5 Tips for First Time Retin-A Users

March 29, 2015

I recently visited my dermatologist to get a prescription for Retin-A.  I wanted to eliminate some stubborn blackheads once and for all, and minimize some fine lines that I’ve developed in my mid-30s.  I knew it was a pretty aggressive drug with some unpleasant side effects, but nothing could have prepared me for what actually happened!  So I decided to share my experience with Retin-A and offer some tips for first-time users.

First, my dermatologist explained that many insurance companies do not cover Retin-A for adults.  So she recommended a mail-order pharmacy called Valeant that offers Retin-A Micro 0.08%.  She called in the prescription, I then called to give my information and pay the $35, and my prescription arrived two days later.  It couldn’t have been easier… or cheaper.

I decided to use just a tiny amount of Retin-A only on my forehead and chin to start.  I’m so glad I didn’t go overboard!  Within 20 hours, my skin had become red and started peeling on my chin.  My forehead had a different reaction and became thick, bumpy, and itchy.  I looked pretty awful.  Since my chin was almost to the point of being raw, I decided to lay off the Retin-A for the next few days.

After a couple weeks, I had it pretty much figured out.  My side effects had subsided and my skin had become more tolerant.  Looking back at what I did right and what I did wrong, I can offer these 5 tips for first-time Retin-A Users.

Woman using Retin-A on her face.

5 Tips for First Time Retin-A Users:

  1. Avoid any products containing benzoyl peroxide or alpha/beta hydroxy acids for a week prior to starting Retin-A treatment. Benzoyl peroxide dries out your skin and alpha/beta hydroxy acids make your skin more sensitive (whether you realize it or not).  Retin-A is aggressive enough on its own.  You don’t want compound effects of multiple products.
  2. Choose a test area of your face to start. The initial side effects can be quite hideous and uncomfortable.  Do yourself a favor and choose one area to try first to see how your skin reacts.
  3. Use LESS than a pea-sized amount. The package insert will tell you to use a pea-sized amount but I can promise you it will be too much for your first couple times.  Use about a third of a pea-sized amount.  I know that sounds laughable and you’ll feel like it’s not enough, but you’ll thank me later.
  4. Don’t use it every night during the first week. Not only do you need a couple days to see how your skin will react to this drug, but your skin also needs to build up a tolerance to it.  Use it every other night or every third night for the first week or two.
  5. Buy a nice hat. Since wearing a paper bag on your head or a ski mask are not realistic options, a hat is the next best thing to disguise your skin.  At least that’s what I told myself.  Plus, you’ll need to protect your skin from sunburn and a hat is good for that too!

Have you tried Retin-A?  Leave a comment below and let us know how it went!

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1 Comment

  • Reply Andi March 29, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    I used retin-a very briefly but I found that I had to be very careful using towels on my face. Even when I thought it was off it still left marks on my towels!

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