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My Tretinoin Log (0.25% Retin-A, Adult Acne)

retin-a adult hormonal acne cystic blackheads closed comedones tretinoin rosacea makeup

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#1 sarahrulon

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 03:01 PM

Okay so I'm new to these boards and I thought it would be a good place to track my experience with tretinoins.

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:

Morning:
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

Evening:
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...

The BAD:

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!

The GOOD:

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

Attached Thumbnails

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#2 leelowe1

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 05:26 PM

lol.....your acne sounds like mine! Tiny bumps on forehead, cheeks for the most part clear and chin/mouth area - Good God - the chin/mouth is a disaster zone. I am approaching 14 weeks on Atralin (retin a .05%) and still breaking out bad on my chin/mouth. I clear up for a few days and break out again. I have also been getting bumps (cyst like along my ear/jaw area which i NEVER EVER get. I still break out in multiple bumps EVERYDAY too. My forehead is clear though so at least i'm happy about that. Gonna see my derm next week as i may want to try something different- progress has stalled and backslided.

Good luck on your regimen - you seem like you're on the right track!

It's a rocky road but like everything else in life, there is always a beginning and an end.  Here's to finding my end.

 

God is good to me..........more than I deserve.

 

James 1:2-4

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


#3 sarahrulon

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 09:55 AM

So I wanted to post pics today because today is a really good day! It's the week after my period (which is always the best week) and I currently have only one active cyctic bump. It's only in the beginning stages, so its barely even visible, but I can feel it (I put a little arrow pointing to it, surely it will become a problem over the next week). So anyway, everything is very flat right now... only a few of the closed comedone bumps and a couple of those bothersome tiny zits (the ones that have popped up since using Retin-A) Obviously I have a ton of red spots but they are all just blemishes and healing scars.

I am a little more peely than normal so I applied my normal might cream this mornign for extra moisture (that's why I might look a bit shiny)

Like I said, the week after my period is always the best week for my skin but this is significantly better than normal. I'm sure that a week or so from now I will be broken out again but I can honestly say that, right now...today, this is the most clear my face has been in over a year and a half!I know that I still have a long road ahead of me before I will be acne free, but to see real results this early on in the Retin-A treatment really gives me hope. And I know that there aren't enough "success stories" posted on this blog so I wanted to post a little proof that this stuff does work. I am more excited than ever to share my future success (fingers crossed) because I know there are so many people on this site that have been battling acne for years and years...

(I uploaded the 2 new pics in my album)

Edited by sarahrulon, 24 May 2012 - 10:43 AM.


#4 sarahrulon

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:01 PM

So I just posted my 10 week progress photos.
-since my last post, I haven't had one cyctic bump form that actually came to fruition (one started to form and i spot treated and it was gonein 2 days) So as far as my cystic acne, it has improved vastly! It's quite amazing.
-I still have soem small clogged comedone bumps in my chin and forehead area but the amount of them has decreased by about half...
-the blackheads on my nose are still their and havent improved much (as usual, they go away for liek 2 weeks if I squeeze them all but with teh retin-A leaving my skin so sensitive, squeezing them also leads to a raw red nose for like a week)

I would say that nowadays, my biggest struggles are the peeling and keeping myself from touching my face. As for the peeling, it's not to bad as long as I stick to my routine, like religiously. I mean, if I miss one night of applying the retin-a, then I am peeling for a few days after. As long as I apply regularly, the peeling is managable. I am actually abel to wear makeup now! of course, the problem area are aroudn my nose and corners of my mouth so I really try to avoid those areas or apply extra moisturizer there.

Another thing that gets a little annoying is sunscreen. I am very good about using it when I now I am going to be exposed but I have yet to find a sunscreen that doesn't burn adn also doesn't make me look and feel oily. I realize that I might have to go a little more pricey to ge the results I need. But overall, I am super happy with the results of using Retin-A. I have faith that if I have seen this good of results in less than 3 months then it can only get much much better!

Another thing, I was using Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser as my face wash (along with the Clarisonic brush) but I ran out a week or two ago and started using Dr. Bronners Castile soap (with tea tree oil) and I really like it. I've used it before, I always have it in the house, but never really as a part of my daily routine. It's so gentle and doesn't burn/sting and it lathers up nice. (Lathering soaps used to really dry me out but now that I am using super moisturizing lotions, it doesn't really have that effect anymore... i think summer also has something to do with it, I'm surein the winter I'll jsut dry out) So anyway, thats what I'm using now... i just buy the small bottles and you seriosuly only need like 3 drops of the stuff... plus its totally organic & free-trade so thats a plus!

#5 Briana Jones

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 01:52 PM

Wow I have very similar acne! Horrible clusters of cystic/pustule acne on the left/right sides of my chin, fairly clear cheeks, and closed tiny comedones dispersed throughout my forhead. I am about to start my 4th week of tretinoin gel 0.05% and have experienced a little peeling on my chin and forhead and of course the horrible IB. I have like 7-8 cystic pimples on each side of my chin ugh. I think I will try to apply the cream an hour after washing like you suggested! I usually put it on right after. I use a 2% salicylic acid hydrating cream from Neutrogena in the morning so hopefully that helps too. I used to be on 0.025% tretinoin cream a long time ago and it also worked really well but i stopped using it (regretfully) because i started breaking out a little bit and figured it stopped working. Hopefully i'll be clearing up in a month or so! :D Your skin looks great so keep it up!

#6 sarahrulon

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 11:55 AM

So I'm at week 14 now...and I can report that my skin has continued to improve in this passed month...
- the small bumps on my chin have gotten even better, I probably only have about 5 or 6 stand out ones at any given time, but bery much improved from before
- as far as blackheads goes, they have gotten better, but just barely... there is one thing that helps them a lot (read on)
- I have had one cystic bump this month, I treated is quickly with salicylic (as usual) and it disappeared within a few days
-this month has shown a big improvement in the redness of my scars, my face is definatley healing, slowly but surely

I ran out of my Olay Night Cream and have been using the basic Olay Daily Moisturizer for about a week and my face almost immediately went back to ebing dry and flaky... I plan on picking up a bottle of my tusty night cream this evening. Like I said before, its amazingly moisturizing (TRY IT!!)

So back when my face in the really bad peeling stage I was trying everything to get rid of the "peelies" (I couldn't wear make-up at all and it reall really sucked) so one day I was reading abotu ways to exfoliate your face and someone brought up shaving. I know this sounds weird, but I was desperate, so I tried it. I lathered up my face with a bit of soap and (very carefully) shaved from the top of my cheeks down, focusing on the areas of massive peelage. Now, I am just speaking for myself, but.. it worked wonders. Not only did it do a very good job of getting rid of most the peelies, but it made my skin so smooth and radiant. Obviously, this isn't something that would really be an option for somebody with really bad (especailly lumpy) acne and you have to be VERY careful but all I can say is that it worked for me. I still shave my face about once a week and probably will continue... the results are just too good. And no, my facial hair isn't growing back thickher or darker, when my hair grows back, its blonde adn soft... apparently the hairs on your face aren't the same as the rest of your body. Anyway, thats another one of my secrets... take it or leave it... but I love it! So back to blackheads... shaving my nose makes them dramatically smaller... yes, its weird shaving my nose but whatever, it makes the balckheads smaller. But again, thats my skin, I don't know how this techniqie would work on someone else...

Edited by sarahrulon, 12 July 2012 - 11:56 AM.


#7 sarahrulon

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 03:10 PM

Okay, so 16 week report (16 week pics in my gallery)... at this point I finally feel like my acne is under control. As in, my skin seems to be back to normal (from before my face went to shit) and even when I do slip up with my routine and some stuff pops up, I am able to wrangle it easily and quickly.

Like I said, my skin has basically returned to how it was like 2 years ago, before I started breaking out like crazy.
  • My blackheads have pretty much stayed the same (that is probably the only thing that the Retin-A hasn't really affected)
  • The small, closed comdeone bumpies in my chin area are very minimal and especially stay away when I am very strict with my routin. They did start popping up on my jawline a lot more in the past couple of weeks so now I am making sure to apply the Retin-A more evenly and give my jaw some love too!
  • As for what was my biggest problem, the huge cystic bumps, they are almost completely gone. Like I said in the last post, I might get like one or maybe two a month but they are much smaller and lest persistant that they used to be, they can usually be tackled with a few applications of salicylic acid.
My skin routine hasn't changed much from the beginning other than switching from a salicylic wash to my all time fave, Dr. Bronner's castile soap. I basically do the same thing every morning and night, wash with Dr. Bronner's and the Sephora Precision Pore Cleansing Pad (which is also amazing) then I apply the Olay night cream (even in the day) or if it's an outdoor day for me, then I apply Cetaphil face sunscreen instead. At nights, I wait at least an hour after washing before applying my Retin-A. Then I do my light shaving once a week-ish (see last post, again, weird, I know)

So, like I said, acne-wise, I think I am just doing maintenance, but as far as my skin in general, it seems to still be improving, especially in texture and tone (pigmentation). My skin continues to get softer and softer and all the little marks and scars that used to be bright pink are really starting to fade.

As of right now I am still struggling with keeping my routine, if I just miss one night of Retin-A, it throws my skin off for liek 3 days at least. But my biggest struggle, still, is touching/poking/squeezing my face AGH!!! I am a major picker and it is so so hard for me to not squeeze EVERYTHING! So I'm jsut really trying to keep my hands off cause the only reason I have any stand out blemishes right now is beacuse I picked at something and caued major irritation. (note: in my 16 week pics, any red mark you see is because I tried to squeeze something, check out the huge one on my chin!)

So yeah, overall I am having a very positive experience with using Retin-A, it has improved my skin far better and faster than I ever thought something could... my advice remains the same: stick to it and you will see results and be strict about 3 things: routine, sunscreen and squeezing! As for sunscreen, spend the extra money to find one that doesn't get too greasy or shiny, its worth it, your face is going to be BRIGHT RED for months and getting a sunburn on top of that isn't pretty. And find an awesome moisturizer that works for you, I think keeping your face moisturized can really offset many of the negative side affects of Retin-A. And its worth saying again, DONT TOUCH!

In the end, I'm a really glad that I am able to put my success story on here, I don't think there are enough of them!!

#8 Livingdeadsoul

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 04:49 PM

I haven't started peeling yet or anything like that..and I'm on week one of using retin-a .025% is this normal? Or does this mean I need a stronger %?

#9 leelowe1

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Posted 08 August 2012 - 04:54 PM

Your skin looks awesome! Glad retin a works for you!

It's a rocky road but like everything else in life, there is always a beginning and an end.  Here's to finding my end.

 

God is good to me..........more than I deserve.

 

James 1:2-4

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


#10 TheSavyBanana

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 06:14 PM

Wow girlie! Your skin looks amazing!! Your log has officially convinced me to go back on retin-a after I'm done with Accutane. (For things like hyperpigmentation, large pores, maintenance, etc) My only fear is that it will make me really oily like it did when I used it before, but then again, I was oily to begin with. Have you experienced that at all?

You! Yes, you. The one reading this. You are beautiful, talented, amazing and simply the best at being you. Never forget that.

 

You don't have to be pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to you boyfriend/spouse/partner. Not to your coworkers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female."

Plea to the world: Eat less meat! Or better yet, don't eat it at all! The meat industry violates basic animal rights, it's destroying our planet, and there are so many health benefits you can gain by decreasing/eliminating meat from your diet. Don't let me tell you- do your own research so you can decide for yourself. (The dairy and egg industries are just as horrendous).

I highly recommend watching the movie Earthlings. ^

#11 sarahrulon

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 09:25 AM

To LivingDeadSoul: I'm no dermatologist so I don't want to tell you what strength you should be using but I don't think that just because you aren't peeling that your strength isn't high enough. I've heard a lot of people say that they don't ever experience peeling, a lot of people will just get very dry... and you are only a week in so you might have yet to see the "initial" symptoms (everybody's skin is different, but I was about 2 weeks in when I saw the worst of it) If I were you, I would continue on the 0.25% strength for a couple months and see how that works out, just try and be patient, that is the hardest part!

To SavyBanana: I didn't experience any extra oiliness during the first couple of months, I think beacuse I was so dried out... plus it would have been hard to tell since I constantly had my face slathered in super moisturizing cream lol!! But now that my face is starting to go back to normal (as in, before I got bad acne) I'm am starting to see the oiliness again (because, like you, I have always been oily, especially in the t-zone). I am thinking that I am going to have to go on the hunt for a good day cream because my night cream that I use now is beginning to be a bit too much... but for me the main problem has always been the dryness in weird areas... do you experience dryness at all?

#12 cristabell92

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 01:06 AM

Hi, I just started using tretinoin for my acne and I am a little confused as to how often should I apply. Like do I start using it every night, or every other night. Also Ive been drinking Apple cider vinegar for the past 4 weeks and it purged me really well, so do you think that the initial breakout or purge with tretinoin will be less? Im just scared for it, because my skin sucks!!! But Im hoping that the IB doesnt last long because I want my clear beutiful skin I had 5 months ago!!!! I hate the fact that I have to be taking Doxycycline!! I never thought i would have to take pills just for a skin condition.

#13 sarahrulon

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 03:27 PM

cristabell92: doesn't your tueb of tretinoin have application instructions? As far as my applications instructions, I use a pea sized amount (literally, a very small amount) once every night and that's what I've been doing since the beginning. There are days every once in a while when my face starts getting dry or peely again and I might skip my retin-A for the day, but for the most part its once a day, every day. I'm sure you know by now, but if I had to guess, I would say that the apple cide vinegar isn't going to affect the initial breakout, simply because I think that tretinoins purge your skin in a different way than other treatments do, it is literally making your skin thinner! (you should read the "initial breakout article on this website, it explains to the T how tretinoins work!) I know it freaking sucks, but trust me, after the initial breakout, it can only get better... just remember, stick to it, give it many months before you give up. I don't know if you've read all my previous posts/updates but make sure stick to your routing, find a good moisturizer, and wear sunscreen! good luck!