This past August, I had my first appointment with a dermatologist to start my tattoo removal process (I have a small star on my wrist from a poor decision ten years ago). Because I was already there, I asked my doctor about what can be done about larger pores. I have pretty large pores on my nose that have always bothered me, but I haven't found anything that actually reduces them in size, so I wanted an expert's opinion. Unfortunately, she said that pore size is genetic and not much can be done to change that, but she has seen some success with a tretinoin cream, and since I had a bit of acne on my chin, it may be successful for me for both of my concerns.
Tretinoin causes skin cells to divide and die more rapidly, which increases epidermal turnover, while also stimulating collagen and elastin. The end results is that the new cells should replace the cells of acne, wrinkled, and hyper-pigmented skin (this article describes it in more detail if you are interested). My skin concerns are really the hyper-pigmentation from acne scars, occasional pimples, and now that I'm in my late twenties, starting to be more proactive against wrinkles, so this seemed like a great option for me. Cost all depends on your insurance, but with my insurance and a coupon card from my doctor, it ended up not costing me anything out of pocket.
I was prescribed the 0.08% Retin-A Micro, and have been using it for four months now. Because I have fairly sensitive skin, I continue to use it the same I did when I started. Every other night, I wash my face, then wait a minute or so to make sure my face is truly dry. Then I use about a chickpea size of the gel, and rub a small amount on each section of my face. I then follow up with generous amount of Vanicream, a horribly-named but efficient moisturizer recommended by my dermatologist.
For the first week or so, I didn't really notice any difference in my skin. Then all of a sudden, my skin started to peel like crazy. Ugh, it was so so bad for quite a few weeks. There was just nothing I could do to get my skin from peeling - I tried gentle exfoliation, extra moisturizing, different moisturizers, less of the gel, more of the gel, layered under and over moisturizer. I probably was in that state for a good month.
I would say that for the last month or so, so about three months after I started using the Retin-A micro gel, my skin is finally getting over the peeling and dryness side effects. Things that have worked well for me are: gentle exfoliation with a konjac sponge every time I shower, using the First Aid Beauty Hydrating Gel every morning (review here), using the Vanicream at night, and using the Origins Drink Up Mask on nights when I don't use the gel.
So the results have been pretty good and worth it, in my opinion. I think the biggest thing I've noticed is that my hyper-pigmentation has drastically decreased. I used the picture below in my review of Paula's Choice BHA toner, but you can see how the acne scars really have almost disappeared from where I was a year ago. I think the BHA toner helps me a lot more with my acne than the Retin-A micro, just because I forgot to use the toner for like two weeks a few weeks ago, and my skin really blew up. But my scarring is decreased, my acne is reduced (from a combined effort, it seems), and I would say my skin overall is more even. I don't know if it has really had an effect on "wrinkles" because although I have some fine lines around my eyes, I don't really have that many wrinkles yet. And while the original reason for starting the cream was for enlarged pores, I haven't really noticed a change in them - they are still as present as they were before :/
Retin-A micro is a prescription medication, and with all medications that are certain side effects. Of particular importance if you are female is that this is a Category C drug that has shown to have adverse effects on fetuses, so if you are or planning on being pregnant in the near future, this prescription drug isn't recommended. It's not to the level of Accutane (a Category X drug) so you don't have to prove that you aren't pregnant/be on several modes of birth control, but definitely worthy of noting. I am actively trying not to get pregnant at this moment of time, so this didn't change anything for me, but will be something to consider in the future.
So that has been my experience with starting and continuing to use Retin-A micro. I am very happy with my results, especially now that I have figured out how to control the flaking, so I intend to use it for the long-term. Several of you have asked about my experiences using a tretinoin cream, so I hope that answers some of your questions! Have any of you had success with a prescription tretinoin cream?
Disclaimer: I am not yet a doctor, nor would I ever give medical advice on the internet. I'm just a girl sharing my experiences with a prescription medication - this is not medical advice. Please talk to your own doctor if you are interested in starting this medication!