Starting Retin-A - Troy, MI

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BACKGROUND: I am 27. When I was a teenager, I...

I am 27. When I was a teenager, I had the occasional pimple but nothing too bad. I started on birth control and then stopped when I was 20. This is about the time that I started getting bad skin, mostly hormonal acne. I also drank and smoked a lot, so that certainly didn't help. I went back on birth control when I was 23 and stayed on it for two years, then went off again when I was 25. During those two years I was on it, my skin did improve a bit but my bad habit of picking kept the acne around.

Over the past year, I began exercising more (Bikram yoga), eating healthier, and drinking lots of water. I haven't smoked in years and don't drink alcohol a lot (1-2 drinks per week). Despite the lifestyle changes, I hadn't noticed consistent improvement in my skin. In October 2012, I finally decided to see a dermatologist. I had just started back up on the birth control, so my doctor agreed that it would help clear up my skin after a few months. She gave me a prescription for Trentinoin (Retin-A 0.05%) to be used every other night along with daily Doxycycline (100mg). I was also instructed to use Benzyclin every other night on problem areas. I was too nervous to start the regimin in October because I had a few events coming up and I didn't want to have to deal with the initial breakout during that time. I just started the regimen in February 2013 so I thought I would document my experience...

Skin is looking pretty decent before starting the treatment. No cystic acne, a few clogged pores, but overall not too bad. Existing red marks from past breakouts, but definitely healing. When I decided to start the Retin-A, I used it once every two nights (two nights off, one night on). On a night that I use it, I wash my face with Cetaphil, apply a thin layer of moisturizer (Pond's), then wait 20-30 minutes before applying a pea-sized amount of 0.05% Retin-A. I also am taking a women's multivitamin and fish oil pills which are supposed to help with the inflammation of hormonal acne. Also trying very hard to resist the urge to pick!!!

Noticing a little peeling, but no redness or irritation. Minor breakouts, but nothing out of the ordinary.

I decide to begin using Retin-A every other night since I have not had very bad peeling or irritation. Here is where it begins! Noticible peeling has started, but no redness or irritation which is good. I have about 4-5 small/medium active pimples/cysts which I have been treating with the benzyclin. Last night I made the mistake of putting on benzyclin then applying Retin-A, and today I feel like I am sunburnt. However, no peeling this morning which made my make-up application a lot easier! I also tried using olive oil as a moisturizer one night, which made my skin feel really nice. Has anyone tried this?

I'll try to update more each week to share my experience.

WEEK FOUR: Well, the olive oil last week was a...

Well, the olive oil last week was a bad idea! By the end of the next day, I had 4-5 angry pimples that had developed! Plus my skin was peeling and I was having a tough time keeping my make-up in check. I bought some Aquaphor Healing Ointment (similar to Vaseline) and put that on my face in the morning, dabbed the excess off with a dry towel, and put my makeup on over it. It kept my skin from peeling during the day which I was super happy about. Bonus: it also helped some eczema I had on my legs! I have still been doing the Retin-A every other night and it's been going well. Aside from the olive oil breakout last week (and the red marks that resulted...), I haven't really had any new ones pop up. I have been getting a lot of advice from (check it out!) and the site's author recommended Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid to help exfoliate the cells. I ordered some online and began using it on Monday. I just put a little on my face with a cotton ball and in the morning my skin seriously felt smoother and my pores looked smaller. I was *so* impressed! It is now Wednesday and I really like the way it makes my skin feel, so I'm going to continue using it in conjunction with the Retin-A (use BHA every AM, and alternate PM's with that and the Retin-A). This week I have been super happy with my skin, but I know that Retin-A takes some time to see full results so I am expecting to break out again in the next few weeks. I should also mention that I had my period this week, which is when I normally get some cystic/hormonal acne flare-ups... and I got NONE this week. But, that could be a combination of the doxycycline antibiotic, the fish oil, and topicals that are going on my skin.

WEEK FIVE: Still using the Retin-A every other...

Still using the Retin-A every other night and doing well! I have a little peeling here and there plus a few non-inflamed pimples but for the most part it is under control. At the end of this week, I'm going to increase my usage to every night and see how that goes (maybe I'll try two nights on, one night off). I'm really just basing it on how my skin reacts - if my skin feels irritated, I'll skip the Retin-A; if not, I'll continue on. The BHA I started using has really helped and I feel the texture and tone of my skin improving from that plus the Retin-A. I picked at my face last week (bad, I know!) and have a big red mark as a result but it seems to be healing well. I'm still taking the doxycycline along with fish oil and a multivitamin. I recently read an article in Women's Health that talks about the pH level of your skin and how certain products/foods can increase your skin's acidity thus causing more acne. I feel like the more I am becoming educated about product ingredients and how they affect your skin, the betterI will be able to control my acne. I am feeling really positive about my skin lately and hope that it will continue to improve with this treatment. I'm a little unsure of how the rest of the treatment will go because I haven't had a really bad initial breakout (nothing worse than a typical bad acne day) and I am wondering if it will come or not.

WEEK SIX: I have continued with using Retin-A...

I have continued with using Retin-A every other night and haven't increased my usage yet... but I think I will next week. I have had a few days with bad peeling (so annoying), but no redness or breakouts over the past week. I did get a few pimples come up last night, but they seem to come and go quickly so hopefully they will be gone by the weekend. I am absolutely in love with the BHA and I feel like that has really helped out along with the Retin-A. The only thing I need to figure out is this peeling! I mildly exfoliate at night using a washcloth on my face then following up with the BHA exfoliant, and then moisturizing. But the peeling keeps coming! I have to check my face every hour or so with a little mirror because I want to keep an eye on how much peeling is going on without me realizing it (that can be embarrassing). Sometimes I'll do the Aquaphor at night to help the skin, but I don't know if that helps all that much - if the skin wants to peel, it will peel!

WEEK SEVEN: Wow, already on week 7! I started...

Wow, already on week 7! I started using Retin-A on more consecutive nights, doing 2-3 nights in a row and then 1 night off. So far so good, just that annoying peeling and dryness still. Overall I feel like my skin has been improving in texture and tone, but I am still getting a few pimples here and there. Right now I have one medium-sized bump and 2-3 smaller ones, which really isn't too bad. I haven't picked at my skin in a while, but I do still see red marks from when I last did. The combination of the Retin-A and BHA exfoliant is helping to clear them but I know it will take some time before I see consistent results. The nice thing I am seeing is that any pimples I get are not really inflamed, which makes them easier to deal with and cover up with makeup. I've been using Makeup Forever HD foundation and concealer which really makes my skin look flawless with a "bump" or two. I highly recommend!

WEEK EIGHT: Now I have been using Retin-A every...

Now I have been using Retin-A every night for the past 10 days and it is going well. The peeling is calming down (finally!) but I still get a little bit of flaky skin during the day. I finished my bottle of Doxycycline last week and wanted to make an appointment with my dermatologist to get more, so I have been off of the antibiotic for about 7 days now. This week I broke out with about 5 acnes on one side of my face. They are kind of like cysts in that they don't come to a full head, but they aren't really far under the skin... hard to explain, but they are annoying and have a pressure point in them. Anyways, I resisted popping them until yesterday and then they had to go. I have red marks now but my skin is flat instead of bumpy and painful from the pressure. The breakouts could have been caused by the increase in Retin-A, the absence of Doxycycline, and/or that I started my period this week. I did see my dermatologist today and she said that my skin texture is looking realllllly good and to continue on with using the Retin-A every night. She wrote me a prescription for more Doxycycline so I'll start that up again tomorrow. I'm hoping next week brings clearer skin again!!!

WEEK NINE: Still using Retin-A every night and...

Still using Retin-A every night and the peeling has completely stopped. I still have my red marks from last week, but they are more or less fading. As soon as I increased my usage it really helped me get over the peeling-phase a lot sooner! I had two acnes come up this week, but they never came to a head and they healed up pretty quickly with the nightly Retin-A. I did get a new Rx for doxycycline but I just got it filled yesterday so today will be my first day back on the antibiotic.

WEEK TEN: My skin is looking pretty great lately....

My skin is looking pretty great lately... red marks are fading and not really any new acne coming up. My skin texture looks very good but still room for improvement. I was a little lazy in taking the fish oil over the past week or so, but I'm back on it along with the doxycycline. I'm also still using Cetaphil to wash my face 2x day, BHA 2% liquid in the morning, and moisturizer with SPF 2x day as well. I missed two nights of Retin-A this weekend, but otherwise I've been using it daily since the start of April. The increased usage really seems to be the key for me in revealing better skin more quickly.

WEEK ELEVEN: After missing the Retin-A for two...

After missing the Retin-A for two nights last week, I had a little bit of peeling once I started back up but only for a day or two. I'm still doing nightly applications otherwise. I picked at my skin last weekend so I have some red marks that are healing from that. I feel like when I do get an acne, it is usually on my cheek and totally different than the type I would get before. I used to get mostly cystic hormonal acne but I haven't had that probably 2-3 months. Now I get acne that's not really inflamed, just a bump that comes up with no real head to it. It's hard to describe! I think that now that my acne is starting to be under control, the Retin-A should continue to help the texture of my skin too. It's interesting how once you get over one problem (acne), you just find another (red marks, acne scars). I think a big part of why I keep getting acne on my cheeks is because I am not patient and pick at my skin (a lot less than I used to, but still, not good to do!) thus pushing in more bacteria and prompting the breakouts to reoccur.

WEEK TWELVE: Today marks the 3 month date for me!...

Today marks the 3 month date for me! My skin is looking awesome overall: no acne at the moment, fading red marks, and improved texture. I see my dermatologist on Friday so we'll see if she changes my current regimen or tells me to keep doing what I'm doing. I should also mention that my skin looks a lot less oily than it used to... by the end of the day (before Retin-A) my face would look like an oil slick. Now, it gets a little oily but nothing at all like before. I'm getting there, slowly but surely!

WEEK THIRTEEN: Last Friday I went to see my...

Last Friday I went to see my dermatologist and she gave me two cortisone shots into existing acne (I am getting married next week so she wanted to help speed up any healing before the big day). The shots didn't hurt, just felt like a small poke, and they healed up the acne practically overnight! They were completely gone by Sunday. Very cool, and very helpful to know about for future events. My skin has been pretty good lately with using Retin-A every night. My major red marks have faded a LOT but still can be seen when I don't wear makeup. Overall, I'm really happy with how my skin looks right now and can't wait for it to improve even more.
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