Forever Young: My Retinol Journey

A Little Poem

I know this pretty woman

Who looks so friggin’ great

She has that kind of skin

That one could never hate

She looks 15 years younger

Than her actual age

Although technically not a pro

She’s a dermatological sage

She hasn’t pumped her face full of Botox

And doesn’t go under the knife

She doesn’t look crazy scary

Like a plastic-faced Housewife

So I asked her for anti-aging tips

I said “Give them to me all!”

She responded with three words

“Go get retinol.”

Who hasn’t heard of retinol? It’s one of the only proven anti-agers out there. (The real term is retinoid, and prescription retinoids contain retinoic acid, which is the strongest, purest form of the Vitamin A derivative. Retinol is the name for the non-prescription retinoids that convert into retinoic acid once they are on the skin. But was easier to rhyme with “retinol” and people are more familiar with that, so bear with me.) I don’t see myself as someone who will take drastic measures to look young, but I’m all about doing whatever I can now to look as good as possible in the future. I want 60 Year Old Allison to look more like a 45 Year Old Allison. I am consistent with my skincare regimen, I don’t smoke, I eat clean, I exercise regularly and I take supplements, all of which I believe make a big difference in slowing down visible signs of aging. But I have known for a while that retinoids help diminish and prevent fine lines and collagen loss, so I’ve been thinking about it for a few years.

When the woman I mentioned in my poem–which I’m sure will win some kind of literary award–told me that she had started to use a retinoid 10+ years earlier, I knew I had to start. (We’ll call this woman S.) Her skin looks amazing, not just for her age but for any age. I’m confident that no one who is reading this would ever guess her real age, something that I hope happens to me. After S. told me her secret, I went to my dermatologist with a well rehearsed speech about why I needed a retinoid cream. Before I even got to the second sentence of my presentation, my derm wrote me the prescription without question.

Although I got my Trentinoin (brand name) prescription in the summer, I waited until October to start using it. Most derms agree that retinoids can make your skin sensitive to the sun, and although I always wear sunscreen on my face, I didn’t want to risk a reaction.

I have an awesome holistic doctor, Dr. Abbas Qutab, who I swear knows everything about the body and its reactions. He is about 20 years ahead of the Western medicine community–although he does get called in to teach and lecture for them–and I have complete trust in him. If he tells me to take something or to avoid it, I listen. When I asked him about topical retinoid prescription cream, he said it was not harmful.

Once I had the okay from Dr. Qutab and the summer months (sadly) came to an end, I knew it was time to try my Trentinoin. I did a patch test first on my arm and gave it a few days. No reaction. And so I began.

My derm had told me to use it every three nights, so I did. I applied it mainly to where I could see fine lines–on my forehead and around my mouth. My skin was okay the first few times I did that, but soon I started seeing slight redness on my forehead. I spoke to S. who told me I really should apply it to my whole face and cover it with a thin layer of moisturizer if I thought the Trentinoin was irritating my skin. (Just wait 20 minutes to apply the moisturizer so it doesn’t dilute the cream.) My derm had not given me any such advice, so I’m glad S. helped me out. Once I started applying it to my whole face and following it with a thin layer of moisturizer (which I later switched out with Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil) the redness was gone. After three months, I increased usage to every other day and have not experienced any redness since. *Update from January 2019: I now use it almost every night, and it’s working out great.*

I have noticed minimal peeling, mainly on my nose, chin and cheeks. To be fair, my skin always peels a little in the winter, so I’m not 100% I can attribute it to the Trentinion. But let’s say it is. The peeling is not noticeable and only happens once in a while. Other than that, my skin looks great! It definitely looks more glowy and I do think my fine lines have decreased a little. But I also think a lot of what Retinol does is preventative, so I don’t expect to see huge results. I just expect that it will semi-freeze my face in time 🙂

Other than staying out of the sun, there are a few things you might want to avoid if you decide to use a retinoid. I stopped using any skincare other than my cleanser, sunscreen and daily moisturizer when I started on Trentinoin. I didn’t know how the ingredients in other products might interact, and I knew prescription skincare products contain stronger ingredients. Also, Trentinoin was already doing what I used some of the other products for. It exfoliates and prevents signs of aging, and I was still cleansing, moisturizing and uses sunscreen, so I didn’t feel I needed too much else. And although I’m sure some derms would disagree with me on this, as many are into product layering, I intuitively felt the Trentinoin would be most effective on its own, at least at first. S. backs me up on this theory.

You should also wait 20 minutes post-cleansing to apply any retinoid. Cleansing removes the acid mantle (a thin, acidic barrier on your skin that protects it from bacteria), which makes your skin temporary more susceptible to irritants. If you apply a retinoid right after cleansing, there is a good chance your skin will get irritated. Also, even if your skin feels dry to the touch, it probably still has some microscopic water droplets on it for a few minutes after cleansing. Those little droplets could dilute the retinoid, making it less effective.

I think all pros agree that retinoids and waxing don’t mix. Because retinoids exfoliate, which takes off a layer of dead skin, waxing–which also takes that layer off with the hair–over that is too irritating. Tweezing and threading are okay because they remove hair only. Facial hair bleaching is also not recommended, as the ingredients don’t interact well with retinoids.

If you do a patch test first, avoid potential irritants, stay out of the sun, ease into it and use your retinoid cream consistently, it is my experience (and the experience of many others) that this stuff works. There are great products in the skincare world that can moisturize, exfoliate, brighten, etc. But I think for serious anti-aging results, prescription retinoids are the way to go.

Have a beautiful day 🙂


The Ultimate Beauty Trick

I have to tell you about this awesome beauty trick. You’re going to love it. It’s ancient and hasn’t changed at all since the beginning of time. It solves a plethora of beauty problems, anyone can get it and it is free. Are you ready to find out what it is?

It’s called SLEEP.

Yes, that elusive full night’s slumber can make a world of difference in how your face looks. Your body requires sleep, so when you skimp on it, your skin tells the world. Now, I know we don’t all have enough time to get a good, solid shut-eye session. I recently spent three weeks working on a film, averaging about six hours of sleep per night. And I know many new parents who would consider six hours of sleep to be a vacation! My personal full night’s sleep meter is set at eight hours (which I find to be necessary for my 12-14 hour work days), so when I dip much below that for more than three or four nights, I feel it–and my face shows it.

If you can’t get enough sleep because of a baby or a job or schoolwork, the best I can do is hope that things change for you soon! Sleep deprivation is no joke. But if you are just staying up watching Netflix, partying until dawn or re-arranging your bedroom at 1:00am (I have been guilty of all of those things at some point), then maybe reconsider your choices.

Here are some things I’ve noticed on myself and clients who haven’t slept enough.

1) Puffy Eyelids. I’m not talking puffy undereye bags, I mean the actual eyelid. This makes some eyeshadows look weird and can make it hard to apply even eyeliner at the top lashline. Solution: Avoid logging onto Pinterest at 11:00pm. You know no one can pin for just a few minutes.

2) Fine Lines. Fine lines on the forehead and around the mouth and eyes become more pronounced when you haven’t slept enough. Makeup loves to get up into those fine lines and  chill there, which immediately makes you look older. Solution: Put that page turner away. Chapters 5 through 25 can wait.

3) Undereye Circles. Ah, everyone’s favorite–dark circles. When you skimp on sleep, your body produces more cortisol, which enlarges the blood vessels under your eyes. Those blood vessels can be seen through the thin undereye skin, which is the darkness that we see as “circles”. Solution: Turn off the Real Housewives marathon. I can tell you what happens–there is a giant fight at a dinner party/vacation/baptism. People get crazy eyes, hair extensions get tangled and ridiculous insults are thrown. By the end of the episode, you feel like you may have gone down a few IQ points.

4) Dull Skin. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your skin cells are robbed of their prime regenerating time, which makes your skin look dull. You may even look pale or sallow. Especially if you only have the average 10 minutes to do your makeup, you’re not going to be able to look healthy and fresh-faced like you would if you slept. Solution: Don’t be the last one to leave the bar or party. Your skin (and possibly your liver) will thank you for it in the morning.

I have no doubt that a normal, consistent sleep routine plays a major part in how your skin looks. If you can’t always do it (I know I certainly can’t!) I have found that even a 20 minute power nap can work wonders. So try to get it in when you can and you will absolutely notice a difference.

Have a beautiful day 🙂