I never had acne growing up (teenage years), I would get small zits here and there, nothing bad... but I have always had blackheads on my nose (mostly the small annoygin ones that never go away and are almost unpoppable) But around the beginning of 2011 I just started breaking out really bad. I did change my birth control in December so I thought that that could have been the cause, so I changed back to what I had been using for years and my skin didn't go back to normal... so I am self diagnosed with adult acne (somewhat hormonal)
For the past year or so I have been using Nuetrogena oil free acne wash (the grapefruit one), Olay moisturizer and spot treating with Nuetrogena Rapid Clear spot gel (salicylic acid). Once I had switched back to my normal birth control and been on it for a good 8 months, I decided I needed to step up my game, so I purchased some Retin-A... so here is my story...
So this is my skin (pre-tretinoin):
Forehead: multiple small bumps all over forehead, I would say 5 or 6 at any given time (closed comedone-the ones that you squeeze and then they usually go away) as well as a few random blackheads here and there.
Nose: a lot of blackheads, like I said, the small, tall ones that you can't squeeze easily. About every other month or so I would spend like an hour squeezing them all out and my nose would look good for like a week and then they would just always come back.
Cheeks: they have for the most part always been pretty clear. Sometimes they can get a little dry and bumpy (especially winter time) and a random little zit will pop up every once in a while, but my cheeks have never really been a problem.
Chin and Mouth: THIS IS THE WAR ZONE!!! Okay so this is where my hormones are jsut kicking my ass! So on the "good days", which is the 2 weeks or so after my period, I will have anywhere from 10 to 20 of the small-medium closed comedone bumps (these things never go away, i pop them and disappear for like a day or 2 and then pop back up). Every once in a while a really tiny zit will pop up around my lips or jawline and I can pop those and they go away. But about a week before my period, the huge cycstic acne starts popping up. They start really deep where I can feel them comign but can't see them yet. I always try to spot treat them early on but I can't ever stop them. They get huge and painful and bright red. From a week before my period and through it, i might have anywhere from 2 to 7 of these things. And they always end up as a huge blemish because eaither I pop them and make them way worse or I use to much spot treatment and overdry them, causing them to scab and scar. So basically, I always have with cystic acne or the scars/blemishes from them.
Now I know I'm not supposed to touch anythign (let alone pop it) and I know I am just making my life harder but its sooo hard for me not too! (plus, I've gotten better about it... read on)
Another Note: I also have very red skin naturally, always have. I don't know if it's a mild form of rosacea or just the white girl in me but my cheeks are always bright pink! (this comes into play later... after I've started using retin-a)
SOOOO... I started the 0.25% Retin-A on April 5th (which would make me just about 7 weeks in)
Here is my regimen:
Wash with Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser and my Clarisonic brush (If I am feeling perticularly broken out then I might use Dr. Bronners soap, the tea tree oil one)
For a normal day at work in the office: Moisturize with Olay Complete Moisturizer with 15 SPF
weekeds/if I will be outside: Cetaphil Daily Moisturiser with 50 SPF
Wash with Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser and my Clarisonic brush
(Wait at least an hour... I have found that AT LEAST an hour makes me peel WAY less)
Apply pea sized glob of 0.25% Retin-A
(wait about 20-30 minutes)
Apply Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Moisturizing Treatment (this shit is amazing)
If I wash my face anytime outside of mornign and night (like if I worked out or sweat a lot or seomthing) I will very lightly wash my face iwth the Cetaphil, using the Sephora Pore Precision pad (love that thing!)
And so it beings...
Initial breakout: So I would say the my "initial breakout" lasted about a month. It was like my period weeks but for a whole month. I got many large cycstic bumps that never really came to fruition (unless I forced them too). My blackheads on my nose also got larger but it was almost like they were comign out, ya know?). I got those small closed comedone white bumps all over the place and I also experienced many small zit-like pustules for abotu a week (about 2 weeks in)... but I guess that is pretty common with tretinoins.
Peeling: I peeled almost immediatly and I would say that the worst of it only lasted about 2 or 3 weeks. Once I started really waiting an hour after washing before applying the retin-a, the peeling got a lot better. For those first couple of weeks I definatley could not wear any makeup whatsoever on my face...The Clarisonic definately helps in getting off most of the flakes. I wose my night cream during the day for a while (since is it so moisturizing) and on the areas that were really bad, i used aquaphor (and still do!) Yes, I looked very shiny all the time but it was better than looking flaky. Nowadays, I don't really peel anymore except for in the areas that I have also spot treated with the salicylic acid or if iI have tried to squeeze something (and the skin is very thin and tender)
Hyperpigmentation/redness: I would say that this is the worst part about my Retin-A experience! I am already red faced as it is, so it's pretty bad. When I was unable to wear makeup, I had people ask me, "where did you go to get so sunburnt?!" or "what happened to yoru face, is that a rash?!". Luckily I am not super self concious and I jsut laugh it off and jsut straight up tell them that "I'm trying to fix my f***** up face" lol. Anyway, so yes, I am very red and have been consistantly the whole time. But now that my flaking has pretty much stopped, I am able to wear makeup and it doesn't look so bad.
Sensitiviy: I have been causing myself grief and making alot of it worse by squeezing. I feel like a lot of it wouldn't get as bad as it does if I just left it alone but at the same time, if you just look at a zit on retin-a, it will scab! Seriosuly, DO NOT TRY AND POP YOUR ZITS ON RETIN-A... your skin will jsut peel away under your fingers! This has been a batltle for me to look in the mirror and not be able to touch anything, but I'm getting better!
My Forehead: by week 5 my forehead was almsot completely clear. No more blackheads and no more of those annoying little bumps... yes I still get a few here and there but nothing like it was before! I was shocked at how quickyl the retin-a worked in this area!
My Nose: about week 5 I also noticed that my nose was also vastly improved. I still have some blackheads but the ones I do have are very very small and flat and barely noticable, also a shock!
Chin and Mouth: I have noticed less of the closed comedone small bumps... not a lot but enough to give me hope. As far as my cyctic acne, I feel liek they are slowly getting fewer and more far between. AGAIN, I'm seeing progress, but no miracles yet. I do notice that I am more successfully "stopping them in their tracks". The combo of the retin-a, early spot treatment and NOT SQUEEZING has for sure made a noticeable difference!
The rest of my skin/unaffected areas: So far the biggest noticeable difference is in the parts of my skin that aren’t affected by acne, such as my cheeks. (Yes, in my pics you might notice a few zits on my left cheek… these were freak zits, that never happens, lol) The Retin-A has definitely made the rest of my skin super soft and radiant. Up close, it looks smoother, plumper and more moisturized! And to be totally honest, and I might be trippin, but I’m pretty sure that the couple of little wrinkles I have, have actually improved as well. A few around my eyes and one bigger one near my eyebrows have shrunk… (I’m watching them closer now so we’ll see what happens!)
MY OVERALL REVIEW:
Positive, for sure. If I had to rate right now, I would say a 7 out of 10… only because of the redness side effect (or else I would give it an 8 or 9) So far it is doing what I expected it to do and I am super excited that I am already seeing results after 7 weeks… that can only mean that I will be even happier in 6 months or so! If the redness dulled a little I could see myself using this forever, even if not for an acne treatment, but for wrinkles and overall skin texture. I am so excited to see what results I have come up with in a few months from now!
MY TIPS (so far) :
- Don’t squeeze, you’ll regret it
- Wait at least an hour after washing before applying Retin-A
- Follow directions… only use a pea sized amount of the cream
- Be careful in applying around your mouth and eyes and the creases of your nose (they peel the worst)
- Wear sunscreen… seriously… like all the time