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How to Prevent Retin-A Stinging and Rough Patches

4 Ways to Prevent Retin-A Flare-Ups

Adult acne is the pits, and recently, due to a particularly terrible bout with it, my dermatologist prescribed me a tretinoin (aka Retin-A) gel to combat my bumps. While I see a marked difference in the appearance of pimples, one side effect I don't love is scaly, irritated skin. Peeling is part of the process of using tretinoin, but you can minimize the side effects with these tips.

  • Easy does it: Ease your skin into the treatment by starting out with a small amount per application. Also, if you're instructed to apply your cream or gel both day and night, apply just once per day, gradually increasing your recommended dosage as your skin becomes accustomed to your new regimen.
  • Mix it up: If you're getting rough, scaly patches on your face, simply mix your Retin-A with a mild moisturizer. It won't alter the benefits of your prescribed treatment, and it will help to soften the skin.
  • Skip it: If your skin's really hurting, just skip a day or two to let your skin readjust.
  • Go mild: Other acne-fighting ingredients, like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, might prove to be too irritating when used in combination with Retin-A. A mild soap, moisturizer, and sunscreen are probably all you'll need.
Join The Conversation
Ellenora Ellenora 7 years
Bella--Would you believe my dad wanted me to go to school and that it was PICTURE day? My mom (thankfully for 15-year-old me) won that argument.
Beauty Beauty 7 years
Ellenora, that is terrifying! Yikes.
Ellenora Ellenora 7 years
I did Retin-A Micro (aka the less harsh stuff) for three days and my face blew up on top of the scaling and redness; I scaled to the point they created some awful skin fissures. My doctor rushed me to her dermatologist. He had to put me on some heavy steroids and prescribed a surgical gel to heal the fissures in my skin. He told my mom to buy me some gel eye masks to heal the scaling near my eyes and reduce the redness. I would have to wait for my eyelashes to regrow and it may take years as my skin suffered some heavy trauma. He faxed my doctor that he had never seen that severe of a reaction to Retin-A Micro. He diagnosed me with a severe retinol/tretinoin allergy and hyper-sensitive skin. The lesson to take from this is if you feel like your skin is peeling and scaling too much, stop the medicine and go to your doctor ASAP. I had no problems until that day but I was forbidden from all acne products for a year.
amandachalynn amandachalynn 7 years
Retin-A didn't work for me at first. I eventually went on Accutane, and that really worked. Now I use retin-A every other day, and I haven't even had a blackhead since November, when I came off the Accutane. I use a gentle cleanser at night, and moisturize.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
I've been using Retin-A for the last several years. I have adult cystic acne that is hormone driven. Since I am very regular (hormone wise), I had very regular cystic acne flare ups. Retin-A does an excellent job managing my acne. My skin is clear and smooth. My scars (from past break outs) are minimized. I use Retin-A once a day. There is an adjustment period with Retin-A. For me, what helped was to stop washing my face with cleaning products, as they over dried my skin which lead to drying and peeling. I just use plain water once a day. Also, I use sunblock every day AND reapply during the day. All this as helped me settled in with Retin-A.
Chelsea25 Chelsea25 7 years
Tretinoin is great for adult acne but you have to be careful how often you use it. I stupidly used the gel almost every night for about a year (I was so relieved to find something that actually worked) and my skin seemed to tolerate it well because I had very oily skin to begin with. Then boom! my skin began to crack and peel soreness and stinging and dermatitis on my cheeks. My dermatologist said I'd been too harsh on my skin for too long and now I was paying for it. Literally couldnt use any kinds of chemicals or acne washes or creams for months to allow it to settle and heal. unfortunately during that time my acne wasnt being controlled so I had to go on antibiotics for 2 months. This is obviously worst case scenario and If i'd known I would have been more careful. If skin is abused it will react eventually so yeah, try to go easy and maybe alternate the nights you use it and put it on v thinly to minimise the risks of irritation. But in my opinion a great acne product if used properly.
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