Skincare Sunday – Retinoids

Happy Sunday, everyone! I am actually blogging on a Sunday. It’s crazy, right? I actually decided to start a weekly series and post every Sunday. I get a lot of questions about skincare, and it is a subject that I feel pretty passionately about. I’ve done a ton of research and I have going to the same dermatologist since I was a young teen dealing with acne. She has always given me great information and education on skincare that is proper for my age, and what ingredients to look for in products.

I am one of those people who believes in simple, effective ingredients. I don’t like using a million of them, either. I refuse to pay tons of money for a product that claims to do something when I can find the active ingredient of that product for a fraction of the price. I have done such extensive research on all sorts of skincare aspects – whether it’s cleansers, serums, moisturizers, acne treatments, and I have begun to dabble in the world of anti-aging products. I have a lot to share with what I’ve found, so it only makes sense to break this down once a week for you guys to share my infinite knowledge and wisdom. Ha. Hence, Skincare Sunday!

Just as a disclaimer, I am not a medical professional, nor do I claim to be. Please take what I say and consult with your doctor/dermatologist before purchasing and using anything I recommend.

Skincare Sunday

Today’s topic is going to be the most important product you’ll probably ever need ever. All About Retinoids. My holy grail skincare product. Intimidating, yet awesome. Hey, go big or go home with this first post, right?

You’ve probably heard the terms “Retinol”, “Retinoid” , or even “Retinyl” before, and they all sound pretty scary. Basically all of these are skincare treatments that are derived from Vitamin A. What’s the difference between them all? Retinoids are the highest concentration and can only be obtained through a prescription. Retinols and Retinyls can be found in over-the-counter skincare products, and are commonly seen in anti-aging products. It really is a lot to discuss for one post, so if you’d like to research more of the differences in these products, I suggest you take a look at this page. Or google it.

Which one is best?
In my opinion, Retinoids are the way to go. The brand name of that is usually called Retin-A. You should be going to your dermatologist once a year anyway, just to get your skin checked for any abnormalities. While you’re there, you should ask if you may be a candidate Retin-A/Retinoid/Tretinoin prescription. Chances are you probably are if you are wanting to fight the signs of aging and/or acne.

What are the benefits?
It is one of the only products available that has significant proven results with anti-aging. It also is great for acne prone skin. It really rejuvenates the skin. This is particularly a great product for women like me in their thirties, who are dealing with adult acne but are also wanting to fight a little aging as well.

What does it do?
It gets the skin to rapidly exfoliate, hence why it is great with aging and acne prone skin.

What are some of the side effects?
Since your skin is constantly exfoliating at a pretty rapid rate, your skin can be fairly thin. With that, it is absolutely imperative to wear a sunscreen at all times during the day. It is also a bad idea to wax any hair on your face. If it is improperly used, you will also dry up and flake quite a bit. Your skin may be a little more sensitive feeling when you are adjusting and getting used to it.


This is my prescription of Retin-A. Well, technically it’s a generic brand, and called “Tretinoin Cream”. You can usually get this in a cream or gel form, with concentrations of 0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.1% (the highest concentration). As you can see, I have the highest concentration available. It is some crazy strong stuff. My dermatologist has always said that it’s better for me to start with the highest concentration because you can always use less and build your way up. It took me a while to get used to it. It’s lasted me well over a year, and it was cheap.

Now, to the important part. And the part that took me a long time to learn. How to use it. I used to have a love/hate relationship with this stuff because it seemed like every time I would use it, I would just get super dry, sensitive, and flake and it took me so long to get back to where I was I never wanted to repeat the cycle. Now I have a love/love relationship because I have figured out what works best. This took a lot of trial and error and a lot of research that is not readily available.

My routine with my Retin-A is this:

  • I only use this product at night and I wash it off in the morning.
  • I do not use it every night. This is crucial when you are starting out on this prescription. Start with it once a week. Then once your skin is used to it, add in another day (spaced out, of course). I’ve been using it for years now (off and on), and I cannot use it every day. I can mostly tolerate it every other day or every two days.
  • After I wash my face, I wait at least thirty minutes before applying the cream. For some reason, if I do not wait, I will always peel and get extremely dry and sensitive. If I can wait longer than thirty minutes, then I will.
  • I apply the tiniest amount. Literally smaller than pea size. Start super duper small. It is also safe to apply it (very sparingly) under the eyes, down the neck, and even the back of your hands.
  • Oftentimes I will follow up with a moisturizer. It’s not a necessary step, but if you are dry it may be a good idea. No need to wait for the Retin-A to sink in.
  • This product does fine with every salicylic acne cleanser I use, but I keep it very simple with the products I layer on over it. No anti-aging serums or creams over it. A lot of times I’ll even use extra virgin coconut oil. It’s never a good idea to have too many products on your face at once. Usually the Retin-A and maybe some coconut oil (I also make sure to apply it under the eyes, too) will do the trick.
  • On my “off” nights, I will use a hyaluronic acid serum (all about that stuff coming up soon!) and a Retinol cream, so I am still getting a weak derivative of Vitamin A. Right now I’m using Vichy LiftActiv Retinol HA Night Total Wrinkle Plumping Care (gosh, that’s a mouthful) and I love it.

How does my skin look when I am consistent with Retinoids?
My skin is a lot brighter, toned and much clearer. My post acne marks fade very quickly. If I do get a break out, it clears faster. My faint lines seem less deep.

I know this is a lot to take in at once, but I highly encourage you to start researching Retinoids to see if it will work for you. Obviously this product may not work for everyone, but I highly encourage you to check it out and talk with your dermatologist about it!

p.s. Do you subscribe to any beauty boxes or other fun monthly subscriptions? Do you like to blog about it? Be sure to come back on Tuesday and link your posts up with me for Subscription Box Share!


  • Reply
    September 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    This is really interesting. I typically don’t pay attention to my products at all (except during pregnancy) but now I feel like I should!

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      September 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      I know for sure you can’t use Retin A while pregnant, but you can while nursing (I’m pretty sure). Check with your dermatologist if you are interested in using it. Yes, definitely start paying close attention to your skin care routine. For some reason, I feel like after I had Kennedy, it had aged me or something, so all of a sudden I’m REALLY into anti aging stuff!

  • Reply
    September 2, 2013 at 9:37 am

    I’m kind of obsessed with this new series you’ve got going on. Genius!

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      September 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Thank you so much, pal! There is more coming your way!!!

  • Reply
    September 3, 2013 at 9:37 am

    I used Retin-A in high school to fade the stretch marks on my legs and boobs from growth spurts and it was a LIFEsaver! I never used it on my face (although my mom used to) because I was lucky to not be terribly acne prone, however, I’m very curious about this as an anti-aging solution! Mostly, I’m concerned about my fine lines by the corner of my eyes (crows feet!!!!!) and my neck. I saw you said you can use it sparingly there, but have you noticed any real improvement there?? I’m using LifeLine, a non-embryonic stem cell eye cream right now and while I thought I was seeing pretty good results at first, 5 weeks later of using it twice a day religiously, I’m not sure it’s pulling the weight a $95/ounce product should. Thoughts?

  • Reply
    September 3, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I’m glad you posted this! Do you know anything about the difference between Retin-A and Retin-A Micro? I’ve been prescribed the Micro in the past and again recently, and it makes my skin so oily I can’t stand it. It’s so bad I can’t use it (and I have very dry skin normally). I really want to use it so I can stop the aging process, so I’m thinking about regular Retin-A! Thought I’d ask!

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      September 6, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      I’m pretty sure that the Retin A Micro is formulated for more sensitive skin, so it is less irritating. I would definitely ask your derm and see what he/she would recommend. You probably got put on the Micro because you have dry skin. Honestly, though, I think everyone can tolerate regular Retin A if you apply it correctly.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    So you use it all over your face? I was under the understanding it was to treat breakouts after they happen not to prevent them. Might have to start trying this

    • Reply
      Meg O.
      September 6, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      I apply a thin layer over my entire face, yes. I would actually not recommend using it as a spot treatment, as that’s not really what its purpose is. It’s really effective!

      • Reply
        September 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm

        So glad I came across this! THANKS!!

        • Reply
          Meg O.
          September 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm

          You are so welcome! Glad to help!

  • Reply
    Skincare Sunday - Hyaluronic Acid
    September 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    […] a little damp, and I use two pumps. It covers my face, neck, decollatage, and backs of my hands. On nights I’m using my Retin-A, I will not apply anything else, and wait for 30 minutes to apply my Retin-A. On other nights, I […]

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