Easing My Way Into Tretinoin: How I Hope I Can Keep Myself From Shedding Like A Snake

It’s only now that I’ll be easing my way into using tretinoin.  Previously, this was my prescription from the derm:

  • Kojic Acid Soap
  • Anti-bacterial Toner (alcohol-based)
  • CHAT 2% Solution (chat = clindamycin phosphate, hydroquinone, alum, tretinoin)
  • Retinoic Acid .1%
  • Blending Cream (hydroquinone cream?)

This prescription is strong.  I was told to use only the first 3 in the morning and all of them at night. I was also asked to start immediately after the day the doctor did a mild TCA peel procedure.

On my fourth day, my skin was so raw that when I touch my jaw, I felt like I was touching raw flesh.

I called the doctor and asked if I could substitute the soap with a gentler cleanser, something like Physiogel.  S/he told me to fight through the pain and continue using the Kojic Acid soap.  I didn’t follow the doctor’s advise.  My gut told me to listen to my skin and I’m so glad I did.  I might have ended up filleting my face if I pushed through with the soap.

Right now, I’m sure that to some extent, my tolerance to tret has lowered.  It’s been almost 4 months since I used it.

Used incorrectly, tretinoin can destroy the skin.  It can make the skin more pimply, crepe-y, and wrinkly.

Stieva A 0.1% Cream
Stieva A Cream

Here’s my game plan:

Start Slowly

Technically, I’m not starting slowly because I’m using the highest percentage of tretinoin available. But I don’t want to buy another tube in a lower concentration.  To compensate, I’m using it only 2x this week.

Many people attempt to rush to the finish line with this product. Unfortunately, no matter how generous or how frequent you apply tretinoin, your fine lines or pimples will not necessarily go away faster. Applying more of it too soon in the beginning will result in increased unnecessary irritation.  How fast your skin positively responds to this cream will depend on its tolerance to the product.  The damage could be irreversible if you’re stubborn >>> this should scare you.

I’ll use just half of a pea-sized amount on the entire face

It is recommended to use a pea-sized amount.  When they say pea, did they mean the local green pea that I’m more familiar with?  Because if I apply that amount, that would result in dandruff-faced Rae.

I used to apply tretinoin as thin as I possibly can regardless of the concentration.  I plan on still doing the same.  On estimate, that’s about the size of two rice grains.

All of the tretinoin cream brands I’ve used are very easy to thin out. Believe me, you can spread two rice grain-sized amount of tretinoin cream all over the face.

I repeat: Applying more equates to more irritation — not more benefit.

Make Sure My Skin is Moist

My first priority is moisture. Always.

If moisture is compromised, I will drop everything else.

I believe that if I keep my skin from drying out while on this treatment, it has better chance of fighting through irritation and all the other stuff it battles.

Incidentally, I just learned about the superpowers of niacinamide being able to lessen the susceptibility of tretinoin. I’m glad that this ingredient is present in almost all olay skin care moisturizers.

My tretinoin nights look like this:

  1. Pre-cleanse with micellar water (if I wore makeup during the day)
  2. Cleanse with a creamy non-foaming cleanser (hello, VMV!) — I want to avoid stripping my facial oils at all costs.
  3. Apply a niacinamide serum or moisturizer right after washing and patting my face with a towel.  Currently, I’m using an olay serum.  After that I wait for about 15 to 20 mins.* This is a perfect opportunity to read something. Right now, I’m re-reading C. Palahniuk’s Fight Club.
  4. Apply tretinoin.

* Waiting is very very important. If tretinoin is applied while the skin is still damp — again: Dandruff-face Alert!

My morning skin care routine looks like this:

  1. Cleanse with a creamy non-foaming cleanser, again.
  2. Apply the niacinamide serum (if I’ll be using a sunblock with alcohol).
  3. Apply sunscreen (Sunscreens I’m currently rotating: Kanebo Allie Extra UV Long Keep SPF 50+ PA+++++, Biore Perfect Face Milk SPF 50+ PA+++, and Mentholatum SunPlay Clear Water SPF 50+ PA+++)

I haven’t been wearing face makeup lately.  Sometimes I mix the watery sunblocks with a drop of MAC Face and Body Foundation.  But most days, I go out face makeup-free.

Hopefully, I don’t break out.

If everything goes well. I’ll continue with this routine and I’ll up the frequency of tretinoin usage to 3x a week.

0 thoughts on “Easing My Way Into Tretinoin: How I Hope I Can Keep Myself From Shedding Like A Snake”

  1. Wowee – when I read what the Derm prescribed for you, I shuddered :O That was seriously hardcore! SO many actives. I would have done the same as you and cut some of those products out. It’s crazy that the Derm didn’t tell you to build up your tolerance to the products slooooowly…. How is your skin meant to have time to heal and regenerate?!? Let alone the discomfort going about your daily life.

    You know what I saw online, a 3% Differin cream. I’m going to ask my doctor if we have that strength available here in Australia.

    I love how succinct and clean your posts are btw đŸ™‚ I could learn from you a lot (and do!!!).

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