Pammy Blogs Beauty: Starting my Retin-A (tretinoin) Journey: Skincare Routine and Tips!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Starting my Retin-A (tretinoin) Journey: Skincare Routine and Tips!

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Starting my Retin-A (tretinoin) Journey!

I am so super excited to announce a new skincare journey! After years of being off of perscription topical facial medications, I am delving back into that routine once again. Yes, I am getting back on Retin-A (tretinoin)...and I am super excited and eagarly anticipating the scientifically proven results that come from using tretinoin. 

Skincare Background and History:
Before diving into what my "new" routine looks like and exactly what products that I use, lets talk about my skincare history and skin type.

I am not new to using tretinoin nor new to Rx skincare or vitamin A derivative products. In the past, I literally used Retin-A for decades. Literally. I started on Retin-A (and Retin-A Micro) as a teenager for my moderate acne. I used Retin-A in my teens and 20s (as well as other Rx medications like oral antibiotics, Benzoyl peroxide washes, topical antibiotics like Clindamycin, azelaic acid cream, and more). At some point in my early 30's, I switched over to Differin (which was then only available by perscription). 

My acne was always well controlled while under the supervision of a dermatologist, but it never went away. I would always flare up during "that time of the month". Plus, my skin honestly never tolerated the Retin-A/tretinoin very well. I was plagued with sensitive skin, dryness, flakiness, and sensitivity to hot/cold (flushing). So, as my acne really did start to get more mild in my 30s, I was ready to make the switch to the milder and better-tolerated Differin. Differin worked wonders for me and kept my skin clear with minimal irriation. 

In my mid-late 30's, my focus was on getting pregnant, being pregnant, and nursing my babies. So, needless to say, I got off all my Rx topical acne medications. If you are not aware, it is not considered safe to use Vitamin-A derivative products like Retin-A or even Retinol when you are pregnant or nursing. 

Years later, I am done having babies and, cough, I haven't gotten any younger. So, needless to say, I am ready to get back on the Retin-A bandwagon! Retin-A is one of the, if not the top anti-acne and anti-aging skincare ingredient. It is proven. It is effective. There are literally decades of research that it works. As much as I love all of the lotions and potions that I try out, tretinoin is the one that is proven. So, I am ready to get it back into my skincare routine. 

My Skincare Needs and Focus:

So, why go back on Retin-A rather than Differin? Well, Retin-A does have more research behind it (Differin is newer). I love that Differin is now available over the counter. While Differin does have many proven skincare benefits like clearing the skin and rejuvinating the skin's appearance, it is my understanding that it is not proven to work in the deep layers of the skin nor will it stimulate collagen production. My skincare focus is now not only to keep my skin clear (yes, that adult mild acne has is mild, but, yes...annoying) but also I want to get proven anti-aging benefits. I want to stimulate collagen production in my skin and tretinoin is proven to do this. Honestly, I think all of us women over the age of 40 should consider adding tretinoin to our skincare routines!

This time around my approach to Retin-A use is much different than when I was in my teens and 20s. I was so despirate for clear skin back then that I really neglected to moisturize adequately. I think that lack of moisturization contributed to the fact that my skin never tolerated tretinoin very well. Now I think differently. I know from my extensive years of beauty blogging that most moisturizers do not break me out. My breakouts are caused by hormones, not moisturizers! I wish I knew that back in the early years! 

Also, I know that 3-5 days a week of Tretinoin use is enough to be effective as an anti-aging skincare ingredient. So, I am going to give my skin "breaks" from the active ingredient trentinoin. In addition, I am not going to neglect using other products that I have used and loved for years (like my Retinol products)...I am just going to use them in other ways (like application on my neck, chest, and hands) and facial application on nights "off" from the Retin-A. 

Also, I am planning a very specific stragegy for tretinoin application and weekly treatments with moisturizing masks. So, lets talk now specifically of what my morning and evening skincare routine looks like on nights that I use tretinoin (note, my skincare routine on nights off will be more like my previous skincare routine with products that I have used and loved for years as well as new skincare products that I am testing)...but, on nights with Retin-A, I am going to specifically follow my routine listed below. 

My Tretinoin Routine:
Just a note before I jump into my routine! My plan has been to start slow. I am now in the first month of use, so I am only using tretinoin once a week. Yes, only once. No reason to flare up irriation. Slow and steady is my goal here as I am really looking at long-term and lifelong usage here. So, my progression is and will be the following: first month= 1x per week. 2nd month= 2x per week. 3rd month=3x per week. At that point I will stick with the 3x per week for a few months to see if it is sufficiant. I might bump up to 4x a week around the 6 month mark and then stick with that a few more months before deciding if I want to go up to 5 or if that is too irritating. Also, of note: I am starting out at 0.05% strength. My plan is to up the strength once I have gotten up to 5 nights a week of use without irriation. I know that this process might take years. However, I know that is a long-term goal. 

Morning Routine:
For my Retin-A/tretinoin nights, I am sticking to very gentle and basic products. Some of these products are "new" to me and some are old favorites that I am returning to. I have VERY sensitive skin that is even that much more sensitive and irritated from the tretinoin. So, I need to be super gentle to the skin and I really need to layer on the moisture as well. I have often had issues with irriation in the past from scented products and fragrance as well as chemical sunscreens. So, now I am trying to avoid them as much as I can...and almost always will on nights that I use tretinoin. That is not to say that I will *never* use a scented product, I am just going to try to really cut down on my skin's exposure to fragrance and chemical sunscreens. Now, on my neck, chest, and hands, fragrances and chemical sunscreens do not irritate, so I can continue to use those ingredients there. 

Salicylic Acid-based cleanser in the Shower. I have a few that I like and some are fragrance free (my preference) but some are not. Either way, all of these have not caused irritation in the mornings on days that I use Retin-A. Most of these cleansers I have used on and off for years and are favorites already.

Next, I moisturize with a hyaluronic acid based moisturizer (like Neutrogena's HydroBoost). Note: this is the best tip!!! Apply hyaluronic acid moisturizer to *wet skin*!!! It works much better this way as hyaluronic acid works by grabbing on to water and holding it to the skin's top layer. This will prevent moisture loss in your skin.

Eye Creams and Benzyol Peroxide:
Next, I apply eye cream around my eye area and spot treat with Benzyol Peroxide as needed (I often skip this step).

After letting the hyaluronic acid moisturizer time to sink in and allowing time for your skin to feel dry, apply your daily sunscreen. I personally like physical (non-chemical) sunscreens the best. They give the strongest sun protection AND they tend to not be irritating. My skin is generally irritated by chemical sunscreens...and that has only incrased since being on Retin-A. So, I am just not messing around any more with Chemical Sunscreens unless I am applying them to my body or neck/chest (they dont bother me in those areas).

Evening Routine:
So, here is my evening skincare routine for the nights that I apply Retin-A/tretinoin. Note: this is my routine only for those nights and I deviate from this the rest of the week on nights "off" of Retin-A (this allows me to continue product testing for the blog and using some of the other skincare treats that I love that cannot be combined with tretinoin).

Remove Eye Makeup:
Typically, I use a Micellar Water to quickly swipe off my eye makeup. I don't have a go-to Micellar water as I seem to like them all about equally. So, I really switch around on brands each time I finish a bottle. I do not wear heavy eye makeup. So, Micellar water works okay to break down the eye makeup (however it does not remove it completely...but, no worries, you will see in step two that I use a creamy cleanser that will remove the remainder). If I am wearing heavier makeup after a night out, I like using a creamy makeup remover like IT Cosmetic's Bye Bye Makeup™ 3-in-1 Makeup Melting Balm (and OMG, it is awesome!!! )

Wash Face:
I wash my face with a gentle and non-foaming moisturizing cleanser. I like using a creamy cleanser for evenings. Creamy cleansers are more gentle and hydrating. Plus, they have the added boost of effectively removing my remaining eye makeup after the Micellar Water step (see above).

I allow my skin to air dry just for a moment so that it is not "dripping" wet, and then I apply my moisturizer to my *wet skin*. It is just much more effective that way. I like using the most gentle and basic and *fragrance free* moisturizers on Retin-A nights. Honestly, I should use fragrance-free moisturizers every evening...I just haven't totally made that switch yet as there are some other fragranced ones that I love. However, I know my skin would thank me if I went 100% fragrance-free. When I cut down on fragrance, it drastically improves the tone of my skin as I seem to respond to fragrance in products (and chemical sunscreens) with redness. I also apply my Eye cream during this step.

Apply Retin-A/tretinoin:
I wait at least 30 minutes before applying my Retin-A/tretinoin. This is essential as your skin needs to be 100% dry to avoid irriration. Water draws products deeper into the skin and this would cause too much irriation. So, it really cuts down on your irritation when you apply after 30 minutes to skin that has been previously moisturized.

So, those are my routines for morning and evening. Now lets talk a little bit about the products that I recommend. There are more that I love than this, however these are the actual items that are in current roatation for my above-listed routines:

Product Recommendations for Use while on Retin-A/tretinoin:

I love Neutrogena and have literally been a fan since my teenage years. It was always the brand recommended by my Dermatologist back then and now my new Dermatologist's office recommends Neutrogena as well. I personally love that Neutrogena is readily available at the drugstore and that Neutrogena has so many fragrance-free options for their top products!

Here is what I am loving from Neutrogena:

  • Neutrogena | Hydro Boost Gel-Cream Extra-Dry Skin formula Fragrance-Free: OMG! I LOVE this gel-cream. Seriously, you need a hyaluronic acid based product in your routine if you are on Retin-A!
  • Neutrogena | Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser Foaming Formula (note: this is not a drying foaming, don't let the "foaming" discriptor scare you): Love this cleanser! Works great without over drying. I use this in the mornings when I am not wanting to use a salicylic acid based cleanser. 
  • Neutrogena | Oil-Free Moisture Sensitive Skin: This is a great basic oil free and fragrance free moisturizer. I use this on wet skin after washing face and 30 minutes before applying Retin-A. 
  • Neutrogena | Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer with SPF 50 Sensitive Skin: Gentle physical blockers and nice formula! 
  • Neutrogena | Hydro Boost Gentle Cleansing Lotion: This is a new cleanser from Neutrogena that I am loving. I rotate with this and the Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser when not using a SA based cleanser in the mornings. 

Olay is another brand that I have used and trusted for decades. Their Olay Complete moisturizers with SPF have been in heavy roation in my skincare routine over the years. Here are the Olay items that are in rotation and/or that I recommend for a Retin-A/treteinoin skincare routine. The Olay Complete SPF 30 Sensitive, the Olay Regenerist Fragrance-Free Regenerating Serum, and the Olay Complete SPF 15 Sensitive (note: the SPF on this one is rather low at SPF 15 for anyone on Retin-A...however, if you layer this with other SPF products, like a BB Cream or if you are not going to be outdoors it would be fine). 

CeraVe and More!
There are quite a few other products that I am loving right now for use in conjuction with Retin-a/tretinoin treatment. CeraVe clearly stands out as a frontrunner with Neutrogena. I love the CeraVe brand so much as their products all contain ceramides which are just such amazing skincare ingredients! I literally use the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser every night and I absolutely adore it....possibly my favorite facial cleanser ever! I love the other products listed here, too. Belli's Cleanser has been a favorite for years and it still works well for morining use while on Retin-A...and Kiehl's is an amazing luxury line that also works well for sensitive skin and skin undergoing Retin-A treatment! Kiehl's creams even work well on my son's sensitive eczema skin!

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