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Tretinoin 12-week update

If you’re not interested in reading detailed accounts of skincare routines or seeing really unflattering pictures of me and my acne, this post probably isn’t for you!

I’ve now been using Tretinoin .025% for about 12 weeks. I tried to take progress pictures with some regularity, but it ended up being kind of sporadic/whenever I remembered/whenever I could recreate the lighting of the first picture (majorly failed on that point). I also didn’t take down notes or anything, but I made plenty of mental notes along the way.


First four weeks: This is probably when I saw the most “action”. My skin was very dry, and flaking a lot around my nose, mouth, and chin. From all the accounts I read elsewhere online, this was completely normal and to be expected. Sometime during the first few weeks, the top and sides of my nose became extremely oily. It still remains this way today. I’m not sure if this is because of the Tretinoin or simply because it’s summer, and this summer in New York has been hot and humid as hell. My skin typically gets oily throughout the day in summer, but I can’t remember it being this bad before, so it’s probably mostly the Tret. As far as acne and the overall appearance of my skin I did start to see improvement during this time. The pores on my nose started to clear out within the first week or two, and I started to see a decrease in new clogged pores and closed comedones. In general, the skin on my cheeks started to look tighter and less bumpy.

Four to eight weeks: I saw the most improvement during this time period. The closed comedones along my jaw line started to heal and go away, and for a few weeks I had absolutely no new ones showing up! The breakouts on my cheeks basically stopped as well. Other than being very oily, my skin was pretty stable. During this time, I switched from using a combination of CeraVe PM + CeraVe Sunscreen in the morning, to only using CeraVe AM, which was the original recommendation from the dermatologist. I’m pretty sure this had a negative effect on my skin in the following weeks.

Eight weeks to today: Nothing catastrophic has happened within the past few weeks, but I haven’t seen much improvement either. I’ve had a couple of cystic breakouts along my jaw line, and a couple small breakouts on my cheeks and near my temples, which has been pretty disheartening. Strangely, I feel like the pores on my nose look worse. I keep telling myself that it’s because it’s been so freaking hot the past month, that my skin has gotten overly oily, leading to clogged pores. I hope I’m right and that I see improvement again soon. Also, the skin around my eyes has been inexplicably dry the past few days. It’s actually been flaking off around my inner eyelid area, and in the area right underneath my lower lash line where I have a wrinkle/eye bag thing. I have no idea what that’s about, but I’ve been trying to clear it up with extra CeraVe PM and Vaseline. The lack of improvement during this time period may have something to do with me being sick for over a week in the beginning of July and AGAIN the last week of July (I’m STILL battling it). My nose definitely looks a lot more red and veiny, I’m guessing because I’ve been blowing my nose literally 20 times a day for two weeks now. Ugh. Being sick in summer is the actual worst thing ever.

Overall: The two biggest things I’ve noticed are the very noticeable decrease in closed comedones along my jaw line and the speed with which any new breakouts heal. Before Tretinoin, my breakouts would usually cause me trouble for a week-10 days before they would reach the scabby/healing phase. Now it’s down to maybe four days. Everything seems to heal so much faster, I love it. I’m curious if anyone else has had sort of a “plateau” phase at around 9-12 weeks. A lot of people see the most improvement at 12 weeks, but I would say mine was at 6 weeks. I’m definitely going to stick with it for the foreseeable future, and hopefully I’ll see improvement when I’m not sick and when the weather isn’t so hellish!


Skincare talk – acne, retinoids, and lizard skin

Last fall, I finally went to a dermatologist for the first time. I’ve had acne since I was 10, and I was at my breaking point. She prescribed me Clindamycin, a topical antibiotic, and Epiduo Gel, a benzoyl peroxide/adapalene (a retinoid) combo. I left her office hopeful that maybe, for the first time since before puberty, I might have smooth, clear skin. Sadly, after about five days, the Clindamycin broke me out in tiny whiteheads all over my entire face. I used the Epiduo a few times, but since she told me to only use the Epiduo once a week, I saw no results, and I stopped. I did continue to use CeraVe in the tub, which she advised me to use to combat my dry skin.

Unfortunately, my skin has not only not improved, but it’s slowly been getting worse. I regularly have about a dozen closed comedones around my jawline at any time, as well as acne on both cheeks. The dermatologist I saw in fall had no availability when I wanted to make another appointment recently, so I found someone else thinking that maybe a second opinion was a good thing. The first thing the new doctor told me was to stop using CeraVe in the tub on my face. According to him, it’s too thick and can exacerbate clogged pores in people who are already acne prone. Instead, he told me to use CeraVe PM, which is actually made for the face. When I told him that Epiduo didn’t do anything for me, he told me that I should still use something with benzoyl peroxide daily because it’s one of the best things for acne. So, I picked up Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask on his recommendation. I was skeptical the first time I tried it because it has a pretty strong, but pleasant fragrance, but so far, so good.

He also prescribed me Tretinoin, a retinoid. I’m definitely not a skincare expert, but from what I’ve gathered, retinoids help your skin shed its cells with more regularity so you don’t get clogged pores or hair follicles. Retinoids can also help with wrinkles and other signs of aging. While they’re great for treating acne in general, they also come with their fair share of side effects, which I’ve been experience first hand these past two weeks! The first four to five days, I saw no side effects, good or bad, and then the dry skin started. It’s been especially bad around my mouth. At the end of the day, I’ll literally have bits of skin hanging off my face, it’s delightful, let me tell you! Many people also experience a purging phase, where all the acne that has been waiting under the skin comes to the surface all at once. I’ve been reading quite a bit on retinoids, especially Tretinoin, and most people seem to see results after 6-12 weeks, which is on par with what the dermatologist told me. So far, I’ve been trying to take pictures every week to see if I can see any improvements, and I’ll be sure to do an update post from time to time.

Other than the new cleanser and prescription, I still use a few of my old standbys. I’m back to using Trader Joe’s Jojoba Oil to remove my makeup. I was using the Boscia Makeup-Breakup Cool Cleansing Oil, but I found it really wasn’t any better than the jojoba oil while being about quadruple the price. After the CeraVe PM, I’ve been using Vaseline to desperately try to combat the lizard skin. In the morning, I use CeraVe SPF 30 Sunscreen, and then continue with my makeup as usual. Another lovely side effect of the Tretinoin is that every product stings when I put it on now, especially around my eyes. I haven’t noticed any redness, and the stinging goes away after about 30 seconds, so I’m not too worried.

I’d love to know if any of you have used retinoids and what your experiences were!