Seeking the Fountain of Youth: Adventures in Tretinoin (Stieva-A) Week 6, Tretinoin and Flaking Skin

Flaking skin is a pretty widely accepted part of tretinoin usage, and I’ve found a few ways to combat this unpleasant side effect.


Do what you can to prevent the flakes:

1. Let your skin dry completely before application. Moisture left on the skin can, and in my experience does, increase skin irritation. Since the tretinoin is the first product applied (to bare skin) that means starting the skin care routine early.

2. Use it consistently.  There is no fun in constantly being in the beginning stages of retinoid use (the peeling, purging, dry, no results yet part.)  Consistent use means getting through the adjustment.  For me it was a little over 6 weeks (I still flake if I get impatient and apply it to semi wet skin though, and keep in mind I’m on a 0.01% product) but up to 3 months adjustment time is considered normal.  (More, and I’d ask my dermatologist.  You may need a lower concentration.)

3. Products might start to sting, may need to be replaced.  “If it burns it’s working.”  No, no, no.  There is no reason to be in excessive pain from skin care products!  Again, the adjustment time may vary, but some products may just not be right any more.  From the directions I was given, a bit of stinging is considered normal and OK (that will subside with the adjustment period) but anything that causes further irritation and “burns” should be dropped for the time being.

4. Products with chemical exfoliants should be dropped.  For now.  Once a few months have past, they can be spot tested and possibly re-introduced, but while adjusting to the tretinoin, BHAs and AHAs should be left off the menu.  Anecdote time!  I got so sick of the flaking that I said “fuck it” and applied some Weekly Resurfacing Treatment AHA by (who else?) Paul’s Choice.  It just made the flaking worse and made me red and angry at myself.  Patience is key.

5.  Sunscreen.  Don’t get burned on top of dealing with flakes and irritation.  That will only compound the irritation, cause or worsen PIH (Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation) and sun damage, and if you burn in the way I do, it could cause more peeling and flakes.  Sunscreen is super super important to use with tretinoin.

6. Ease into the usage by mixing or layering it immediately (under or over) with moisturizer.  This can be a good way to get used to the tretinoin and is called buffering it.  It reduces the products effectiveness by decreasing it’s penetration into the skin, but it can really help with the symptoms that come with the adjustment.  Including the flaking.


Dealing with the flakes

1.  Leave them alone as much as possible.  It’s soooo tempting to scrub them away, but that can just cause more irritation, which can cause more flakes.  My sugar scrub is banned from my bathroom for the time being because it’s too tempting.

2. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.  And then moisturize again.  I’m having some luck with CeraVe in the tub topped with Vaseline.  It’s a thick, somewhat unpleasant feeling pile of products on my face, but it’s better than flaking.  I try to spare my husband the shiny very very transferable layer of vaseline by applying it right before I got to sleep.

3. Cheat and very lightly exfoliate.  I’m not going to pretend I don’t buff the flakes away with a very soft wash cloth.  Do this with caution, your milage may vary, and it you starting making things worse STOP IT and let the flakes be.  This doesn’t work long term, but it can help a bit for a few hours.


Covering the flakes.

I’m by no means a makeup guru, but I have found a way that I can cover the flakes and keep them pretty well managed throughout the day.

First, skip serums unless you already know they play nice with sunscreen, makeup, and moisturizer.  I find that most of them cause the sunscreen especially to ball up and create what looks like even worse flakyness.

The order I’ve found works well is

1. Oil.  A really light layer of oil, like miniscule, but focused on the dryest areas.  I use a combo of jojoba, argon, and almond.  

2. Moisturize like crazy.  My next layer is CeraVe in the tub.  This helps more than anything because if your skin is too dry the makeup itself will be the “moisturizer” and the moisture in the makeup will become absorbed into the skin.  This leaves the “caky” look that some foundation can give.  Not a good look.  My theory is that since no one is going to be touching my face during the day, it doesn’t need to be touchable. Moisturizer can go on over the oil, or under.  I put a generous amount on and let it sink in for about 10 mins before the next step, but if you aren’t into the “dewy” look you can probably ease up on how thick this is applied.

3. Sunscreen.  I like asian ones, and I’m using one from biore at the moment.  It’s chemical only though, I’m kind of still in the market to find my perfect physical sunscreen.  (Sunscreen needs about 20 mins to sink in before applying anything else on top of it.)

4. Vaseline.  Dabbed on, pretty light, but not rubbed in.  Dab dab dab dab dab onto the flaky spots.  This is where things get a bit heavy and greasy feeling.  I don’t mind because during the day no one is going to touch my face, and I just want it to look good.  

5. BB cream mixed with my Paula’s Choice foundation.  These are other products I’m still not totally in love with, but they work for now.  Eventually I’ll find my perfect foundation.  This step needs to be applied by dabbing and dabbing and dabbing, like the vaseline.  The dabbing both helps keep the vaseline in place, and helps to not bring out new flakes or cause any of the previous products to ball up.  I put it onto my finger tips and just pat it on everywhere.  It takes a while to get it to look smooth, but eventually it will.

6. Powder if required.  Ideally I don’t use powder, since the brush can actually bring out the flakes like rubbing can, but if I overdid it with the vaseline and look super shiny I might pat on a bit.  

7. Rest of the makeup. Eyes, ect.  I flake on my chin and around my mouth more than anywhere else, so adding blush has been OK.  Again your mileage may vary.


This keeps the flakes away for several hours, at least in my fairly mild case.  The key I think is to keep the layer of vaseline over the flakes, it seems to keep my skin kind of moist so flakes can’t form.  


For mid-day touch ups, I keep samples of BB cream around to mix with a bit more vaseline and dab it onto the flaky patches. If things get really bad, and I’m going somewhere after work (out for dinner or something) I’ll re-do the really bad spots by using Vaseline as a crude oil cleanse, and reapply my foundation using as many of the above steps as I have available.


I hope this helps someone, I know the flaking is really unpleasant.  Take solace in the fact that it will be over soon!



IPSY June 2014



What’s an IPSY: IPSY sends out a package of surprises in the GLAM BAG (well, they spoil the surprise right before they ship, but when you but you don’t know what you are getting so it starts as a surprise.)

COST:  $10 a month (it’s $10 + $4.95 shipping)  Use my referral link to join if you want to share the love!

DELIVERY:  Ships Mid Month (Canada is a bit behind the US shipping from what I saw online)

WAITLIST:  Yes.  But if you refer someone they will move you off it.

This month was…. probably great for someone who is not me.  I didn’t like it at all, and I’ve overcompensated by taking some nicer pictures of it than I usually do.  Gotta get excited about something, right?

Nicka K New York Shimmer Eyeliner:  $4.99



I’m sure there is someone that this looks great on.  IImage unfortunately do not think that person is over 25.  As a 31 year old, I will never use this. 








NYX Butter Gloss: $5

This I actually do like  It is buttery, and the color is good for me.Image

OFRA Universal Eyebrow Pencil: $13

Good value, though when I swatched it I was unimpressed as it caked a bit.  I don’t do my brows on a regular basis, so I haven’t tried it on my face yet.  I’ll try it and we will see, maybe it will convert me.  The color is right for me at least!














Carol’s Daughter Sacred Tiare Anti-Breakage & Anti-Frizz Styling Cream:  The full size is $12, the sample is tiny and I will probably use it twice before it’s empty.  I actually would have been pretty happy if they sent the surf spray, but I have probably 6 or 7 different kinds of anti frizz stuff, I really don’t need any more.





Realtree for her:  $0 because no sane person would ever pay for a perfume sample.

This smells like a combination of bar bathroom and air freshener.  

It reminds me of the body sprays people used to use to cover up the cigarette smell so their parents wouldn’t notice.Image

The Bag:  I actually like this bag.  It’s cute, seems to be good quality, and is a good size.  














The swatches:  NYX, OFRA, Nicka K















I’m about 1 more bag away from unsubscribing from ipsy.  I’m just not getting value or products I like or want to try.  But for now:

(Under $20)

   I will use the products that I like, but I don’t expect to buy any, and the value to cost just isn’t there this month.


Seeking the Fountain of Youth: Adventures in Tretinoin Week 4 of Tretinoin, and Getting Past the Purge

Ughhhhhh.  I can’t wait for this part to be over.

IMG_2804 IMG_2905

My prescription is dated May 15, which means I’ve been using the tretinoin for a full month now, about 4.5 weeks.

What is purging:

Purging is something that might happen (not to everyone, not every time, but apparently I’m just that lucky) if you are using products with active exfoliants, such as AHAs, BHAs, and yes, retinoids. It’s essentially because the increased exfoliation causes your skin to push the blockages inside of it out to the surface.

What does purging look like:

Acne. It looks like skin getting worse before it gets better.  Sometimes for weeks.  In fact, it can take up to 12 weeks for things to actually turn around.  Skinacea has a big pile of information on purging.  It’s worth a read.

My experience:

I’m still peeling a bit, especially the morning after those nights that I get lazy about the wait time between cleansing and application (the recommended wait time is at least 15 mins, longer if you can, since water seems to increase irritation and peeling.)  My forehead is, of course, purging and covered in red bumps.  That’s my worst trouble zone, and always where I break out if I’m going to.  This time I’m also getting breakouts down the left side of my face, along my temples and toward my cheeks.  I love foundation these days.  The pictures above are me, no makeup, no photoshop, no cover.

I’m not on tretinoin to reduce acne, and it looks like so far I don’t have any decrease in my fine lines.  It’s supposed to take up to a year before that happens, but I’m hoping I will see SOMETHING before then.

Patience, patience, patience.  This is the hard part.


This is becoming something I think about a lot.  I’m having to alter my products a little, and add a few more hydrating products.

I’m still using CeraVe  as my final moisturizing step.  It stings.  But it seems to keep my skin quite well hydrated, and absorbs really quickly.  A coating of Vaseline over my chin and around my mouth (where the peeling shows up) seems to really help as well.

I’m in the market now for a new hyaluronic acid product.  My Garden of Wisdom ones are almost out, and I didn’t see enough of a difference while using them to re-order.  I’m eyeing up the Hada Labo one I keep seeing good reviews of.  For now I’m using these My Beauty Diary Caviar Masks I got atT&T Market.  I was a bit worried about the scent but they don’t irritate and leave my skin smooth and soft.  Caviar also just sounds so luxurious, I couldn’t resist.  These masks do contain hyaluronic acid and feel really hydrating and nice.  I also feel like I’m spoiling myself when I use them. They all seem to have pretty similar ingredients, here is a list of the MBD items that have been run through COSDNA.  I really like COSDNA, it checks for possible irritants and acne triggers, and lists each of the ingredients and what their usual purpose is in skin care products.  It’s a good way to get past the unknowns on a product list, and avoid things you know your skin can’t take.  MBD isn’t by any means a perfect product (the fragrance could irritate some people,) but it works for a lot of people and seems to have a pretty solid list of ingredients.

Cat Psychology: Healthy Cats, Happy Cats

My girls have finally both been checked out by their vet, and the results are in.  Image

I really hope to not have to take Apolla in to the vet again in the near future, the car ride was extrememly stressful for her, she cried and cried and cried, louder than I’ve ever heard her meow.  She peed inside her carrier.  The poor girl was just exhausted by the time we got her home. 

Mia was far less upset about the trip.  She likes her carrier, and actually sleeps in it sometimes.  She wasn’t thrilled by the car ride, but the vets office was an amazing world of new smells and things to explore.

They are healthy, aside from Apolla possibly needing to lose a bit of weight.  (This is tricky as Apolla steals all the food and Mia prefers to graze.  Little jerk.)  The good news is that the bathroom problems aren’t health related. It seems that it was just territorial.  Which is I guess good, but it means we will still need to keep looking for things that make her feel territorial and insecure, or she will keep spraying.

One thing that seems to have helped a ton is keeping the window by their litter boxes closed.  My husband had this idea, since some of the neighbours have dogs and we already know that our girls really don’t like dogs.  Apolla especially it seems.  Closing the window has really really helped, as has the NEW feliway plug in I bought from the vet.  This one doesn’t smell like burning plastic, so that’s a bonus.  It seems to be relaxing Apolla and making her feel secure.  

We also bought new litter boxes that are much bigger and seem more sanitary.  Their old ones were quite small so I think these are much better.

So far there has been no spraying since we closed the window, so hopefully that’s the answer.  

MEMEBOX #21 Dermo-Cosmetics

What’s a Memebox?

Memebox is a Korean beauty box service that ships from Korea to Canada and the US (and quite a few other countries). In each Memebox, you get 6-8 Korean beauty products, some are deluxe samples and some are full sizes.  The normal box is $23 + shipping (and not shipping per box but per order, so if you order multiples it’s a way better deal.  Superboxes, like the one reviewed here, are between $29 and $39  This particular one was $39, I bought it during a $10 off sale.

You can earn “meme points” as well for additional discounts, and the way and number you earn is varied and seems a little random.  If you want one click here if you would like to use my affiliate link.  You get 10 memepoints just for signing up right now, which is a really good value!

On to the box!

Memebox  21 Dermo Cosmetics

I bought this box because I thought it would likely contain non-irritating, effective products.  I had hoped for free of scents, and free of irritants.

The Goods

  1. Dr Oracle Real White Eye Gel
  2. Dr Oracle Easy Care Shiny Water Pack
  3. Kangskin Beauty Multi Block Sun Cream
  4. Kangskin Beauty Scalp Treatment Shampoo
  5. Dewy Tree 7 Cut Facial Cream
  6. Kangskin Beauty Aqua Soothing Mask

Dewy Tree 7 Cut Facial Cream $40 Value:

INGREDIENTS:  Water, chamaecyparis obtusa water, hydrogenated polydecine, glycerin, cetearyl alcohol, dipropylene glycol, shea butter, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, triethyhexanion, macadamia temifolica seed oil, polyglyceryl-3 methylglucose disterate, sorbitan stearate, grapefruit extract, isopropyl palmitate, caulerpa len tillfera extract, ecklonia cava extract, cladosiphon okamuranus extract, ceramide 3, althea rosea root extract, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, sciadopitys verticillata root extract, polygonum multiforum root extract, eleuthro root extract, portulaca oleracea extract, panax ginsing root extract, asparagus cochinchinesis root extract, betaine, trehalose, cetearyl olivate, sorbitan olivate, glyceryl sterate SE, hydrogenated lecithin, sodium hydraulate, dextrain, citrus fruit oil, basil oil, lavander oil, thuja occidentalis leaf extract, cedrus altantica bark oil, chamomilla recuitita flower extract, cictus ladaniferus resin, pelargonium graveolens flower oil, citrus medica limonum peel oil citrus aurantium dulcis peel oil, pogo stemon calin oil, thyme flower/leaf extract, arginine trisodium EDTA, xanthin gum, carbomer, 1, 2,-Hexanediol, phedoxyethanol.

That’s a LOT of versions of citrus products.  Too many.  COSDNA mainly returned a lot of fragrance and potential acne and irritation triggers.

A product page I found said:  “7 Additive effects of toxic elements are maximized by minimizing the daily cream. Miracle of the forest and the sea blue algae Phytoncide sap effective ingredients helps to improve nervous and tired skin.”

This is probably something I’ll try on my body.


Kangskin Beauty Scalp Treatment Shampoo ($18):

INGREDIENTS:  It actually says “Main ingredients” on the box, so I guess that isn’t the whole list:  Biotin, collagen, tripeptide, cooper peptide, herb complex, ECT.

Shampoo?  OK, not what I expected.  This stuff smells… bad.  Like medicinal bad.  But my hair seems to like it OK. The product explanation card says that this shampoo is infused with stem cell activating ingredients to treat damaged scalp tissue and damaged hair ends for healthy hair growth.  It’s in a very small container, but you don’t need much, so I guess it will last a while.  I’ll try it for a few weeks and see if my hair magically looks better.  I won’t be holding my breath.


Dr Oracle Easy Care Shiny Water Pack ($25)

INGREDIENTS: This is another one I can’t find anywhere online.  The product card says it contains grape seed oil, jojoba oil, macadamia seed oil, olive oil, sunflower seed oil, avocado oil and annatto oils.  The box itself has “No added agreeable: parabens, phenoxyethyl, benzophenone, surfactants, animal oil, GMO, imidazolidinyl urea, artifical colors, talc.”  Below that there is a section that says “Fermented Caragana Root Extract” which I guess means it’s got that ingredient.

I have loved every product that I have tried with the words “water pack” in them.  If there is one thing Korean skin care products have consistently been “wins” for me, it’s subtle watery moisture.  I’ve so far only tried this on my hand, but it’s got a watery consistency.

The instructions card says you can either massage it in for 10 seconds, and rinse it off, of layer it under makeup for a dewy look.  Once I’m done patch testing, I’m going to try the latter.  My dehydrated skin always looks much better when it’s made to look “dewy.”


Kangskin Beauty Multi Block Sun Cream ($42)

I’m always thrilled to get sun screen in my beauty boxes.  It’s expensive, and another thing I’ve had really really good luck with from Korean brands.

INGREDIENTS: Arbutin, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Isomany p-MC, Ceramide

Good list!  I love physical sunscreens, I don’t care about white cast since I wear makeup anyway.  I’m looking forward to using this.



Dr Oracle Real White Eye Gel $30

INGREDIENTS: Not listed, and another I can’t find online.  The box says it doesn’t have any mineral oil, triethanolamine, sulfate surfactant, talc, artificial colorants.  It contains 8 white flower extracts.

I like this kind of eye cream, and the consistency is liquidy and nice.  I’m still using the Dr Jart from a previous Memebox, so this will go into the “to try later” pile.


Kangskin Beauty Aqua Soothing Mask $10

More stem cell activating ingredients!

I love sheet masks, so I’ll try this one soon.


I’m overall pretty happy with this box.  I love trying new products, and the sunscreen, shiny water pack and eye cream alone make this box well worth the cost.  I’m excited to order more from memebox since their boxes seem to be really really good value and have great products (because high value products I don’t like aren’t going to be worth much to me.)

The total value of this box is $165 in products.  I’d remove the Dewy Tree 7 Cut from the “value to me” price, making it still a $125 box.

(Under $30) Cheapskate Approved because it’s so high value!


    Will use most products, very happy with the box all in all. Good Buy!