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Treatments (Face) - Retin A

rated 4.1(519 reviews)

  • Average Rating: 4.1
  • 82% would buy again
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rated 4 of 5 top reviewer on 7/16/2012 8:45:00 PM More reviews by MsVengeance

Age: 25-29 Skin: Acne-prone, Other, Warm Hair: Black, Straight, Medium Eyes: Brown

I used the lowest strength differin gel for over 5 years before my dr switched me to retin a to see if it helped better with acne and scarring (I am happy to report that for me, it helps smooth scarring so much faster!). This was directly after I made a pathetic 3 month attempt at doing an accutane course, by the way (took such a long time to get the freaking stuff and then by the time I did I was already clear enough that it wasn't worth the side effects!). I started out using the .05% cream for about 6 months and then switched to the .01% gel a couple of months ago.

I experienced no breakouts and no flaking, but I am of mixed ethnicity (half asian) and never seem to get flaky skin. Instead, the retin a cream just made my skin look perpetually irritated and inflamed for pretty much the entire time I used it. My doctor kept telling me to use it every night but I swear to god i couldnt....the cream always made every single shallow acne scar and minor imperfection I ever had look about a billion times worse and my pores sometimes looked like they were becoming craters.

It was scary and annoying b/c my crappy skin texture was the whole reason I was using it and suddenly I looked like I had "orange peel" skin... I think a big part of the perpetual irritation was from my use of vitamin c serums in addition to retin a. I never used them at the same time, but retin a just seems to make my skin overly sensitive to certain things, and vitamin c is one of them (it's an acid too so no wonder my skin burned all day, even when I skipped using the retin).

Another thing is, my dr advised me not to use a moisturizer or if I did, to only use it afterwards. This was TERRIBLE advice on her part. My skin always seemed so dehydrated and almost leathery despite the fact that i was using the cream version, so I would sometimes apply moisturizer (cetaphil) on top of it b/c I just couldn't bare having dry skin. Too bad my dr neglected to specify that if you apply a moisturizer you should wait a full hour before doing so, otherwise it's like applying the retin to a wet face (makes it really harsh). Then again, waiting a full hour to moisturize or trying to use it as a buffer doesn't seem to make much difference for me with the cream (it irritates my skin no matter what; maybe this is because instead of actually penetrating it just sits on top of my skin and eats away at it?).

Anyways, the only reason I kept using it was b/c sometimes I would skip using it for a few days and be able to see that my skin was getting smoother (faster than with the differin). But hooman, when i switched to the gel the improvement was immediately apparent b/c my face stopped looking all inflamed and suddenly appeared normal---no giant pores and dent-like imperfections, in fact, all the acne scars I had been obsessing about were WAY shallower (some of them even disappeared). It kind of pisses me off though...I mean, did my dr just assume that it was normal for me to look like absolute sh*t all the time? I guess so...

I find the gel to be WAY less harsh than the cream; i barely need any and it's so much easier for me to control and spread. I only use the gel every other night and i moisturize with Cerave pm lotion or Estée Lauder serum 1/2 hour BEFORE I apply the retin.

Oh yeah, one really important thing: do not use this stuff unless you're willing to use an SPF of at least 30 every day, otherwise it'll just end up doing you more harm than good (trust me, even if you're not prone to sunburn, you are prone to sun damage and you will be even moreso with this stuff and who knows how long it'll take to become apparent?).

5 out of 6 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

rated 5 of 5 on 7/13/2012 9:46:00 AM More reviews by jsk10

Age: 30-35 Skin: Combination, Fair-Medium, Not Sure Hair: Black, Other, Other Eyes: Brown

I started using Retin A, tretinoin .05% about 15 weeks ago. I've never had sensitive skin but I started to peel like crazy. The tricky thing when you begin is that it takes about 3 days to see the effect of the first usage, so I was using it nightly, saw no effect, no effect, and then suddenly my skin was so red and irritated! I backed off to every other night, sometimes skipping an extra night, and my skin still peeled like crazy but it wasn't red and irritated anymore.

I knew it needed to peel. I didn't purge with acne or anything but I haven't had acne in years. I wanted more to deal with pigmentation and old acne scars. I could tell quite quickly that my skin was getting better because in the morning, after I'd sloughed off the layers with my Clarisonic Mia, my skin looked great but unfortunately, no one else could see how great my skin looked because within an hour, I'd be shedding again. I just dealt with it, esp. because I read other reviews and knew that most people had the peeling stop.

Well, by week 12, I was still peeling like crazy and my skin was amazing underneath the peeling, but I still looked insane, so I was starting to wonder how I'd deal with this long-term. I mean, what's the point of having great skin if it's covered by layers of peeling skin every day? But then in week 13, from one day to the next, the peeling totally stopped! Hallelujah! It just stopped. It had been peeling like crazy and then it stopped. I didn't do anything different and my skin looks AMAZING. Really. So youthful, fine and smooth. My skin has never looked this good as an adult. The pigment spots and scars are either gone or greatly reduced, and the overall texture of my skin is much finer and smoother. I never thought I would be saying this about my skin.

Without makeup, my skin looks the way it used to look after makeup and if I put on foundation and powder now, my skin looks completely perfect and dewy. I didn't have a lot of wrinkles, only a few fine lines and I don't see them anymore. Without makeup my skin still isn't completely perfect but I've only been using this for 15 weeks.

Was definitely worth the weeks of peeling. Some people asked me if I had dry skin but really, most didn't really pay attention and if they did, they'll soon forget. Now I already have people telling me how amazing my skin looks. So yay!

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

rated 1 of 5 on 7/7/2012 3:59:00 PM More reviews by rubie93

Age: 19-24 Skin: Very Dry, Medium, Cool Hair: Brunette, Straight, Fine Eyes: Hazel

I tried this stuff just to smooth out my face and get rid of some little bumps, I don't really have acne. I had heard it would cause your skin to peel a little, but first day after I used it my skin was peeling like CRAZY. But I figured, ok, so that means its working, right? The next morning when I woke up my skin was literally on fire. My whole face was bright red and covered in hives and it hurt SOO bad. It felt like hives combined with the worlds worst sunburn. I stopped using it immediately, but it took 2 or 3 weeks for the damage to completely go away. I assume that I was allergic to it? Because if that's what it is supposed to do I doubt ANYONE would willingly go through all that. 

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rated 2 of 5 on 6/24/2012 12:17:00 PM More reviews by silencia

Age: 25-29 Skin: Combination, Olive, Not Sure Hair: Black, Wavy, Coarse Eyes: Black

I've been using this for about 3 years. The first few weeks I had flare-ups, but a few months later my skin looked tight and smooth. However, after 1.5 years I started noticing not ever having that smooth, tight skin anymore. At the 3 year mark, I noticed large pores, think skin, smile lines, skin that is far from plump, dehydration, dryness (this one was always present on and off). I didn't apply this to my undereyes but it probably seeped up there and now it's really wrinkly.
I believe I've grown accustomed to the product and no longer benefit from it

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rated 5 of 5 on 6/21/2012 10:12:00 PM More reviews by DrZoidberg

Age: 30-35 Skin: Sensitive, Fair, Warm Hair: Blond, Straight, Fine Eyes: Blue

This is a prescription-only product here in Australia. I use 0.05% Tretinoin, brand name Retrieve. The base is very nice - not greasy, sort of like a gel-creme. I have been using it for approximately 6 months and this keeps the cystic acne on my chin completely under control as long as I also keep taking my birth control pill. I apply Retrieve every night after I cleanse. My skin is fairly resilient so I'm able to use it without buffering. Making sure skin is free of moisture before I apply is key, as I will experience flaking otherwise. It took me approximately 2 months for my skin to get used to the product and then another month after that to really start clearing my skin. I buy this quite cheaply in Australia - about $40 for a decent sized tube, which will likely last me a year or more. In fact I'm pretty sure it will expire before I finish it! After seeing such great results on my acne, I've begun applying it to my sunspots, but I can't report any progress there yet. Retrieve/Retin A is now a staple in my skincare routine and I will definitely be sticking with it.

4 out of 5 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

rated 5 of 5 on 6/21/2012 7:38:00 PM More reviews by trace517

Age: 36-43 Skin: Combination, Fair-Medium, Not Sure Hair: Blond, Other, Other Eyes: Green

I have been trying to use Retin-a for about a year with horrible side effects. I would get really dry and red, even if i used it every other day with the lowest strengh. I recently over the past couple months started mixing equal amouts of retin-a and paula's choice hydrating treatment cream. I am completely amazed. My skin has never looked this good. No breakouts!!!!! I started using it for aging purposes. I would recommend this to anyone that wants clear beautiful skin. Don't be affraid to mix with moisurizer. This is what my derm. told me to try..

11 out of 13 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

rated 5 of 5 top reviewer on 6/14/2012 1:44:00 PM More reviews by Spamstuff

Age: 36-43 Skin: Sensitive, Fair, Cool Hair: Brown, Curly, Coarse Eyes: Hazel

My review is for the Retin A Micro gel pump, it runs me $85 as Blue Cross Blue Shield thinks that a 40 year old woman is only using it for wrinkles.

*If you have tried retin A cream or the generic equivalent and had a bad experience, try the Micro gel! It is a cushioned product, it slowly administers the product across your skin over time instead of blasting it. Don't let anyone tell you that the cream and Micro gel are the same, they are not!! The cream can be harsh.

I had cystic acne in high school, I literally had road-rash-face, starting at 13.. My doctor refused to give me Retin'A and said I'd have to go see a derm, but we didn't have insurance for that and I didn't want to ask my dad to pay for it when he was already trying to pay for two kids he could barely afford. I endured torturous bullying over my acne, it was disfiguring and at times I looked like I had horns coming out of my forehead or chin or cheek. I would lay my face down on the hard tile floor of our kitchan and push until the cysts broke inside, that was the only way I knew how to deal with them. Fast forward 25 years and my skin is amazing, thanks to the Retin-A Micro, and Finacea! You wouldn't look at my skin and think I'm 40. And unless I don't have makeup on, you'd think I have mostly perfect skin!

Yes it has a 'purge' phase when you first use it. But that won't last long, and you'll never have zits like that again. But start off slowly! It can make you feel like you have a chemical burn! I started with the weakest RetinA and it still burned my face, but now I use the full strength twice a day and no problems. Just clear smooth skin!

12 out of 12 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

rated 3 of 5 on 6/14/2012 1:33:00 PM More reviews by PandaTwins

Age: 19-24 Skin: Acne-prone, Fair, Not Sure Hair: Red, Other, Other Eyes: Green

I have been using this for a month to combat acne (I had to stop using glycolic peel every week, because its almost summer now and my acne got a lot worse). I did not have any dramatic purging so far, no flaking or redness. The skin just feels slightly sunburnt all the time, although it cannot possible be. My skin is a bit more volatile and I wake up with a few new pimples every morning- the good thing about these pimples is, that they are really sort of dry and heal in few hours to a point where they are easy to cover with makeup. Definitely does something good with my acne! It heals extremely quickly, but also forms really quickly...So far I do not know what to think of it...Prepare for a bumpy ride if you have acne...definitely not as good as Duac, which just clears your skin pretty much immediately.. I will update in a month, probably with a porcelain clear skin...haha
btw: I paid 5 dollars for this with a prescription from my dermatologist. I would not advice anyone to use this without consulting a doctor, since my derm told me, that I have to come back in 5 weeks time for a check up and that she had some really bad experience with retin A that left permanent damage on a couple of patients faces..

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rated 4 of 5 top reviewer on 6/12/2012 11:16:00 PM More reviews by iamlizlemon

Age: 30-35 Skin: Dry, Fair-Medium, Neutral Hair: Brunette, Straight, Fine Eyes: Brown

The major things to note about this product are (1) It will cause redness and peeling (2) It will make you extremely sensitive to the sun, (3) Do not be tempted by the positive results to use too much or use it too often because you will get an unnatural celebrity Botox-face (4) It will work but as soon as you stop, your skin will return to its original state -- i.e. where you had wrinkles that softened, those wrinkles will reappear; where you had a spot, that spot will return. It is not a cure because you will likely need to use the product for the rest of your life to maintain the effects.
MY SKIN --- I have been using Retin-A 0.05% for about 1 year now. I originally started using it as a treatment for a strange bout of adult acne & continued using it as a face cream afterwards. I have mildly sensitive skin & use it only twice a week.
WAYS TO USE --- There are two ways to use this product (1) As a mask = apply a thin layer all over the face and leave it on for a few minutes, then wash off. Best method for those whom it just hurts too much to use overnight. Or a good way to ease into the product. (2) As a serum overnight = Use only a pea sized amount, dab it all over face, then I rub in with three fingers to make sure there's a thin layer throughout.
TIME OF YEAR TO START --- You should also think about what time of year you want to start using this because it takes a few months to adjust to the peeling & there are pros & cons to starting in winter/summer. WINTER = Pro is that since the product causes massive sun sensitivity which can make skin even worse, there's just less sun exposure in the winter. Con is that your skin is naturally more dry in the winter so the peeling and irritation will be worse. SUMMER = Pro is that your skin is more oily in the summer and less dry so peeling won't be as bad. Con is that the sun exposure is very dangerous and you will need to use sunscreen heavily & diligently.
PEELING -- YES, I definitely experience peeling and redness. Excessive dryness combined with fresh skin can cause even more wrinkles so you must moisturize well when using this. Aquaphor is your absolute best friend (and no, Vaseline is really not the same). My face didn't hurt because I use Aquaphor & Argan Oil to moisturize on days after. Increased sun sensitivity can also damage skin further so you must also apply a heavy sunscreen. You will definitely peel & look red at first. You may find that you will want to exfoliate BUT NOT WITH HARSH exfoliants. I apply a thin layer of Aquaphor & rub 2 fingers on the areas that are peeling. For those of you who want to wear makeup, I recommend using an Asian BB cream if you must apply makeup for those days afterwards. Asian BB creams are developed for post-chemical peels & plastic surgery. Just make sure you heavily moisturized your face & have sunscreen underneath
PURGING -- With prescription Retin-A, I did not experience any purging. To me, it seems counter-intuitive that you're supposed to "purge" because it's an acne treatment so it should not cause acne. I broke out from other OTC versions (ROC, Neutrogena, etc) & I believe that's a result of other ingredients that they add in the product. If you are breaking out from this product, it is likely from an ingredient, not from the retinol itself. Try a different but similar product such as Tazorac.
OVERALL --- Do you see a difference immediately? It depends but most likely, NO. At first you will peel a lot so it's hard to tell. For me, within a few days my face looked brighter even through the peeling. A few weeks, it was softer & wrinkles were smoothed. After a few months, my skin was more plump, smooth & bright. BUT, I have also tested & found that when I stopped using it even for 1 week, my face returned to its original state -- wrinkles and all. So it's not a miracle product & I'm not sure how I feel about having to use it for the rest of my life. Also, be careful not to use too much & too often because you'll get a horrible face much like Botox face -- tight, plump, but really unnatural and stiff looking. Definitely a product with some controversial pros & cons. So long as you're fully educated, it's safe & up to you to use.

17 out of 21 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

rated 1 of 5 on 6/8/2012 1:06:00 AM More reviews by KATHNH

Age: 56 & Over Skin: Dry, Fair, Not Sure Hair: Silver, Other, Other Eyes: Blue

I tried the Retin A about two years ago, when I was sixty. I have pretty good skin but I have some sun spots that stick out like a sore thumb. I despise, and have never worn, heavy foundation or concealer.

I think I should have applied it all over my face and neck; not just on the places where I have the sun spots because I have one place in particular that looks strange because the sun damage is there but then you can see where the cream migrated around the area and it's lighter than my regular complexion.

I tried putting on a tiny bit, using just the very tip of a Q-Tip but that didn't work either. Finally, one night and I still don't know what happened, it migrated all over my neck on one side and it hurt quite badly. It peeled and hurt for several days and I asked my pharmacist about it and he said he thought I appeared to be having an allergic reaction to it. He suggested I stop using it.

I have and I haven't had the nerve to put it back on. I use another product I mentioned in another post and that seems to work the best for me. All in all, I wish we'd had effective sunblock back in the good old days but since we didn't, I'm glad I don't have too many sun spots on my beautiful face! :D


Last year I went to a Dermatologist for a complete skin check. Duh! I didn't know I should have been doing it since I was 40 - my son had to tell me!

The doctor was checking my face and neck and stopped at the white spot I mentioned above. He said, "How did you get burnt here?"

I thought he was joking and told him I'd put prescription strength Retinol on it and it bleached the whole area. He pointed out, as if I didn't know, that the sun spot I had been trying to remove was still there. He asked how much it had hurt. (See above as to symptoms and pain.) He said the white area was not a "bleached" area as I had thought but the result of a 2nd Degree burn! He said it was a good thing I had stopped using it. He also said I should only use a product with Hydroquinone in it to fade the spots, which he said were minor. They're on my face and I thought they were major!

He told me to list Retin-A, under allergies, on my medical history and indicate it caused a 2nd degree burn. He cautioned me to check all products I plan to put on my face to make sure they had no Retinoids in them. I told him I had tried it on the inside of my arm first but for only a day. I know I should have tried it for at least seven days. He said with skin as sensitive as mine, I should try all skin products for at least ten days! Yikes! When I buy something I can't wait to use it right away!

Thought I'd pass along some very important information because I am, by nature, very careful of what I supplements I take and carefully read the contents of anything I'm going to use on my skin since I know I have sensitive skin. I was careless and what would I look like now if I had really put it all over my face, as I suggested in the 2nd paragraph of my original review?

The motto of the story is you can never be too careful what you put on your body and if it says to do a patch test; do it! And no matter what age you are, don't over-react to a little imperfection at the risk of causing a serious problem.

9 out of 10 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No