12 Week update: A couple of weeks ago I started using Cerave moisturizing cream (the one in the big tub). My skin was so dry I was putting on two thick layers before going to bed at night and one more in the morning. I stopped using aloe and any of the oils because honestly I just felt like they were making my breakouts worse. In terms of dryness and peeling the Cerave cream saved my face. It moisturized in a way nothing else I have tried has, better than coconut oil, aveeno, or the regular Cerave am/pm lotions. The difference in moisture in my skin is unbelievable. I only use it once a day now in the mornings because honestly by the time I remember to wash my face at night and then wait 30 minutes to put on the Retina I don't feel like waiting another 20-30 to put on lotion after, plus I really havn't needed it. For anyone using retinoids who is struggling with dry skin/peeling I cannot say enough about this. The big downside is it is far from all natural, and has parabens, but honestly I do not think I could have kept up with retin a without it and best of all I CAN WEAR MAKE UP AGAIN PRAISE THE LORD!!!
The general statement is you should start seeing improvement in your skin by 12 weeks. I am not breaking out as much as I was several weeks ago, though I still get pimples in the exact same spots. The overall quality of my skin compared to starting retina however is much worse. The past 12 weeks have left my lower cheeks/chin with a landscape of hyperpigmentation (hopefully temporary and not forever scars eeep?) that have lasted much longer than any mark a pimple left before I started using retin a. I do have really bad dermatillomania and Retin a did not help that, maybe those who don't pick will have better luck. For anyone else who picks, I found that putting some vaseline on the open wound works better than honey when your skin is this sensitive, it has helped my sores heal much faster.
While I am bummed that my skin doesn't look better, I knew going into this that Retin a takes FOREVER to show actual results, so I'm sticking with it. I'm meeting with my derm next week to discuss my progress, but the current plan is to stick with this for the full six months before deciding if I should quit or not. Now that my skin isn't as peely I can actually wear make up over my atrocious skin, which makes it easier for me to be in public without feeling like a freak.
I wanted to thank everyone who reached out to me after my last post, it means so much to have support from people going through the same thing and knowing its not the end of the world. Thank you all so much for your advice, and encouragement.
Peace, love, CeraVe