

My nose is getting so much better! Of course, it looks like a war zone to other people, but compared to how it used to be a few days ago -- even yesterday...I think that by Thursday I might be back in the realm of normal human being who gets pimples from time to time.

I also have a big old cyst growing on my chin -- about 1/2" from where the last two cysts were. So far no redness, and I am trying to drown it out in BP. Also of course some old red marks on my chin from other zits.

My skin still looks kind of shitty all over, but whatever, I can deal. Mostly it is just bumpy/not smooth and I have gigantic pores. It's funny because my time horizon for improvement keeps getting longer and longer -- at first I was thinking 8 weeks, then 3 months, and just now, I decided six months.

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Day 55. My nose still has *bright red* like a lobster marks all over it. But I can deal. Sadly, the area up towards the bridge of my nose, while not showing any signs of problems, is somehow kind of sore, which I can only assume means I'm going to get another horrible nose spot there. In the meantime I am icing and BPing that area.

Also BPing the now gigantic cyst on my chin, which is actually doing okay redness wise. For now. Though a second smaller one is appearing alongside of it. And there is something else going on off to the side between my nose and my lips -- kind of on my cheek. Not a cyst though, thank god. If there is such a thing as good news today, it's that the pimple under my mose completely went away and barely left a mark. It was there for about two days, and then see you later!

I really hate my skin right now.

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Day 56. I actually have quite a few spots brewing right now:

-- two cysts on my chin -- one small (that oozed some white goo today when I wasn't even really trying to squeeze it), one big, which hurts a bit and itches and is big but isn't THAT red and is maybe now going down

-- another something is brewing underneath the surface spot between my nose and lips on my cheek

-- another one of these that feels like two of something together on the far side of my left cheek

-- another painful nose spot emerging in a field of red healing spots

But I'm kind of happy -- certainly in WAY less mental anguish than I was a few days ago when my nose was literally swollen in all dimensions and so painful (though current spot on nose is pretty painful). I had a friend visiting from out of town tonight and I think I barely looked like I had problem skin at all after some spot concealing. The skin on my cheeks for the most part is looking good right now, despite my large pores.

My skin still is very oily (genetic, my 60 year old father's skin can be used as a mirror in the summer, though I don't think he's eer had an acne problem), and it kind of stung all day today because I am trying to douse things in BP in the mornings, but psychologically, I am feeling so so so much better.

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Day 58. The fact that I missed a day posting is a good sign!

Things are getting better. Here is an update:

Nose: I still have one active spot that fills up with pus from time to time, but I feel SO much better psychologically, even if this spot is really right in the middle of my nose. It's not that bad. Other red spots are almost healed. I did notice that my blackheads are all still there, and with light pressure I can get goo to come out of some of them quite easily, but I can tell that the skin is thinner all over. Not sure if the blackheads will stay? I kind of don't care.

Chin: Small spot = completely gone, large spot is on it's way away. I really doused that guy in BP, and as a result, the skin on top got a little bit brown and dry, but it never became a hideous, omg, I have a zit spot. Pretty happy about how these two turned out. Moral of the story: don't pick!

Cheek: Spot between my nose and mouth is almost gone, and was basically never visible on the surface. I can still feel a little lump underneath but whatever. Doubled spot over near my ear is still there and isn't getting smaller yet. Using lots of BP.

Forehead: totally clear but with many small bumps. Though these seem to be getting better?

Overall: skin is still VERY oily, esp. in humid weather, but more glowy, finally, especially in the cheeks. I am starting to feel like RAM is actually working.

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End of Day 62.

So, things were getting better and then they started to get worse again. Mostly in the form of my friends The Cysts. Since I last posted, I got another one on my chin, and one in the middle of my forhead. The big cyst I already had on my chin was indeed going away, but I find that even if I don't squeeze, it still does the thing where it crusts over and leaves a big brown mark that is around for a long time after the thing has flattened out.

Plus I just have a million red marks all around my mouth/chin area, which are taking forever to go away. They are still going on my nose too, and the glowy-ness that I had to my skin a few days ago is gone again -- everything just seems rough and broken out. My nose is still blackhead filled, even after all of that horrible breaking out.

The last few days I've had some pretty down moments emotionally. I feel like everyone in my life has perfect skin, and I don't understand why all of a sudden mine has gotten so bad. (I swear it wasn't think bad before last spring.) I keep thinking...if only I hadn't taken that Plan B (it was a measure of extra precaution)...what if I hadn't started with RAM....it really sucks to think about this so much at my age.

Really hoping to see some real results in a few more weeks. Going into week 10 as of tomorrow.

Also: do people ever use moisturizer on top of RAM (after waiting for a while)? My face is still super oily, but my red spots keep peeling/scabbing over. I was thinking that moisturizer at night might prevent that/help things heal?

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Day 65/Week 10.

Things are still bad. My face looks like a battlefield. Red marks everywhere. In a way I want to say that the problem is that I am picking the peeling skin off my spots, but I also have a spot on the side of my face that I never touch that has been bright red and scabby for over a week. My face is still extremely oily, I have blackheads on my forehead where I didn't used to have them. My nose isn't any better. I HATE THIS.

I totally did not think that this would happen to me. I thought all of the horror stories on the web -- I don't know, I was just convinced that RAM would work for me. I'm not sure how long to keep with it -- I know that I definitely have to go through the three month point, but that is coming up soonish and things are just so bad right now. Will these cysts ever go away? I just want clear skin!

ALSO: I know I have said this before, but starting tomorrow (well, tonight), I am going to try to go one week without picking. Even the dead skin -- I'll let myself dry my face with a clean towel after I wash but that is it. AND, I'm going to start drinking more water. I'll be updating on the picking progress. This will be hard since I have this huge brown crust over a chin cyst right now, but I know that it's half my problem. I just wish that my face didn't get itchy, which makes me want to touch it.

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Day 68.

So, what's red and white and peeling all over but still thinks its face is "totally getting better and almost clear?" Someone on their 10th week of Retin-A. Ba dum bum.

Okay, joking aside, DESPITE having many new spots in the last three days even (another cyst on my forehead, two more painful lumps under the skin on my upper lip, and at least two more on my chin), I AM STARTING TO SEE THE EFFECTS OF RETIN-A! In a good way. FINALLY!!!!

I still have tons of red marks, but I am finally entering the phase of zits that come and go pretty fast without ever becoming too much of a problem. All of these things of course still feel like cysts, which made me SO worried (why am I still getting somewhere around 7-8 cysts a month at this point -- there is no improvement!), but all of a sudden, just in the last day or two, the bumps have started to come and go much faster, and my skin is rosy, FINALLY less oily (the fact that it's finally no longer 80% humidity outside probably helps), and recovering SO much faster. Also got two more problematic and painful nose spots, both in the corners of my nose, both of which went away quite fast.

I don't want to get too excited, but this is the first time since...oh god, I don't know -- JULY, that's I've felt truly optimistic about where my skin is heading.

Oh, I have totally still been picking, but definitely less. And drinking more water. I'm sure that hasn't hurt either. And although this post is cheery, I still have had WAY too many moments when I'm like, I can't believe what has become of my face, it's so horrible.

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Day 71 -- week 11.

It's true, my skin is getting clearer and looking better in the areas where I don't have...MORE CYSTS. I forgot to try Aleve this month, and these were all totally hormonal, though I did take Advil, and that didn't stop them. (I know that Advil was found less effective in that study, but I was taking 3-6 a day, and they are still anti-inflammatory). I got three cysts under my nose on the left side (ugh!), have 2-3 on my chin, and 1-2 on my forehead this month (in the last week). I had really been trying not to pick at them/touch them, and then yesterday/today I lost it and screwed up and my face is a mess! Though still, strangely, better than a few weeks ago. It's so embarrassing, I hate it. Especially since I can feel two more brewing.

It's like each week is a different area of my face's turn to have an IB. Nose, chine, above the mouth, then forehead. Wondering when the cheeks will happen.

I am starting to see signs that this will work out in the end, but boy does it suck now!

Oh, and for those of you who complain about incompetent dematologists...I just renewed my RAM prescription, and I noted my doctor's original instructions (she is a GP, I'm not allowed to see a derm just for acne with my insurance) and it said to use 1" of RAM at bedtime. Ridiculous!

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Day 74.

Here is the deal: my good areas -- they look great -- really truly.

The area where I got three cysts within one square inch last week? A DISASTER. God, I just want it to heal. The first one that emerged is pretty far gone, but the other two are still red and scabby messes. Which also means uncoverable, which I try to do anyway. Probably looks worse that way.

I'm really feeling like once they go away, I might be in the clear though. The only place I worry about is my forehead, which is all of a sudden much more blackhead laden than ever before, but somehow the breakouts there aren't that bad.

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sounds like your persistence and efforts are finally paying off with RAM- congratulations amforati! I can sympathize with you somewhat i'm 27, probably had mild acne for the past 10 years, but started using tretinoin after i had somewhat of a major break out bout 3 months ago. i thought i was too old for acne. Anyways, the cream made the skin on my face extremely oily. my pores started to clog, and i got small little bumps on the sides of my cheeks, some cysts not as much as you...mostly white heads...but lots of em. 2 weeks ago, just when i thought i was done with my IB, it started to come back. ugh. i will admit my skin is much smoother and softer to the touch after using tretinoin, but the break outs are not stopping. i get really embarrassed at work, and i tend to hide myself whenever in large group settings. i've been thinking about waving the white flag and jumping to the dreaded accutane pill. this stuff is so frustrating. why do doctors prescribe such volatile stuff?

i do like reading your log. please keep on posting. i can relate to everything your saying...well, most of everything. good luck.

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Thanks for the words of encouragement Suspect! It's nice to hear from readers. Keeping this log has been a huge help psychologically -- I am a very open person, but I've haven't been able to talk to anyone about this, so it's nice to have a place where there are other people who understand. God, sometimes I just can't believe the psychological toll of this -- I am so vibrant otherwise, and it is very unnatural for me to shy away from interaction with people, yet I find myself doing it because of a few spots on my face. It's ridiculous! I can't think of anything else that has affected me like this.

Onto other topics, why did no one ever tell me about NEOSPORIN before? Last night I came home and was SO frustrated with these two cyst scabs above my lip that I was googling the best way to treat them -- thinking that some moisturizing would help -- and that maybe I shouldn't put RAM on them as they are healing. Neosporin came up as something that is moisturizing AND antibiotic at the same time, and works against redness, and I immediately went out to the 24 hr drug store. (This was around midnight).

This morning I work up and my face was completely clear! Okay, I kid. But things did get better overnight with it. I have a new non-inflamed cyst friend above my eyebrow, which I was SO tempted to try to pop last night (but I didn't), and it went down significantly last night. (And then I stuck it with a thin pin to drain it this morning -- I actually think that this method works. It sprayed all over the mirror when lightly pushed upon -- ew, but also so satisfying!) And I do think it is helping take the red out of my healing spots. I am in week 11 right now, and really hope that by the three month mark, I'll have decent skin again. Actually, not just hope, but think it is totally possible. (3 months being 13 weeks)

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End of Day 76.

God, is the IB really supposed to last 3 weeks. Because that's how long it's been. And I am still getting cysts.

Why do I only get cysts?!?!?! I really hate my skin right now. Three active cysts (chin, forehead, side of nose), plus a jillion red marks. Who cares if my cheeks are glowy when all anyone sees is my gross T zone.

So annoyed that I'm using an f-ing emoticon.

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I feel your frustration! I'm around the eight week mark of using tazorac and my skin is still breaking out. Some weeks are really good and I think I'm turning a corner, and then the next day I'll have another breakout that comes out of nowhere. Maybe it's because I'm really close to my cycle starting, I don't know, but this breakout right now is non-stop. There are times I feel so incredibly low.....like today. I'll keep at it, but the journey is a hard one.

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End of Day 78. In week 12 at this point.

Thanks for the words of encouragement Sunnygirl. I am seriously committed to staying with this -- I have faith that my face will actually start to look good someday. Really. Though it's kind of horrible to go back and look at pictures of me before I started RAM and realize how so NOT bad my skin was in comparison to now. Yeah, that's really sad.

But, well, my skin is what it is now, and once again, I maintain that it's on the up and up. It is definitely way softer, and I have no new cysts forming! For now, but yay! I am still getting some peeling/flaking around my chin, but everything feels velvet-y smooth, which is good and makes covering things up a LOT easier these days, which is good. I think that the Neosporin is REALLY helping -- cysts are going away really quickly, things aren't dry and scabby anymore.

I saw elsewhere that someone wrote something to the point of, "I'm not religious, but I'm praying that this gets better." I'm not so desperate anymore that I need to pray, but I definitely have been in that situation in the last few weeks. I just really hope that in a week or two I am clear for the first time since July.

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i've had the worst acne for about eight years, and i started using retin-a a week and a half ago because in a few months i'll be attending a few interviews for medschool, and i really don't want to look like i don't take care of myself!

i'm so impressed that you've stuck it at so long, after 11 days of retin-A my face looks horrible but you've really motivated me to continue using it! please keep writing your log so that you can continue to inspire the rest of us =)

good luck!

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Day 82. Wow!

I've been traveling, so I haven't written much here. And you know, I think that it actually helps -- I obsess less about everything when I am not writing it all out. But, nonetheless, a progress report is in store. I should also say that traveling helps as I don't know anyone here, and thus am less prone to pick to make things look temporarily better.

Anyway, before I left, I picked up a bottle of tea tree oil. I don't know if that is what has done the trick, but I completely prevented three cysts in my chin from going anywhere. Sure my chin got a little dried out from it, but jeez, who cares -- that lasted about three days and was minorly ugly. I was soooo disappointed to start to feel these three bumps way underneath my skin, so I just kept loading the stuff on, and they just dematerialized. Sadly, I had FOUR other ones develop since then -- two above my lip, and two low on my forehead. No wait -- three on my forehead. Luckily though, these spots -- maybe they aren't really cysts, I don't know -- they are just hard lumps way under the skin -- stayed very small. I barely even touched them, and have been applying everything I can to get them to go away (BP+ tea tree oil in the day, RAM at night, lots of water, and two aleve a day) They are not unnoticeable, but they are coverable, which counts for a lot. And one on my forehead is still growing, ugh. Sadly, the real problem is that I still have so many red/brown marks in my Tzone. And today some goop came spewing out of an old cyst remainder that I thought had died a long time ago, without my even trying. Weird.

I have to say that I still don't understand why I'm getting so many cysts -- and why only cysts. From the sounds of it, you'd think I should go on accutane or something, but really, these are just hard bumps under the skin that often almost don't even get red, and I don't get other types of pimples for the most part. There is no way my acne is anywhere near severe. But it's bizarre. And I'd like it to stop!

BTW, when I think about it, I'm not sure how RAM can help the kinds of things I'm getting. I mean, they develop so far down, that it doesn't make sense that taking the top few layers off your skin would help...

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Do you take any birth control? Just wondering because the cysts on your tzone sound like hormonal acne to me as I have experienced it myself this year. I am taking yaz birth control and it has helped a lot with hormonal cysts. Takes a long time for it to work (about 3-6 months) and it doesn't get rid of clogged pores, but maybe it will help with your hormonal cysts (I never get them anymore).

Good luck!

Day 82. Wow!

I've been traveling, so I haven't written much here. And you know, I think that it actually helps -- I obsess less about everything when I am not writing it all out. But, nonetheless, a progress report is in store. I should also say that traveling helps as I don't know anyone here, and thus am less prone to pick to make things look temporarily better.

Anyway, before I left, I picked up a bottle of tea tree oil. I don't know if that is what has done the trick, but I completely prevented three cysts in my chin from going anywhere. Sure my chin got a little dried out from it, but jeez, who cares -- that lasted about three days and was minorly ugly. I was soooo disappointed to start to feel these three bumps way underneath my skin, so I just kept loading the stuff on, and they just dematerialized. Sadly, I had FOUR other ones develop since then -- two above my lip, and two low on my forehead. No wait -- three on my forehead. Luckily though, these spots -- maybe they aren't really cysts, I don't know -- they are just hard lumps way under the skin -- stayed very small. I barely even touched them, and have been applying everything I can to get them to go away (BP+ tea tree oil in the day, RAM at night, lots of water, and two aleve a day) They are not unnoticeable, but they are coverable, which counts for a lot. And one on my forehead is still growing, ugh. Sadly, the real problem is that I still have so many red/brown marks in my Tzone. And today some goop came spewing out of an old cyst remainder that I thought had died a long time ago, without my even trying. Weird.

I have to say that I still don't understand why I'm getting so many cysts -- and why only cysts. From the sounds of it, you'd think I should go on accutane or something, but really, these are just hard bumps under the skin that often almost don't even get red, and I don't get other types of pimples for the most part. There is no way my acne is anywhere near severe. But it's bizarre. And I'd like it to stop!

BTW, when I think about it, I'm not sure how RAM can help the kinds of things I'm getting. I mean, they develop so far down, that it doesn't make sense that taking the top few layers off your skin would help...

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I don't take HBC and in general, I don't really like the idea of it, for personal reasons -- mostly I don't want to put more estrogen in my body. I am thinking about considering it though -- also thinking about asking my doctor about Spiro. This is getting way ridiculous. Another one popped up on my forehead today! It's basically invisible, so no big deal, but still, what gives?

The thing about my cysts though is that they aren't timed around my cycle -- I mean, unless you count them coming at ovulation and when I have my period. I.e. all month long. I also have one in my earlobe (where my ear attaches to my neck), and literally in my ear. Also, is excess oil all the time hormonal?

But I also don't want to go off RAM having come this far. I keep thinking "if only" I hadn't started RAM...but then I remember that my skin was really getting worse and worse in the few months before I started it, so who knows what it would be like now if I hadn't started.

Also, I'm finally uploading some pics here. This is about 1 hr after washing my face and throwing some RAM on there to go to bed. Almost every single mark I have is from a cyst. But you can see how they start by looking at my forehead, where I have two active ones. I think that flash makes my face look slightly more oily than it is, but not by much!

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Day 90!

Things are under control. I recently acquired some tea tree oil and that seems to help a LOT. I use it both with RAM and in the morning on any bumps that I feel emerging. I've had quite a few on my forehead (I think it was my forehead's turn to have its IB), and all of them have stopped somewhere short-> way short of becoming full blown problems. This makes me happy. Not including these things, I haven't had a problem zit appear in about 10 days. Hooray! (except for two in my ear, and a cyst like thing in my earlobe)

On the other hand, I am red marks city. And i am waiting and waiting and waiting for them to disappear. I know it will happen someday, but I am certainly not holding my breath at this point. Also, my nose is super splotchy now from that horrible breakout I had there at the beginning of Sept. God, that was awful.

Luckily, I actually look more or less like a normal person when I leave the house now. I am still really oily, and my skin is splotchy in terms of color (with concealer), but I don't look at myself and think, ack! pizza face! anymore.

Sadly, my skin was way better before I started RAM. I am banking on the fact that in another three months, things will change again. Otherwise this has all been for complete naught.

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Day whatever. (90something)

It's like a bad joke. I just got three new near/on the nose zits. I thought I was finished with those. And just when my face was starting to get clear. I hate these kinds of zits. They aren't cysts, but instead super deep wells of liquid pus that seem to form in the crevices of my nose. They HURT! Unlike with cysts, Tea Tree oil doesn't seem that effective? But Neosporin does. Luckily I have both in my arsenal. I am really really trying not to touch/pick them, but it's so hard given how much they hurt. Which also makes me feel like they must be huge.

I'm feeling pretty down about my RAM progress right now. My skin is definitely worse than when I started -- I think?!? I don't know really. It's also so oily which sucks. I definitely don't have severe acne, but I almost wonder if accutane wouldn't be right for me just to control the oil production?

I've even been taking Aleve this week for a knee problem, so there goes the theory that that helps (though maybe it does with cysts). :wacko:

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Four days shy of the end of week 14. Are things better? Well, I GET more pimples/cysts, but I also not know how to control them. Or at least the ones I'm used to, which are are still coming in on my forehead. The three around my nose -- one if fine and healing, and the two on the other side have swollen the entire side of my face! Seriously, it's puffy. Luckily it seems like the infected, painful part of the one that is the real problem is going away. Neosporin has really helped here I think. But the area around (it is basically just on the cheek side of a crevice of my nose) is red and peeling/flaking and gross. I feel gross.

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Hi! I used to get those cysts too, but a combination of Differin, tea tree oil, MaMa lotion, DIM supplements, zinc supplements, and Aleve (during my ovulation and PMS period) did the trick. I just started taking Yaz, which has a component of spiro in it. My skin seems much less oilier since I started Yaz. If you are really oily (skin and scalp), then yaz or spiro may help with that and also the cysts. I feel for you. Good luck!

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Thanks for the words of advice Didi. I have decided to add 2.5% BP to my regimen in the mornings for a bit and see how that works out, but if nothing comes of that, I am going to ask my Dr. about both Yaz and Spiro. Ugh, it is so ridiculous how much stuff we have to try to deal with all of this!

On the plus side, I realized today looking in the same bathroom mirrors that I would before my 2.5 week trip, from which I returned yesterday, how much better my skin is now than before I felt, even though I just got four new pimples 4-5 days ago (one cyst right inbetween my eyebrows!) Tea tree oil is really helping. Which to be honest, makes me feel like RAM is doing just about nothing. Which I know is not true -- it definitely has made my skin smoother to the touch, and it has definitely thinned my skin out, but I don't think it is helping in terms of preventing break outs at all.

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I can't believe it's been 100 days of Retin A Micro! Wow.

Today is a good day. I have only one pimple that is still scabby, unfortunately right between my eyebrows, but it is small and manageble. I still have a lot of peeling and redness around my nose from the three pimple attack of last week, but I'm pretty pleased at how quickly these have all come and gone. Basically, I feel like FINALLY, RAM is starting to work? Or at least, I am out of the IB period. My face of course still looks bad compared to others' simply because of all the red marks, but that is way better than being cyst-y all over.

Since I've returned from my trip abroad, my face has been much less oily during the day -- it might be weather related? That I've added 2.5% BP to my regimen every morning probably helps, but when I wake up in the morning, it's not grossly oily either, the way I've gotten in the past, even with RAM on overnight.

Also, I'm feeling like my acne might be hormonal after all, but I'm getting hit with waves of it twice a month -- once at ovulation, and once as a part of PMS. Ugh.

Finally, I've ordered the expensive but seemingly very effective MaMa lotion. My skin is smooth in texture, but is so splotchy at this point. I'm hoping that MaMa lotion will help with that. For those of you who have used it with retinoids, when should I apply it -- in the morning? I use RAM every night, so I was thinking MaMa every other morning at first.

Most importantly, psychologically I am doing so much better. I am no longer wanting to shy away from contact with people, not wanting them to get close to me, etc. Yay.

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Guess what? I hate to jinx it, but I have no zits on my face. Okay, I have LOTS of fading red marks, but no zits. This is the best my skin has been since I started RAM in JULY. No zits.

I mean, my skin is still far from perfect, but I no longer spend tons of time thinking about it, fearing running into people, being afraid of what my skin looks like at any particular moment to others, etc. It's great. We'll see how long it lasts, but I think I cam finally say that the IB is OVER.

Also, I got a bottle of the pricey but I hope worth it MaMa lotion. We'll see how that goes. I should take more pictures to track my progress.

But right now I'm really happy.

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