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Retin-A - Damaged my Face! - San Ramon, CA

What I used: Atralin .05% How often I used it:...

What I used: Atralin .05%

How often I used it: A pea size amount once a week.  Took a couple of breaks when the adverse effects were too intense and unbearable.

How I used it: Toner first, followed by moisturizer, 4% hydroquinone, then Atralin, and sunblock SPF30 (19% zinc oxide) last.

Why I used it: To get rid of brown spots on my cheeks.

How long I used it: 3 ½ months.

Cost: Free, my derm gave me a bunch of free samples.

Pros: Absolutely none!

Cons:  Caused broken capillaries on cheeks and around nose. Derm said that it can’t be caused by retin-a. Maybe so but I know for sure I didn’t have broken capillaries before retin-a.
Peeling skin here and there, now skin is uneven.
Suffer burning, inflamed, red, dry and itchy, and swollen skin.
Skin looks thinner and is even blotchier than before.
Caused pimples, acne cysts, and white milia. Haven’t had pimples since my teenage years. I’m 50 now.

AAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHH! Retin-a ruined my skin. My skin is worse than before retin-a.

My derm highly recommended it. He told me he used it on himself for years. He even gave me a copy of an article he wrote on retin-a touting its benefits for photo-aging.  I figured if it is that good and he using it on himself, then I should use it too. Now, my derm tells me to not to use it anymore. Also, he tells me I should go see him (not for free of course – more $$$) to discuss other treatment options.

I hate retin-a! It’s not for me and I stop using it. Thanks to retin-a, I have more problems to fix or just live with (argh!). In addition to the original brown spots, I have to fix the uneven peeling, broken capillaries, and milia caused by retin-a. The uneven peeling looks like wrinkles. My whole face is a mess and just looks awful. Anyone out there want to help me and give me some advice on what to do? I’m against laser and IPL – too many horror stories.


I’ve been super duper depressed to the point...

I’ve been super duper depressed to the point of being suicidal at times. So, reading some of the hurtful and negative comments to my posting certainly didn’t help. It just increased my blood pressure and added to my anxiety. Also, I found some of the comments to be very presumptuous. Even with the best research, things may not work out the way we hope it would. Before I started Retin-A, the approval rating on RealSelf was well over 90%. Now, I see the rating has drop.

I posted my experience to warn others that this is not the miracle drug that a lot of satisfied users made it out to be. It may work for a lot of people but it may have dire consequences for some. In my case, Retin-A not only ruined my face, it ruined my life!

Let me spell out exactly how I used Retin-A. I used it only at night – PM only, never ever AM. I washed my face with Ceptaphil. Afterwards, I apply the alcohol free Dermesis Toner. The toner is supposed to clean any impurity that the cleanser didn’t get. Next, I apply the Dermesis Moisturizer. The moisturizer acts as a buffer to help minimize the harsh side effects of Retin-A. After the moisturizer, I would wait for at least 30 minutes before applying a pea size amount of Retin-A all over my face. The next day, I would wash my face with Cetaphil, apply moisturizer, and slather on the sunscreen.

My skin never adjusted to Retin-A. I started out using it every third night then I cut it back to once a week. At some point, I stopped for a couple of weeks to give my skin a rest. My face was always bright cherry tomato red. It always felt inflamed. My skin didn’t just flake off, it peeled off. I freaked out when I notice the broken caps. I finally decided I had to stop.

It’s been about 9 months since I stopped using Retin-A. Not much has changed. I still have the broken caps. My skin texture is horrible with enlarged pores. You could even see my pores before Retin-A. My skin tone is still blotchy. My skin color is all mottled. I have spots and patches of skin that are brown, black, and red. I cringe every time I look in the mirror. For me, Retin-A did more damage than good. Sometimes I feel my skin burning when the sun hits my face. So other than work, I hardly ever leave the house. When I do go outside, I apply tons of sunscreen and wear a big hat. I even wear a hat when I’m driving. I look and feel awful!

I don’t get these commenter’s rant about no toner. The Obagi NuDerm system uses toner and Retin-A. I think the way my derm instructed me to use Retin-A was his gentler approach to simulate Obagi for super sensitive skin. After my experience, I wouldn’t dare go near Obagi.

I’ve been to quite a few doctors and estheticians to no avail. They either don’t know how to help me or they tell me I should do a laser treatment. Some even tell to try Obagi NuDerm which is Retin-A. I don’t see how my face will ever recover. I think it just so hopeless.

I made a boo-boo in my last update. I meant to say...

I made a boo-boo in my last update. I meant to say you could NOT even see my pores before Retin-A.

Name not provided

I withheld the doc's name cause I may have to see him again. Got to my appointment early but still had to wait 40 minutes before he saw me. No free in person follow up. Follow up is by email. If you want an in person follow up, you'll have to pay. He's expensive -- $140 a visit. He answers my email promtly but sidesteps my questions.

2 out of 5 stars Overall rating
3 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
3 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
1 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
3 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
3 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
3 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
3 out of 5 stars Payment process
2 out of 5 stars Wait tmes
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Comments (49)

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Don't use anything on your face as a cleanser but plain water. For moisturizing use nothing but plain vaseline---not the scented type--or the type with anything added--just plain--old--vaseline. During the day use Neutrogena sunscreen for baby faces. These sunscreeens contain zinc--and zinc is very healing for damaged skin. Use nothing on your skin but water--vaseline (and don't smear the vaseline on your skin--just spot dab it on the dry spots) and gentle--baby safe sunscreen. I would recommend Neutrogena baby faces sunscreen because my skin is super sensitive---and this has worked well for me. I have eczema and made the mistake of trying retin a--and so far this regimen is a good one.
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I used Retinol and kept getting broken blood vessels on my chin and checks. During one of my many treatment$ to remove the vessels the tech suggested ( whispered ) it might be Retinol. I stopped using it and the broken vessels have not returned.
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Please look at this link , it uncovered the truth about vitamin a drugs the huge finacial benefits for pharmaceuticals company's , and discusses that vitamin a ( accutane) and retinoids are also used in chemotherapy drugs . This could be why so many people on here have problems with vitamin a drugs . I'm also thinking the hayflick theory could support the laser damge theory's of many people on here and make me heal along with laser damage support net work . ( who also deal with vitamin a side effects and copper peptitw effects ) http://m.topix.com/forum/drug/accutane/T9QJ8DO1TLI41VBPN Please share the link
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I am using Skinceutical 0.5 at night once a week then twice a week then my skin started itching, there are redness, and my previous pigmentations in my forehead (which the main reason why I am using REtinol) became very dark and very noticeable like I have a brown almost black patches on both sides of my forehead. I think I over applied the product and made the mistake of using a toner with salicylic acid (on nights I am not applying Retinol) that's why my skin is now inflamed/hyperpigmented. I am seeing some peeling on the areas too and hoping that the dark patches will peel off too. But I am freakin scared that the discoloration (very noticeable and half my forehead) will go away. Any advice on it? I already stopped using the toner 2 weeks ago, but my skin is getting darker each day. Help please.
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Andrea, Is your skin better?
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Hey there, have you found a way to reverse the damage retin-a did? I was prescribed retin-a by one of the top docs here in Seattle and she told me to use it under my eyes! Yes! Under. My. Eyes. The thinnest part of the skin. That was a year ago. I haven't found a solution since, but perhaps that's because I keep on trying new things to reverse it! Maybe I should leave it alone? Any hope?
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Juliabars, Did the retin-a damage your eyes?
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Check out this link Italy explain your damage using retin a http://m.topix.com/forum/drug/accutane/T9QJ8DO1TLI41VBPN.
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It will *** not Italy .. Typo
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retin-a after 1 month of consitent usage made my age spots more pronounced and I even developed more. I was prescribed the .025%/ hydroquinone combo. I discontinued usage and now am trying Mela-D
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I recently used the atralin for a couple of weeks and developed melasma so my derm said it would help and to use a bleaching cream. Did that, the brown spots went away in 4 days but now my skin is all indented all over my face! Just random HUGE lines of indents. Will they heal? Or are they permanent?

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Scared18, Could you plz let me know the bleaching cream you used? Did your skin recover from the lines and indents? Thx
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I'd like to share this articles http://www.webmd.com/healthy-beauty/features/antiaging-retinoids http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/the-peel-sessions/
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Scar4LIfe, i had a negative reaction to retinol by skinceuticals! It's been 10 months that I have stopped using it and have been extremely gently with my skin, washing with raw honey at night...and emu oil (laid in montana brand) as my moisturizer and I've seen healing! It def. fluctuates but I can barely see my pores now and they were huge! It also gave me scarring where I didnt even have scars! It made me very depressed as well....but hang in there and be very gentle. maybe dont use toner...less is more. I have also been using Serragold vitamins, and enzymes and using hyularonic acid capsules when I can afford it.Keep us updated how you are..I have before/after pics if you want to see
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by the way my other realself name was "electricboom" it wasnt letting me log in for some reason,
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Hi Stacy, Could u plz let me know which laid in Montana emu oil u r using (I took a look at their website site but there r several listed). Also which Serragold vitamins, and enzymes and using hyularonic acid capsules r u using. Interesting I didn't know hyularonic came in a capsule form, I thought it was always a liquid form to be applied on the skin (which I like using).
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It's true!! I was using Retin A for a few months. First, I developed melasma, even though I was wearing sunBLOCK and a hat the next morning after I used Retin A. Then, diffuse hair loss. The action of Trentinoin is not known by medical science. That in itself is a BIG red flag. Of course, I was color blind. Yes, retin a was a nightmare. Not worth it, don't bother. Vanity kills the soul anyway.
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my heart aches for you scar4life ,because it is like looking in a mirror ,I used retin -a (generic),along with retin-a micro for 7 months and up until last month i had enough ,I have been trying to fix the pain and the mess that I ended up with . The reason I started retin-a was that I was using proactiv ,but proactiv had a recall and I never Knew about it . So guess what I had to use again ,proactiv ,I have been using the extra strength formula ,it has been less than a month and my face has started to heal ,it is the salicylic acid in the toner that is exfoliating my face and opening the pores to receive the healing peroxide ,before i started using proactive again ,I was so desperate that I ran to the store and got the persa gel 10 ,I did used that for about 15 days ,but my face needed to be exfoliated ,I just washed my face with olay foaming wash for sensitive skin and after that I applied the persa gel ,morning and night ,then proactiv arrived and that is what I have been using ,my face got very dry with the benzoyl peroxide and i couldnt use moisturizer because moisturizer makes me break out ,also Im using clyndamicin gel 1%.and recently found a moisturizer . this what I do ,morning proactiv cleanser ,then toner ,then clyndamycin ,after it dries ,I mix a few drops of professional solutions 100%hyaluronic moisturizer 1oz. that I order from amazon sold from cosmeticville ,mix this with desert essence jojoba oil organic 4oz ,sold by wellica nutrition from amazon or get from their
website ,i mix 2 drops of this and the hyaluronic about 6 drops depends on what u need and thats it ,at night proactiv extra strenght cleanser ,toner,clyndamicin,and treatment from proactiv,I also spot treat with proactiv mask . While doing this I stopped using makeup ,but if I have to I use physicians formula ,the one for the acne prone skin ,loose powder and pressed powder ,and I remove the makeup with neutrogena towels makeup remover the blue one ,the dark blue ,so thats what I have been doing ,if you have any questions ask for my email ,and we can talk more about this ,I hope this helps ,I know everybody is different . by the way Im 50 too. thank you.
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HI dolphin21, i want to know what you think about what im doing with retin a. i used it only on night, after washing my face with dove soap and waiting minimun 30 min to apply it.. my doctor prescribe me retin a and mela-D ( la roche posay) and she told me to used it one night retin a and the other night the mela- d and like that every day.. do you think im using the product right?? in the morning i wash my face with dove soap and use aveno cream and sunblock and thats it.
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Don't ever use Retin-A! You’re fooling yourself if you think it’s safe or you’re unaffected. I used very little on my face for about three (3) months and I have never been as sick as I am right now. All the symptoms you read about for vitamin A toxicity. Right on mark! headache, dizziness, fatigue, malaise, blurry vision, mouth sores, nausea or vomiting and bone pain/ joint pain and anorexia. I run 10 miles a week and I’m 35 years old. Joint pain should not be an issue.
I am such a happy and forgiving person, but after discontinuing use, I’ve been so depressed. As if I can’t go on anymore. I am starting to feel better. I am on week four (4) of discontinued use and I can finally function again. Thank GOD!!!!! Bottom line, it’s bad for you and some people see the symptoms more so than others. I am all organic and maybe my healthy lifestyle caused me more damage (the chemical had nothing to hold on to?) Regardless, you might not think its causing damage to YOU, but it is. beware of liver and kidney damage and withdrawal symptoms.
To think I was so vein. I appreciate good health and I pray that my body repairs itself. I plan to spread the word to help others rid their bodies of cancer causing chem. and damage.

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@Becki2- I'm curious about the study on Vitamin D and not using sunscreen. I use it everyday, but have wondered if it truly is necessary. Could you provide me with a link to the study that your doctors info? Also, how do you think this fits with people with fair skin? I don't tan, I burn, so I'm afraid of what would happen over time if I did not use SPF.

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So sorry you had this experience. As someone looking in from the outside, it's difficult to offer any advice, but I would say a combination of things have gone wrong here. I used Retin-A for years with no adverse effects except redness at first. But I was in my forties when I used it. I stayed out of the sun altogether. I used it for wrinkles only and I used it every night. Toner is harsh, mostly alcohol, so I never use it. The doctors where I work have done the largest cohort study ever done on vitamin D and don't believe in sunscreen. Keep a light tan, don't burn - be natural. My daughter had a few capillaries showing and we got those layered off. Just do it. You'll feel better. Get a milder face soap - one that balances and compliments the natural pH of the skin. Stop with the toner. Get a mild whipped vitamin E for your face. You can wear it day or night. Stop with the sunscreen. Wear a hat and glasses in the sun. Get a good skin vitamin and take it every day. Don't drink alcohol. Drink lots of water. Get plenty of fresh air. Get good rest. Let yourself heal. Be kind to yourself. You sound very
regimented and a bit OCD - I don't mean that in a bad way. Just let yourself be a little lighter and freer. Thank you for warning us about your experience. I hope ypu will feel better soon! :-)
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Hi Becki2, What type of laser was used for the broken capillaries, how many treatments were needed, how did her skin react to the laser treatments, cost and name of dr? Many thx.
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Sounds like you were allergic to retin-a by the way it affected you. Either that or maybe you got a super concentrated formulation, some sort of factory mistake -- though that's less likely. I would imagine that in another year or so you'll look close to normal again as the skin has a great capacity for coming back.
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I'm really sorry for the predicament you are in with your skin, but you are contradicting yourself. In your original comment you stated: "How I used it: Toner first, followed by moisturizer, 4% hydroquinone, then Atralin, and sunblock SPF30 (19% zinc oxide) last."
Which means you were using it during the day. Now you are back tracking and saying you only used it at night.
Either way, retin-a should never be used after a toner...plain and simple. Not even at night.
I was not stating my comments to be hurtful, but in your original comment you clearly stated how you used it and you were using it wrong.
The key, once again, is to gain as much self knowledge as you can about products before using them. You can only rely so much on other peoples opinions, but you are responsible for doing your homework.
I wish you the best and hope your skin improves.
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