Recently I was chatting with a friend about Retin A (and I may have given her some samples that I received from my dermatologist). When I first started using prescription Retin A products a few years ago, the only basic advice I received was start slowly and only use a small amount at each application. So this got me thinking that I should let you all know what has worked for me. Please note I am not a medical professional of any sorts and this information is based on my personal experience only.
The first product I was prescribed was Retin A MICRO.
The product is now available in a pump, which I suppose helps in administering an “appropriate” amount. When I used the product it was just in a metal tube like the picture, nothing fancy. I started off using this every other day and still had a lot of red flaky patches, which were more embarrassing than wrinkles or acne. I returned to my dermatologist who then prescribed a lowered dosed product, Atralin.
The MICRO product is a .1% strength and the Atralin is a .05% strength. You are thinking okay, no big deal, but let me tell you it is a big deal. I can now use the Atralin every night and wake up with only minimal flakes. You want flakes, that means the product is working to shed your old skin to reveal new fresh skin.
Okay, now on to my routine and recommendations. As you have gathered from above, I prefer to use the Atralin product. Each night after I wash my face using Cetaphil and my Clarisonic, I apply a thin layer of Atralin all over my face, avoiding the eye area. (I use a separate eye cream on and around my eyes because I like them to be moisturized and the Retin A can be drying.) I need to start applying the Atralin to my neck to avoid saggy-neck-ness, **note to self**. As far as “thin layer” goes, I probably use a total amount equivalent to 1 1/2 peas. After I wait a few minutes for the product to set in I apply a light moisturizer all over my face, to combat any dryness (I might skip this step in the summer when my skin is more oily). In the morning I use a gentle scrubbing face wash to exfoliate any flaky patches. I then apply a topical exfoliator to ensure I got rid of all the flakes.
This is the process that I have found to work best on my combination skin. If you have dry skin you will definitely want to start off using as little Retin A as possible, perhaps only on problem areas. I would also suggest to start using the product in your mid 20’s, before wrinkles really start to become an issue. Yes Retin A is mainly prescribed to combat acne, but fighting wrinkles is an awesome side affect, if you will. When I get random blemishes I use a benzoyl peroxide product in conjunction with my Retin A. Please note that unless you have super awesome health insurance (does such a thing even exist anymore???), you will still have to pay some out of pocket money for the product. If you compare the prescription to OTC product costs, they might be pretty darn close (not to mention a prescription tube can last you a long time, not sure you can say the same about OTC brands). Also be sure to ask your doctor for samples so you can try it before getting an entire tube. They might also have coupons too, doesn't hurt to ask.
Another important piece of information when using any Retin A product is to be sure to wear sunscreen, as it makes your skin more prone to burn. But we already know that we should wear sunscreen daily, right?
I hope that at least one person finds this information helpful and useful. I have not really used any OTC Retin A based products and cannot attest to their effectiveness in comparison. If you have health insurance and can get a doctor to prescribe you Retin A I definitely recommend doing so. And if you find the one he prescribes to be to harsh, go back and request a different strength. I believe some products now come in cream based versions, which may also combat some dryness. Bottom line is don't give up if the first product you try gives you terrible or unexpected results.
Again, I am not an expert and do not claim to have perfect skin, I just think this is useful information to those considering prescription strength Retin A products. If you have more tips or suggestions on Retin A I would love to hear them!
I will follow up in another post on what kind of moisturizers, scrubs and exfoliants I like to use.