I went off Retin-A close to my wedding, because I couldn’t guarantee a flake-free face for my big day no matter how careful I tried to be.
So why am I crawling back to my frenemy prescription now, when winter’s flaky dryness is just around the corner? Because I miss my best-ever pore cleanser! Sure, I don’t miss the flaky scaly feeling, but I’ve been in breakout city lately. (I think this is largely because I’m using crappier stuff to try and save money and not waste existing products and samples, plus I’ve been horrendously lazy about skincare and beauty ever since the wedding.) I want a faster track to clear skin, since I feel like pores that never used to get clogged are now exacting their revenge on me. Nothing has ever worked as well as The Big A in the past.
I’m not sure how long this fling will last, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a whirl now that no big important events are on the horizon. Hopefully if I get a bit more aggressive with the physical exfoliation, too, my angry pores will chill out by next year.
Here are the major tips I have for making Retin-A work for you!
-Don’t forget to amp up the sunscreen when using Retin-A! When your skin is unnaturally exfoliated, that newer tender skin is extremely photosensitive. Use a good high PPD option like Burnout.
-Wait at least 30 minutes between washing your face and applying the stuff! Even with the supposedly gentler microsponge version is still very prone to causing red, peeling, flaky skin if it’s applied while there’s still moisture in your skin. Plus, it’s more easily absorbed into the blood stream if you apply it on still-damp skin, and this can result in liver toxicity.
-Don’t ever, ever use it during the daytime! Because of the photosensitivity I mentioned in point 1, this is just a no-no. Retin-A is a nighttime only treatment, and your face must be thoroughly cleansed of it the next morning.
-Be consistent, but don’t be overzealous. Retin-A will always catch you in a bad cycle if you apply one day out of four. However, in the very beginning, it can be good to back off and go every other day — just make sure to be CONSISTENT about every other day, even if you’re a bit flaky or dry in the process. Every time you quit for more than a one-day gap, you’re setting yourself waaaay back on the Retin-A adjustment clock. Keep at it and you WILL get through to the happy skin phase eventually.
-Consider diluting or protecting your skin. If you find that your skin reacts poorly to Retin-A no matter how closely you follow these tips, then consider moisturizing with a very heavy/occlusive cream before applying the stuff, or consider diluting your Retin-A with a bit of heavy or oily moisturizer. (I actually found an oil- and wax-based balm called Surfer’s Salve that blends nicely with my Retin-A — I blend during the first few nights when my skin is getting used to the treatment, and then I ease off. And my dermatologist uses Cetaphil lotion.)
Best of luck to all of you beauties battling winter skin issues!