My Journey with Retin-A Micro and Why I LOVE It!
As I have mentioned through many of my blog posts, I have struggled with oily skin and breakouts for most of my teen and adult life. I thought some of this would resolve on its own as I got older, but it did not. Although my skin is likely at the best it has ever been, I do not think it’s due to my age but finally finding a skin care routine and products that WORK! Although I have found great products over the counter, I truly believe that if you are facing major skin challenges and nothing you are purchasing is working, you absolutely NEED to go to the dermatologist. Going to a dermatologist will never hurt if you want some advice or opinions on how to deal with skin care, especially if there is a dermatologist that not only specializes in the medical aspect of it but the aesthetic aspect as well.
So as a result of my skin problems and experiencing some pretty bad breakouts around the age of 14 or 15 (and after a couple stressful life events), my mom took me to a dermatologist. After finding some products that did work for me, I had gone every year since then! I pretty much stayed with the same products for several years if I found that it worked for me. Around the age fo 17, I had switched over to a prescription called BenzaClin. These was a benzoyl peroxide/Clindamycin combination topical I used day and night. I was so surprised by how well it worked (or so I thought—-until I found these better products later on!) and how my oily skin had even decreased. Although I still got the lone acne cyst that popped up about once a season (usually at the change of seasons), I was pretty happy with the results. I used the brand name of this for about 12-13 years until one time the brand name manufacturer was experiencing a problem in obtaining one of the ingredients and was not producing it. They switched me to the generic, and I started using that. Within about a week, I began to experience some major redness and a rash that had spread over my face and down my neck. I was absolutely freaking out. After going on steroids and cleaning up the mess, I slowly began to introduce it again. I did not realize at the time it was the generic prescription I was allergic to (which is why I’m always hesitant to try generic brands) and did not know what it was. I figured that I had been using this for a long time, there was no way it could be it. After getting a red rash that slowly started up again, I stopped. I was glad we found out what it was but was devastated that I would have to start over on searching for products that would work for me.
My dermatologist introduced me to some new products (I use Aczone during the day), which included some Retinoid products. He shared that it would likely clear up my skin and even decrease oil production. He said that I would probably come to love Retinoid, especially as I was getting older, and would likely never want to not be able to use it again! Was he right! After reading about the side effects of the Retinoid, such as flaky, red skin, I was so hesitant to try it, especially after my experience with the allergic reaction. Although the Aczone was working and had cleared up some of my skin (which had broken out after I took a break from some skin products due to the allergic reaction), I was still not happy with my skin. I discovered my skin had not improved with age, and I still needed to treat it. I slowly started to introduce the Retinoid and noticed a difference in about a week! I had none of the side effects they discussed and only saw my skin clearing up. For me, this was a miracle product.
Atralin was the first one my dermatologist prescribed me, as it was not as high of a dose of retinoid and came in a gel format. It was manufactured for people with more sensitive skin, which could be why I did not have any of the major side effects.
I found that my skin was fairly clear 90% of the time with no ill effects. It was smooth and soft with lines minimized. Every now and then, I would still get the lone acne cyst, but those had subsided (if you get these, go to the Derm to get them injected—they go away in about a day or two!). One downside that I was disappointed about was that I had not noticed any difference in the oil in my skin as was promised.
I was able to purchase this for about $30 a tube, which was an AWESOME deal. My insurance never covers retinoids, but there are often coupons or special pharmacies that carry these for promotional deals that you can get it reasonably if your insurance does not cover it. I used it for about a year, until they stopped carrying it on promo due to the fact it was now able to be purchased in a generic format (which my insurance still did not cover). I was then using the Walgreen’s Pharmacy Card to get the full sized tube for about $150 a pop. You might balk at this, but I figured women spend a lot on skin care, and I’d rather have the real thing. Plus, it lasted me about 3-4 months a tube. So if you do the math, it’s about $40-50 a month, which could be the cost of a typical prescription. I did that for about a year, until the promo with Walgreen’s stopped. I panicked again, as I was willing to pay $150 but not $400! So back to the dermatologist I went.
After talking with him, I found I was able to get the generic version of Atralin through Wal-Mart for $100. I was nervous about using the generic version, so he also gave me a prescription to be filled through a speciality pharmacy for Retin-A Micro, which was the new version on promo.
I decided to give the Retin-A Micro a try first before filling the $100 prescription. I had no ill effects from it, and honestly, I found my skin was even better from it than with the Atralin! This slightly stronger version is my favorite by far, as my skin is clear nearly 95% of the time (if not more), and acne cysts have subsided dramatically. If I do get a random one that pops up, they go away way more quickly and on their own. I also noticed a decrease in oil production with this product as well!
The best part is that it comes in a pump tube, so you only pump out what you need, so there is little waste, leading it to last longer. It is also more of a cream format as compared to the gel. This lasts almost 4-5 months for me. As a result, I still fill my prescription when I can and stock up!
BENEFITS OF RETINOIDS
So I did a lot of talk about retinoids, and you’re probably like why is this ingredient so great?! Retinoid actually causes the skin to renew itself. It almost acts like an exfoliant and sloughs off dead skin. This leads to renewed skin that does not break out and is also great for aging, as it sloughs off dead skin, leading to new skin regrowth and smoothing of lines and wrinkles. Although it is primarily marketed for acne, women use this for anti-aging. This is why it is in so many mass market produced products, but many women will use it straight out of the tube (which is why it is rarely covered by insurance at my age, as they suspect I’m only using it for aesthetic reasons).
I noticed an improvement in my breakouts, oil production (less oil), and just an overall improvement in the quality of my skin.
This is great for acne at all ages, but especially for adult acne, as you get multiple benefits from it.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR RETINOIDS
As I mentioned, I never experienced any of the side effects of dry, scaly, and red skin. If you have super sensitive skin, you may see this more. As a result, it may not be for you. You may be better off using other products/ingredients or a weaker version of retinoids in a mass produced product.
I would never use it around the eyes, as it is too strong. If you want the benefits of retinoids, I would purchase a product specifically made for the skin around the eye area or has a smaller amount of retinoid.
Every now and then, I will experience some redness, which is often due to hormones, as I get about a week of dry, red skin. When this happens, I use the Retin-A Micro but am strategic where I’m placing it and avoid those areas. I never have the redness issue on my nose or chin but can get this on my cheeks and forehead.
Only use this at night.
if you find you are sensitive, you do not need to use every night. You can use 2-3 nights a week and still see the benefits.
HOW DO I GET IT?
Products such as Atralin and Retin-A Micro are prescription products. You will need to go to your dermatologist to get a prescription.
The downside is that most prescription insurance does not cover these products for adults, even in generic form. My coverage would get it for me if I was under the age of 26. As a result, if you find this is a product that works for you and your dermatologist agrees, there are a few avenues to get it at an affordable price.
Most new products are on promo due to the impact of lack of insurance coverage. If a product is also new, a generic version of it cannot be made for many, many years. As a result, these products are on promo either through a coupon, discount card, or prescription at a specialty pharmacy. For example, $30 a pop appears to be a common rate.
If you are choosing a product that has been out for awhile (like Atralin), you can get it via the generic form. Although this is not as cost effective as when the name brand is on promo, you can still get it for a decent price through a company such as GoodRx. Like I mentioned, I was able to get Atralin for $100 through the GoodRx code at Wal-Mart. It may not be as cheap as $50, but for me, paying the $100 was worth it since it worked and lasted about 3-4 months in the tube (leading to about $25-$35 a month).
If you find your prescription is no longer on promo, this likely means it is now being manufactured as a generic brand. There are a couple routes you can take with this:
Pay a tad more and get the generic version through a company like GoodRx
If it is being produced generically, there is a good chance another new brand name product is coming out. The drug manufacturers will want to make more money with a bigger and better product, so talk to your dermatologist about the latest medications. You may find something better at the promo code again.
Have you used any retinoids? What was your experience? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below or on Instagram!