Skincare – Starting Tretinoin

I’ve been using a prescription tretinoin (retinoic acid/vitamin A) cream for a year now and thought it might be worth sharing my experience.

Retinoids are the only topical skincare ingredient that have been scientifically proven to reverse the signs of aging by increasing cell turnover.

I’d been using the Paula’s Choice 1% Clinical Retinol for a couple of years with no issues but now in my late 40s I felt the need to step it up. The retinol serums produced by beauty companies can make a difference but are a lot weaker than pure tretinoin/vitamin A. As I understand it, the skin has to do some work to convert the retinol into vitamin A and some of the potency is lost in the process.

I know that in the States you can buy the retinoid acne treatment Differin over the counter. However, in the UK it’s impossible to get a tretinoin for anti-ageing purposes unless you you pay £200+ to go to a dermatologist who will issue you a prescription.

Then I found Dermatica (not a sponsored post!). They are an online dermatologist-led subscription service that supply prescription treatments for acne and  signs of ageing. I completed the online consultation/questionnaire and uploaded photos of my skin. I also provided my GP details so they that they will be informed.


With an introductory discount, I paid £7.98 for the first month’s treatment and it has been £20 thereafter (my subscription is set to every 45 days). They prescribed me tretinoin for anti-ageing combined with hydroquinone for pigmentation. I started with 0.25% and then they put me up to 0.05% the following month. I began very cautiously because tret is notorious for causing irritation and dryness which can leave the skin red and peeling. I applied it only once a week to begin with and gradually built up my tolerance.

After four months I could apply 0.05% every night and experienced no irritation whatsoever. I must say this is quite unusual. It may be because my skin had become acclimatised by the Paula’s Choice 1% Clinical Retinol.

As for the results, it’s still a bit early to say. With tretinoin you have to play the long game but I already feel the skin looks better even if it’s never going to shift deep frown lines, I have noticed an improvement in the skin’s quality, looking fresher and clearer with more glow. One thing to note is that retinoids increase the skin’s senstivity to the sun so you should apply at night only and use SPF the next morning fastidiously. I didn’t use it at all during the height of summer.



Have you tried tretinoin or a retinol serum?



Filed under Beauty Review

22 responses to “Skincare – Starting Tretinoin

  1. Totally interesting. Never heard of the stuff but don’t look for it either. Sounds like way too much work for me. I mean sure I wish my whole face wasn’t dropping – hahahahaha – but there is no stopping age. We have already advanced so much compared to say my mum’s generation, and earlier. Diet, exercise etc etc. That has definitely slowed signs of aging down. Great article. And I guess never say never to a retinol serum? 😀


    • One good thing is that a lot more people now know that an expensive night cream is not going to do anything other than moisturise your skin. Serums with active ingredients are what makes the difference, along with SPF.
      Having said that, my sister doesn’t do half of what I do and looks about 26.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I use tret since 18months and my frown lines are nearly gone and my hyperpigmentation is much better. You can get it in her Germany for 20€ for 50g which is quite cheap. It’s prescription only, but thankfully I am a doctor so I can get it easily. By the way, I am 56….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jillie

    Couldn’t help looking at the perfume bottles on that gal’s dressing table!

    I would be too scared to use heavy duty stuff as my skin is so sensitive (it even reacts to Simple!). I also know I wouldn’t have the patience to follow any regime, and I envy you your commitment!

    Agree with Val in that we generally look a lot younger than our mums did at our age, thank goodness. The skin experts always say that the best thing you can do for your skin is hydrate, inside and outside, and use sun protection. So I guess I’ll have to stick with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perfume bottles will always draw the eye Jillie!

      You know, I doubt Simple is as simple as it claims. The eye make-up remover has been stinging like crazy. I’m going to have to chuck it. There’s a lot to be said for just keeping hydrated and using SPF.


  3. Hamamelis

    I have used a low level retinol in the past but my skin is too sensitive. I am using the Garden of Wisdom serums, niacinamide, neurophroline and their anti aging peptide serum. Not too expensive and I think it has had similar effects as you describe. I hydrate often with a Korean product, Whamisa organic flower deep rich essence toner, sorry for the mouthful! The last maybe my favourite skin product ever.
    ps I finished the 10000 doors and really love it, it has a somewhat similar feel as the Golden Compass, but I think I like it better.


    • The GoW serums are fantastic and such good value for money. I’m currently trying out The Inkey List’s niacinamide which I like a lot.
      Those Korean essences are very tempting.

      Ooh thanks for the P.S! I’ll grab it the second it’s on offer or comes down in price.


  4. Kathleen

    Hi, yes, I’ve used prescription tretinoin for years. I am very much into research-based skin care and also use antioxidant vitaminC, E, ferulic acid serum in the mornings. I tend to use tretinoin every other night mixed with moistures to limit irritation. And sunscreen daily.
    I see that my skin is in better condition than friends my age.


  5. You are nowhere near the aging stage, I wouldn’t have said, T!, so am surprised you feel the need to ‘up the anti-‘ already (see what I did there? 😉 ). Retinol is a complete no-no for someone like me with facial eczema / contact dermatitis – even a supposedly gentle micellar water can set me off! – but ironically I am an acne sufferer of 45 years’ standing and no doctor or hospital consultant has ever mentioned this, even before I got eczema. Maybe it depends on what they are used to prescribing and as you say, it is more of a US thing.


    • Up the anti! Brilliant as ever, V.

      Yes I didn’t expect you to be able to use retinol but very odd it was never mentioned as an acne treatment over the years.

      You are kind but women are starting on the retinol at 30 now to forestall the process. I’m late to the game.


  6. I’m with Vanessa 😦 Not only my skin got very sensitive with age, but I also developed some mild (so far) eczema AND (yeah, as if the previous wasn’t enough), I keep having sporadic allergic reactions to different skincare ingredients (the worst part – it’s extremely hard to find a sunscreen I do not get puffy eyes from). But I carefully keep trying different products, sticking with those to which I don’t/rarely have bad reaction.


    • Ah that is rotten luck. Isn’t it strange – not to say annoying – that we can develop these reactions later in life. I have to avoid my ncek and around my mouth but otherwise it’s okay. I hope you find a sunscreen that your eyes can tolerate. In the meantime, it’ll have to be a pair of glamorous shades.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Lockdown Skincare Routine | A Bottled Rose

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