Retin-A & SPF

When I visited my dermatologist recently for a skin cancer check, I also expressed to her my concern over aging skin and the fact that I NEVER wore sunscreen until recently. Like a few months ago.


She said the best thing to do for my skin now is to wear a moisturizer with at least an SPF 30 every day to prevent further damage. The brand doesn’t matter; an SPF is an SPF, although every time I visit a med-spa they claim their brands work better due to higher concentration of ingredients. I had a tube of Murad Essential C SPF 30 moisturizer that was almost empty, and I got a bottle of Olay SPF 30 for about $15. Most of the drugstore brands I found didn’t go up to an SPF 30, which I thought was strange.

In order to reverse the damage I have already done to my skin, my doctor gave me a few months’ supply of Retin-A samples as well as a prescription for this product. I’ve read so much about Retin-A but thought it was for skin much older than mine. Apparently it can start working now and help to prevent lines from even forming. Potential side effects are redness and peeling, since Retin-A essentially works to exfoliate the top layer of dead skin. This results in quicker cell turnover, which leads to “fresher”, younger looking skin. You also *must* wear sunscreen as your skin will be much more sensitive to sun. Good deal – this will force me to wear sunscreen. Retin-A is also used to treat acne and a few other skin problems.

I was a bit apprehensive since I’ve never had a need to use medical-grade anything on my skin, especially my face. I first tried it out the night before my half marathon. I mixed it with light moisturizer (a pea sized drop of each) to make it less severe if my skin started peeling overnight…at least I hoped the regular moisturizer would help. I ran the half marathon the next morning with an SPF 30 on my face. I didn’t experience any redness or sunburn. For a few days I kept mixing it with my moisturizer, then finally went full on Retin-A (I only use it at night).

Within the first few days my skin definitely looked more “glowy” and my freckles that were already light got a tiny bit lighter. My pores were also less noticeable.

Within about three days, I had blackheads on my nose and two or three bumps on my forehead, which is really unusual for me since I never break out. It wasn’t enough to actually call it a true breakout, though. I did a bit of research and found that the breakouts were probably due to clogged pores. Retin-A chemically exfoliates your skin, and you have to manually exfoliate so your pores don’t get clogged. I started using my generic Clarisonic at night with Murad face wash and the blackheads and bumps were gone in a couple of days.

After about five days of using Retin-A, I started getting the much-dreaded redness. Except it wasn’t red, it was orange, and mostly around my mouth. I honestly looked like I’d been making out with an Oompa Loompa! A day after that I started peeling pretty badly on my chin and the area around the bottom of my nose. I kept up with my routine (exfoliating the peeling skin with a washcloth morning and night) and the redness and peeling went away in about three days. It was noticeable to me, but people at work and friends just thought I had slight sunburn.

I definitely see an improvement in my skin – it is smoother and some of my freckles and red spots are lighter. I absolutely recommend Retin-A (and sunscreen!) to anyone who is concerned with little fine lines or age spots. It’s less scary than Botox and probably a bit cheaper, too! Just don’t start using it a week before an important event, in case you turn red/orange and start peeling.

I’m still using my sample tubes, but I checked with my pharmacy and it’s $25 per tube (although Pretty in Pink Megan got it for $8). The tube is about the size of a toothpaste tube and I expect that it will last me quite a long time.