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A Beginner's Musings on Retin-A

Friday, August 5, 2016

Earlier this summer, I started using Retin- A cream for the first time, and I thought I would share my thoughts about it with you.  Before I began, I did a lot of research but it seemed that most people who were talking about Retin-A had been using it for a long time, and didn't necessarily remember the early days when they were just starting out.  Well, I would say that I'm still in those early days, but it's been several months now and I feel like I have a few pointers of my own to pass along for other first time Retin-A users. So here goes....

I should begin by saying that Retin-A is a prescription drug.  Your doctor can prescribe it for you and answer any specific questions or concerns you may have.  I am not a medical professional- just a lay person passing along my personal experiences and what has worked for me.  :)

Retin-A was traditionally prescribed to help treat acne (and still is today).  However, over the years, medical professionals discovered that it also has the added benefit of improving the appearance of your skin by minimizing fine lines and wrinkles.  Thankfully, I haven't needed acne medication in many years, but since turning 40 earlier this year, I thought it was a good time to start some serious skin care, and so I turned to Retin-A in that quest. 

1.  Start low and slow: Retin-A comes in three prescription strengths: 0.025%, 0.050%, and 0.100%, with the 0.025% being the weakest and 0.100% being the strongest.  I have started with the 0.025% and I would recommend the same to anyone just starting out.  Remember, this is a drug.  It is strong, even in it's weakest form.  There is no need to jump in full strength.  That's something you can work your way up to over time.  You have the rest of your life to use this product so it's best to take your time and see how your skin will react.  Lots of people report redness, peeling, flaking, and even scabbing when they first start out with Retin-A.  Fortunately, I did not experience any of these things. However, I took it really slow and easy.  I started by applying Retin-A once every other night, instead of immediately starting out with a nightly application.  I also began by applying a layer of moisturizer to my skin first to make a buffer between my skin and the Retin-A.  Once I saw that I wasn't experiencing redness, burning, or flaking, I slowly worked my way up to a nightly routine and eventually ditched the moisturizer too.  I would say after the first two weeks, I was applying Retin-A as directed, with zero side effects.

2.  Be patient: As your skin adjusts to the use of Retin-A, you may experience more breakouts than usual.  Remember, it is also an acne treatment medication, and it works by drawing impurities from deep within your skin to the surface.  I did experience a little of this in the first couple weeks.  It was nothing major, and I was aware that that was a possibility so I wasn't terribly concerned.  It took a couple weeks for everything to even out, and I haven't had any breakouts since. And even though I didn't experience any major redness or flaking, that is very common to new Retin-A users, even if you take things slow and easy.  If you do experience those types of things, it is reasonable to back off on your application to once every few days or even once a week until your skin becomes more used to the product. 

3.  A little goes a long way:  It only takes a pea sized amount of Retin-A to treat your entire face. Just divide it between your cheeks, chin, and forehead and rub it in evenly.  Apply at bedtime directly onto clean skin and that's it.  My only skin irritation that I've experienced was when I applied too much and my skin just felt angry.  It didn't look angry, but it sure felt it.  It felt tight and itchy and almost the way a sunburn feels.  I haven't overapplied since and I haven't had any more issues.

4.  Keep away: Retin-A is not intended for use around your eyes, and certainly not in your eyes.  The skin under your eyes is just too thin to tolerate it well.  Same goes for your eyelids.  The closest you should try to get are near the edges of your eyes where your eyes naturally crinkle- the crow's feet area.  And just dot it on and then rub it in well.  I have accidentally gotten too close to my eyes a time or two and awoke with red eyes in the morning.  No bueno.

5.  But don't miss a spot: Don't forget about your neck and decolletage!  I use a pea sized amount on my face and another pea sized amount for my neck and upper chest area.  One tube of Retin-A cream is prescribed for 45 days, and I have had no issues with staying within 45 days per tube even with 2 pea sized amounts per application. 

6.  Wash up: This one may be obvious.  Or maybe not.  But be sure to wash your hands once you finish applying your Retin-A.  I cannot overstate enough that you should not get this in your eyes, and if you just leave it on your hands when you are finished, you are definitely taking a risk that you might accidentally rub your eyes and transfer it.

So that's a little of what has worked for me.  I am really enjoying Retin-A, and my skin is looking so healthy!  It's an amazing product that I intend to use for years to come.  I've also added a few new skin care products to my morning routine as well, and will fill you in on those in another blog post. More to come!  

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