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.

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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.

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

  1. I found your blog through r/beautyboxes and am officially addicted! Just curious – have you tried any sort of oil on your face to help combat the dryness/flakiness from your treatment? I’ve had great success with rosehip seed oil, argan oil, and coconut oil. I thought for sure they’d make me break out or be too heavy, but they’re surprisingly light and noncomedogenic (and cheap!).

    • Hi 🙂 yes I love oils! I use a combo of argon, jojoba and almond to moisturize and a mix of those plus mineral to oil cleanse. Right now I’m traveling for work and I’m by myself so I’ve been completely smothering my face in oil and cerave and topping it with Vaseline with no worry of gross out my husband or ruining my own pillows. It’s working really well!

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