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.


Seeking the Fountain of Youth: Adventures in Tretinoin Week 1 of Tretinoin, and Using it in the Eye Area

I’m on the lowest dose, 0.01% Stieva A cream to try and minimize and prevent wrinkles.  Monday makes the end of week one using this.

The Purge:  It’s begun.  My forehead takes the worst of it every time I start on something that causes a purge, but this time it actually more around my mouth.  Hopefully once this heals up that will be the end of it.  I just need to wait it out, I guess.  I’m super red and irritated looking, but my skin is always on the pinkish side so this isn’t that bad for me.  This is what I’m looking like makeup free (I’m never makeup free outside the house) these days:


The redness on my chest is sun damage and I’m hoping to get rid of.  My chest gets really really really red with exfoliants, C serums, the sun, anything.

Meanwhile, I have been researching tretinoin and eyes, since my fine lines are all around my eyes, and between my eyebrows.  

The last thing I want to do is damage my eyes, but I do want to reduce wrinkles.  I also wanted to find out if this is even effective, since some of the usage instructions I’ve found online say to keep it away from the eye area.  

The internet, like with all topics, is 99% anecdote and hysteria, and 1% real actual information on the topic.  I was able to find some information, none of it is very good sources, unfortunately.

Tretinoin and the Eye Area

The Good:

Paula’s Choice, a very well respected and often quoted resource actually states that Retin-A (tretinoin) is perfect for under the eyes but that since the skin is thin and sensitive, it’s important to start out a slowly by only using it a few days a week at first (if required, mix ith moisturizer to buffer the tretinoin,) and increasing as the skin adapts.  (Very common advice for those starting out on tretinoin in general, as is the moisturizer as a buffer concept.) says that even though the eye area tends to be more sensative than the rest of the face, itt is okay to use retinoids in ther eye area to work on reducing the fine wrinkles there (taking care to avoid the eyelids).They go on to say that  it is common for any fine lines to look crepey and be even more pronounced, in the eye area.

The Bad:

There are a lot of anecdotes about how using tretinoin under the eyes actually caused more wrinkles and crepeness.  I’ve seen this complaint repeated in forums and message boards, but I haven’t seen anything that actually backs up this claim and concerns me.  Most of these posters did not continue with its use, so there isn’t a lot of follow up for these anecdotes, or any kind of longer term effects records of people who had this complaint.   

The Explanation:

The eye area (I guess like the rest of the face) can look worse better it gets better, and this stage can last months. (Am I selling you on tretinoin yet?)  According to Paula’s Choice, the increased skin cell turnover will tend to make the epidermis accumulate and the skin will look “dry” (actually dry dead skin cells) and fine lines may look worse at first (including symptoms like dry skin cracks – yikes.)  This may explain those complaints.  I would add that it’s also possible that they may not have properly applied sunscreen and  experienced additional sun damage due to the increased photosensitivity, or that they didn’t increase their moisturizing products.  On another site, where apparently doctors answer skincare questions (take that with as big a grain of salt as possible, I don’t know that any actual doctors would do this,) a response to a post that someone made about said that the wrinkling, irritation, and skin sensitivity is a description of the irritation by tretinoin itself, and to decrease dose/frequency of application, and moisturize like crazy.   

From my own perspective, I’ve already noticed that my skin is feeling dehydrated, and it’s only been a few days.  Without addressing that problem, I can see how the symptoms of dehydration (tightness, stinging, overproduction of oil plus a dull, sallow or tired look) can be a dealbreaker for those on tretinoin.


For the overall safety of tretinoin use in the eye area, the main precaution is irritation if it actually gets into the eye.  I saw a few anecdotes of people who ended up being diagnosed with conjunctivitis after getting it in their eyes -all of these stories were combined with contacts, which I wear, so that’s good to be careful of.  Another response to the question of safety I found said that tretinoin around the eye area is safe, as long as you do not get it into the eyelid margin.


Everything I’ve found seems to indicate that putting tretinoin in the eye area (except the eyelids) is safe and will work for reducing fine lines.

I’m going to go for it, all my fine lines are around my eye area, so I think this will be worth a try.  I guess I won’t know for sure until about 6 months from now.