Starting a Prescription Retinoid? Here’s How To Adjust

Best skin ever mode, activate
Publish date:
January 30, 2015
dry skin, prescription acne products, tretinoin, retinoids, skin care, pocketderm

Um, you guys? I am having the best skin I’ve had in years right now. Some of you sweeties in the comments have noticed, too, and I want to shout from the rooftops that you should try PocketDerm! I started using the online dermatology service back in July, and my customized prescription has my skin in great shape.

But I’ll be honest. Starting a prescription skin care product definitely has…an adjustment period. While my prescription combines azelaic acid, clindamyacin, and tretinoin, the last was the culprit for some initial skin care woes.

Tretinoin, a prescription retinoid, can cause purging, dryness, flaking and increased sensitivity for the first few months of use. But if you stick with it, you could end up with your best skin ever. Here’s how to get through the woods.

When you first start a prescription retinoid, it’s best to stop using other active ingredients (other than sunscreen actives, they’re especially important now) so you don’t overdo it and irritate your skin. Retinoids are pretty powerful and address everything from acne to aging, so it’s not a bad idea to strip your routine back at first, and then slowly add other actives back in. After about three months of using PocketDerm, I was able to reintroduce my weekly mandelic acid peel (though I skip the retinoid the day before and the day of the peel) without irritation.

2. Take It Slow

If your skin is especially sensitive or dry, you may want to start out slow to ease your skin into the extra-strength skin treatment. My derm advised me that tretinoin is still effective if used every other night, or even every third night, so if you’re experiencing redness or irritation, step it back to alternating nights to give your skin a break. On off nights, make sure to give your face some extra TLC with a gentle cleanser and a heavy, bland moisturizer.

3. De-Flake

One of the biggest culprits of the retinoid “uglies” is dry, flaky skin. As your cell turnover rate increases, expect to see flakes, flakes, flakes for a little bit. It’s normal, and your skin will look so fresh and glow-y when you’re through with it. In the meantime, you can get rid of flakes with a mild (I said MILD!) physical exfoliant. Some good options: a konjac sponge, gentle exfoliating powder, or a silicone scrubby pad. I have this same one from Sephora and it’s my ride-or-die in emergency flaking situations. Use sparingly and keep it gentle (I did a quick scrub once a week) just to slough flakes away without irritating your sensitized skin.

Stick it out, and you’ll have #skinonfleek in no time.

  • Have you ever tried a prescription retinoid product?
  • Any other PocketDerm fans?