How Retin-A Gives You Younger-Looking Skin (and Won’t Break The Bank Either)

beautiful skin My skincare habit started when I was reading Dolly magazine in the 80s (if you are not Australian wiki it) and my mother indulged me with Clinique, Shiseido and Estee Lauder (for a teen).  I then moved onto Dermalogica, MD and a variety of expensive products touted by beauty therapists and the like. My skin was always good – actually really good – however, I started to get more compliments on my skin than ever before when I chucked it all in and started using Retin A and supermarket products. And I was well into my 30s.  The path is painful and needs commitment but the end benefits are worth it. Retin-A is an acne treatment that works to stimulate cell turnover.  As we age cells slow down in their turnover which is why we look older and duller and skin gets congested looking.  A wonderful side effect is that Retin-A stimulates collagen as well - which gives users that youthful look we lose as we get older as it puffs up your skin, fills out fine lines and wrinkles. So – why are more people not using this product?  And why are there over the counter versions that do not do nearly as good a job?  (On the over the counter – they just do not have enough actives in them.) - Because the first few months are a f-cking nightmare.  Your skin peels, your face hurts, you flake, and it takes time.  But it is truly worth it.  Just push through.  I am a Capricorn and we are nothing if not tenacious. OK – so you have taken yourself down to the doctor and got a script.  (Warning – do not do it if you are planning on babies or breastfeeding the next year.  Though it is not like the nightmares of the systemic Accutane of the 80s – there is a tiny chance of birth defects – not worth the risk – just like eating sushi).  The strengths are 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.1%.    I started with the strongest but it's best to start with the lowest and slowly build up so you don't look as if you've suffered third degree burns. And here is how you start on the path to great skin:- Buy a cleanser – Neutrogena Extra Gentle Cleanser is great. It is hydrating – and you need to avoid any actives in your skin care for 6 months. Buy a sunblock – I like the Neutrogena for Sensitive Skin – you will need to apply this at least twice a day. Park your vanity.  You will peel.  You will be red.  This is long term. Have a cup of concrete and harden up.  Let’s go. 
  1. Cleanse your face at night.  Wait at least 30 minutes – it must be completely dry before using it.  (Do not worry – this is only as you build tolerance – I can whack it straight on now.)
  2. Put Vaseline around your eyes – (again – this is just as you build tolerance) as they will be a bit crêpe like.
  3. Put a pea sized amount on your face.
  4. Sleep.
  5. When you wake up get the flakes off with a washcloth.  Then apply sunblock.
  6. Keep your sunblock application up all day – your skin becomes sensitive and craves moisture.
  7. Have a night or 2 off.
  8. Repeat.
  9. You will work up to nightly usage but it is a process.
I have been using it for nearly 4 years and my skin is great, dewy, even toned, and I do not need to really use foundation.  Just tinted moisturizer.  My friends all ask me what I am using – and it is so cheap. Now I can use my Clarisonic, rose-hip oil and vitamin c powder but you need to be ready to use no actives for at least 6 months.    Back to basics – but so worth it.  Your skin needs to be conditioned so be gentle on it. And persevere – the first few weeks are the hardest and all of a sudden you get – “oh your skin looks great” and you know it is working.  It is like an initiation process and once you get there it is amazing.  Good luck. And if this all sounds too hard – go for the easier version  - an AHA at night – something by NeoStrata or MD Formulations.  Forget hydrating at night.  Hydrate in the morning.  You need to flick those old cells in order to look your best. That's it! So simple, isn't it? Feel free to ask me any questions below if you have them. Don’t take this as medical advice and talk to your doctor first about whether retinoids are right for you and your skin in case you have any underlying allergies or are on medication that could cause a bad reaction. As I already said, do not use them if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  


Which skincare products do you swear by to keep your lovely face in check? Have you used Retin A or over the counter retinoids and what did you think of the results? Any advice? Do you pay more for the brand or do you swear by good old Vaseline on your eyelids at night and lots of water? Botox or no-tox? Let us know!

About Jodie Rochetich

Jodie studied for a Health Science degree (naturopathy), finished her Masters of Business last year and works in marketing. She has two Westie dogs and hopes to marry Idris Elba or Jude Law. Jodie likes movies, books, all things pop culture and is obsessed with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
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51 Responses to How Retin-A Gives You Younger-Looking Skin (and Won’t Break The Bank Either)

  1. Scarlett says:

    Thanks for the interesting article Jodie. Am I right in saying you can never put your face in the sun again after doing this?
    Scarlett xoxoxo

  2. Jen Paul says:

    Love this, Jodie. I use over the counter Retinol cream (Skinceuticals) and slather on a Vitamin C serum as well. When I do a veggie soup diet (which is home made soup and all you do is have a bowl before every meal) my skin always clears up spot wise. BUT I def want to look (even a bit) younger (who doesn’t), so ‘am tempted to take the plunge while it’s still Winter and try Retin A but do it slowly so I’m not looking too red. In France they do Hylauronic acid cream, it makes you peel but no-one told me. I’d put loads on my neck and then got lost in work and woah it peeled so much i had to wear a scarf for a few days :/

    • Anonymous says:

      Love Skinceuticals also…I use C E FERULIC serum in the morning and then moisture with an spf, Retin-A 3 nights a week…and then SERUM 20 from Skinceuticals the other nights….wait and a good basic moisturizer (you don’t have to spend a fortune when using these serums)…

      • jr says:

        Skinceuticals is excellent – in Australia it soooo exxy but it is a good product. I liked their C serum for a while.

  3. Canuck says:

    The gel form “Differin” is much more gentle with less of the harsh side effects at the beginning. Same results though.

  4. Jr says:

    I love Vitamin C. The Philosophy Powder rocks.
    And is reasonably priced.
    If you are using retinol cream you may have some tolerance already. Go for it.
    I found the redness not too bad. It was the flaking that drive me nuts. But that meant it worked.
    I first started using it before a holiday to the South of France. I just used the sunblock and hats and glasses were all the better to people watch.

    Hylauronic acid. I take the tablets occasionally. Didn’t do much. The cream sounds great!

  5. Flffgrrrlr says:

    Does anyone know, can you get your NHS GP to prescribe this if you don’t have acne? It just strikes me that they might say no if they didn’t think you needed it.

    I’m a bit scared of the side effects – I’m a chicken. I’d like to try something over the counter though. Didn’t everyone go nuts for some Boots serum a few years ago? Is this what it is, and has anyone tried it? What can I buy on UK high street for no more than £20 thy really works? (I’m a tight chicken).

  6. jr says:

    In Australia you can get a script pretty painlessly.
    There are sites where you can buy them without a script but i would try the proper channels first.
    Neutrogena have a range called Rapid Wrinkle Repair and this has a reasonable amount of Retinol – not the hard core script amount but enough to give you a go. The results are not overnight – so be patient.
    Being tight is good – my cupboard is full of supermarket products – and what i save i spend on training!

  7. Jodie says:

    ps Jr is Jodie – best i update it

  8. Flffgrrrlr says:

    Thanks – I’ll have a look for the Neutrogena. Good article!

  9. steffie says:

    Jodie thanks for the great article. I have a very dumb question: can you use Retin A right around your eyes or should you avoid the peri-ocular area? I live in a very hot and sunny country, Vietnam, and we are about to get into summer…should I bother starting now? I s wear factor 50 day and night…


  10. Jodie says:

    Steffie, I do use it around my eyes but this took a while.
    When I first started I out Vaseline around my eyes to protect them.
    I also got some in my eye. Ouch. Be careful. And build up to it.


  11. Zahava says:

    I use the generic version which is called Tretinoin. It’s only available, like Retin-A, through prescription. It is exactly the same but less money. I started with and remain on the 0.025% weakest formula. I see no need to up the ante. No redness, so bad effects. My skin does peel weekly but it sort of rolls off innocuously and is not noticeable because it does this in the shower. My neck, interestingly, has never peeled. I only use it twice a week. No need for foundation whatsover; just lipstick and some mascara. I have had men tell me that what they like about me is that my face is naturally beautiful without makeup. I can credit this wondrous retinol product for this somewhat, even though I stopped using foundation years ago. It ruins your skin, period. The higher strengths concern me and I don’t see any need to change my regimen. Actually I rarely need moisturizer and have no crepey wrinkles under the eyes from this product whatsoever. I recommend not jumping into strong Retin-A formula. If the 0.025% works, stay there. In this case, less is more. Also, you can use more of the cream without having to limit yourself to a pea-sized portion. Again, Tretinoin is the generic and less expensive. Just don’t get it into the eye or you will develop chemical conjuctivitis and need an antibiotic cream for the eyes to clear it up. I made the mistake of getting some cream into my right eye. No pain, just red at the inner corner. All in all, it’s been a very fortunate experience. It makes you glow like a kid. No need to start at a high strength and have to go through any torture whatsoever!

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    What am I suppose to use the rest of the nights, a simple moisturizer? I have also bought PHOTO-AGE Ampules by MARTIDERM rich in Vitamine C. Should I use them at night or during the day? Can I combine Photo-age ampules (day time ) with AHA 15 (during the night) or it is too much of a journey?

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