Seeking the Fountain of Youth: Adventures in Tretinoin (Stieva-A)

There was a mixup at my pharmacy that resulted in me getting the wrong strength of Retin A, and an irritated face.  After several days of TLC and waiting for the irritation and peeling to stop, I am ready to add the correct strength of Stieva-A 0.01% (this is the brand name that comes in the concentration I am starting with.)  My start date for this is Monday, May 19 – tomorrow.  I’m going to apply every three days to start (so Monday, then Thursday, then Sunday) and see how that goes.  The irritation from the mix-up is pretty much cleared up by this point, so I feel pretty confident that I can get started tomorrow.  I’d prefer not to peel or flake any more, so that’s why I’m starting so slow even with such a low dose prescription.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on this product, so I want to share that so anyone else looking to try it out for anti-aging can have a quick overview of the what, why, how, and what to expect from treatment.


What is Stieva-A?

This is a prescription product with 0.01% concentration of Tretinoin.  This is the particular version of this product that I was prescribed.  It’s the lowest dose that they make.

What is Tretinoin?

Tretinoin is the carboxylic acid form of vitamin A and is also known as all-trans retinoic acid or ATRA. The common use for this product is to treat acne vulgaris and keratosis pilaris.

Why use it?

The Anti Aging benefits of Tretinoin: Over 20 years ago users began finding that in using Retin A their skin showed improvements in texture that included diminished wrinkles and lightened brown spots. In 1988, Dr. Voorhees and his colleagues at Michigan published the first double-blind study of Retin-A’s effect on photodamaged skin and found that all 30 patients who completed the 16-week study showed statistically significant improvement.

Why does it work?

According to Dr Gerrish on, tretinoin works by increasing skin-cell turnover, thickening the layer of skin below the outer protective layer and stimulating the cells that produce collagen.  Collagen is a protein in the dermis of the skin. It is the collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin that maintain the skin’s structure, firmness and elasticity.  These are also the parts of the skin that’s production declines over time, starting in our mid twenties.  Sun exposure expedites this break down , which is why it’s also important to avoid exposure to UV.  

Correct Usage:

  • The first recommendation is to always apply it at bedtime, not during the day.  Tretinoin increases photosensitivity.
  • Don’t use chemical exfoliants at the same time, at least to start.  That is products that contain glycolic acid or benzoyl peroxide (AHAs and BHAs).  You can add them back in after about 3 months of adjustment time using the Tretinoin, if you like though.
  • Wait 15 to 30 minutes after washing your skin before you apply tretinoin.  This has been found to decrease the peeling/flaking, and irritation from the product.
  • Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.  Even if you don’t go outside, you can still get incidental sun exposure from windows, the car window, even just walking into a building.  Tretinoin will decrease the effects of sun damage, but if you get burned (which you easily can while using it, since it’s increases photosensitivity) sun damage will get even worse.  This increased sensitivity is because the skin is very very exfoliated.
  • Moisturize:  Wait 20 mins after the product has been applied, and follow with a moisturizer.  This can make your skin dry, dry, dry, and stacking on a good moisturizer can make sure you don’t peel and flake excessively.
  • Don’t wax skin that’s being treated.  Seriously, don’t.  When I was a teenager and on Retin A for acne, I didn’t know that this was such important advice, and I got my eyebrows waxed.  The top layer of my skin got pulled off with the wax and it looked like I had tiny burns on my face.
  • Keep at it.  This is a long term commitment.  There won’t be instant results, there won’t even be results in a month.

I’m going to keep posting as I use, adjust, and hopefully start to see some results from my prescription.  I’ve got some before photos of my trouble areas (mainly around my eyes, between my eyebrows, along my chest below my collar bones and across my forehead,) and I’m hoping to take progress pictures as I go.  I won’t post the befores yet.  I want to see a change first!






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