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My Experience with Retin-A, Jessica

Dr. Smith

acne treatmentWhen you look at your face in the mirror, do you immediately search for zits? I'm in my mid-twenties, and just four months ago, I did. I was still battling breakouts, and I was embarrassed about it. Acne is a sign of adolescence, immaturity. This is supposed to go away once you get older, right? Wrong.  

As I found out, acne doesn't have an age limit. People in their forties and fifties can still suffer from acne. When I learned this, I decided to ask my doctor about treatment. In the past, I had always avoided asking for help with this problem. I'm not sure why; maybe because it made my problem official, something that wasn't going to pass on its own.

But when I finally did ask, my doctor was very nice. He didn't make me feel vain, or silly for asking. He simply looked at my skin and explained my options. Because I'm taking birth control pills, topical treatments were my best option. We finally decided on Retin-A cream. The following is a brief diary of my experience with this form of acne treatment.

Day 1

I was told to apply the cream at night so that the cream could work during hours I wasn't exposed to sunlight. (It can cause sensitivity to the sun that can result in terrible sunburn.) The pharmacist had warned that the cream might cause some itching and peeling. I don't know whether I took that warning to heart and was expecting itching, but that night, the areas I had applied the cream (surrounding my mouth and between my eyes) felt itchy. however it was not extremely itchy, and didn't keep me awake.

Day 2

No changes. I applied sunblock to my entire face this morning. I normally hate putting sunblock on my face, afraid that it will worsen my acne. But now it seems okay - for two reasons. First, because I don't want to make my face any redder by getting a sunburn (I remembered seeing a girl in high school who was using Retin-A, and just a normal day in the sun burnt her face so bad that she looked like a huge peeling lobster!) Secondly, I feel that even if sunblock increases my acne, it should be wiped out by the Retin-A.

Day 3

My face is peeling a little in the areas where I apply the cream. The peeling is not too bad, and the sunblock I use makes it less noticeable. The acne seems to have shrunk -- maybe. I actually seem to be getting a few more superficial whiteheads.

Day 4

I got a painful crack in the left corner of my mouth today. The doctor warned me not to put much cream near the corners of my mouth or nose. I guess I wasn't being careful enough. I am using lots of lip balm!

Day 5

The crack is already gone. As for the rest of my face, I am still peeling. I have noticed that the blemishes on the skin between my lips and chin are shrinking and turning red.

Day 8

My face is peeling! A friend asked if I had gotten sunburned. I just started my period and usually have a flare up at this time, but this month i had no new breakouts. In fact, I have fewer blemishes than I do when I'm not near menstruation. The pores on my nose have shrunken, and I have a lot fewer blackheads. I am impressed that my skin seems to be clearing up and it's only day eight!

Day 30

I am still using Retin-A, but no longer every night. The peeling has stopped and my worst breakouts are now much milder than my best skin days before treatment. I notice that if I skip too many nights in a row, I break out again. I wonder if a benzoyl peroxide face wash would help? This is has topical antibiotic properties that seem to help some people.

Day 90

I only have one blemish on my entire face! I am using the Retin-A cream fairly consistently. And I feel better emotionally. I really don't think about my blemishes anymore.

After three months of treatment, I am still using the same tube of ointment. At the beginning, I thought this was going to be expensive, but takes so little cream for each application that it's really pretty inexpensive. Probably no more costly than over-the-counter treatments in the long run.

I am very happy with the outcome of my acne treatment. My skin is clear, smooth. And I feel more confident now. It is a little disconcerting to think that I will have to keep using the cream for who-knows-how-long to keep up the results. But even with that in mind, I am much happier now that I am using Retin-A. It is wonderful to look in the mirror and not immediately evaluate how bad my blemishes are---because they aren't there anymore.

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