Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quarter life hormonal changes = Breakouts!

(Image credit: Google Images)

This year has been a crazy year for my skin. Beginning in January, I started experiencing more breakouts than normal on my forehead. When I get pimples, I normally just get them around my forehead and temples. Then April/May rolled around and I started breaking out on my cheeks! Let me tell you, I have never once broken out on my cheeks. Not once. So this was a big thing to me! I let it progress for about a month before I decided to try some over the counter retinols (Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum w/ Retinol). Didn’t help me at all. I continued to break out (a new pimple every few days on each cheek), popping the pimples (can’t… help… myself! So… satisfying!), and as a result, scarring my cheeks. >:[ I tried changing my pillow cases daily, using a headset instead of putting my cellphone to my face, washing my hands before touching my face (that meant washing between every single topical application), using clay masks to draw oils out, using harsher than Cerave cleaners… all the works.

Finally, when enough was enough, I made an appointment to see my family doctor. She’s the sweetest thing and I absolutely love her. She understands, doesn’t judge, and is so compassionate. I’m known to freak out about the little things and my doctor is always so very understanding. Okay, gushing aside, after discussing, she boiled the root cause down to hormones since I lead a fairly healthy lifestyle and didn’t have anything to complain about regarding work, family, or friends. She prescribed tretinoin (0.025%) and clindamycin (1%).

I started using tretinoin and clindamycin on June 12th. I cut out BHA from my skin care routine and didn’t add or play with any new products during this time. For a little more than a month, my skin did not improve. I assumed my skin was purging. At some point, I sat down, re-read through the pamphlets that had come with the medication and realized I had been applying my topical meds incorrectly! Yikes. I’m supposed to wait between the application of each of my topical skin care products (between 15-30 minutes). Woah. Did not know this. Less than a week after incorporating wait times into my morning and night skin care routine, I noticed a significant improvement in my skin! WOW. And really, my skin has only been getting better since. Yay!

Here was my general routine while on Tretinoin and Clindamycin:

Cleanse – Cerave Hydrating Cleanser
Wait 15-30 minutes
Treatment - Apply Clindamycin
Wait 15-30 minutes
Moisturize - Apply Cerave Hydrating Lotion
Wait 5 minutes
Protect – Apply 40+SPF sunscreen on face

Cleanse – Cerave Hydrating Cleanser
Wait 15-30 minutes
Treatment - Apply Clindamycin
Wait 15-30 minutes
Treatment – Apply Tretinoin
Wait 15-30 minutes
Moisturize - Apply Cerave PM

Concluding thoughts:
I've never waited between topical applications before so this was definitely a change for me. All steps performed with maximum wait time incorporated into the routine could turn my night time skin routine into a two hour process! Sheesh.

Is it worth it? Definitely! If your skin is doing great without wait time incorporated into your routine then I don't see the need for a change but this change was something my skin needed. And it worked! Granted, I sometimes find myself with an extra long wait time because I'll end up accidentally falling asleep.... and then I'll wake up at 2AM... put on lotion... and then go back to sleep. But it's worth it. :)

Thoughts on Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum w/ Retinol:
I used Paula’s Choice Antioxidant Serum w/ Retinol for three weeks and didn’t see any actual changes in my skin. What I did see were temporary ones. For example: Having applied the retinol before going to bed in the evening, I’d wake up the next morning with what looked like baby butt smooth skin. Oooh wheee~ After washing my face (as I always do in the morning) though, all the retinol and silicone washed off and I was able to see my normal skin again. The pores. The pimples. All of it. Shucks. The silicone did a great job of hiding my imperfections temporarily but what I was looking for was a permanent solution, not an interim one.

What I didn’t like about this retinol product was that half the time, even after intense, vigorous, and crazy mad shaking, the product still came out in two parts: oil and gel. At times, I was able to get it to mix fully but more often than not, I would just apply it as is because I was tired of shaking the darn bottle so much. At one point, I even managed to scratch a nice line down my chest because I was shaking the bottle like such a mad woman! Hah. Seems like too much trouble.

I figure Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum w/ Retinol didn’t work for me because in the end, retinol’s do not have much direct effect on your skin as compared to retinoic acid/retinoids. Retinol’s require conversion by special enzymes to become retinoic acid. The conversion rate is low and varies greatly among individuals. Sometimes the retinol degrades (due to exposure to air) and doesn’t become retinoic acid in the end. Thus, the response to retinols, as compared to retinoic acid/retinols, is lower. (Source:

(Image Credit:

Thoughts on Tretinoin (0.025%):
Wow, is this drying or what?! First day after incorporating this into my skin care routine, my eyebrows were super dandruff-y! I mean they were like RAIN ON ME, DEAD SKIN. Grosssss. Anyway, after that, I steered clear of my eyebrows during tretinoin application (I think the pamphlet actually might have advised on this too lol).

The tretinoin comes in an easy to squeeze aluminum (?) tube. The cream is white and easy to spread. I honestly am not sure HOW anyone is only supposed to use a dime sized amount to cover your entire face (unless you mixed it with lotion) but I just use however enough to apply a thin layer all over my entire face (foreahead, nose, chin, and cheeks). When I remember, I’ll extend the application further down onto my neck and décolleté for prevention measures. Immediately upon application, you can feel it just sucking your skin dry. During my wait time after tretinoin application, I am always so desperate to put on lotion and have to force myself to wait it out. I haven’t seen any changes in the lines around my neck or décolleté yet as I’ve only been using it for a few weeks but I do really appreciate what it’s done to clear my acne.

Tretinoin Cream, 0.025% - the tube

Tretinoin Cream, 0.025% - the cream

Thoughts on Clindamycin:
Easy gel texture makes for easy application. Doesn't burn or sting my skin at all. It's a topical antibiotic that was prescribed for me to help keep bacteria on the skin at bay (antimicrobial). I've read up on this drug and the fact that there's so much talk about our bodies potentially becoming resistant to antibiotics has put a little scare into me so I plan to use this first tube of Clindamycin till it’s finished (maybe not even so!) but after that, I'm not sure if I'll want a refill. Hopefully, I won't need one.

Clindamycin Phosphate Topical Gel, 1% - tube

 Clindamycin Phosphate Topical Gel, 1% - gel


  1. Hormonal breakouts are the worse! SO glad you have a routine that works for you now (and that you read those instructions! :). As you already know, I also wait between applications. (Sometimes as little as 5 min but hey, better than nothing...hehe :P) I really want the stuff to sink in so I get my money's

    (I have no idea what ingredient in the La Roche sunscreen made me itch. T_T Oh and if you do go to the Focus Store, you may want to also check out Takashimaya nearby too: They don't have MBD but do have other Asian skincare. Not all cheap but fun to browse :)

  2. i loved the topical gel..that was amazing....

  3. As someone who is 35, I could be a derm (or chemist) with how much I've read and tried for acne!

    I highly recommend looking into the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM). My skin is clear, soft, and clean now.

    Just a note, OCM takes trial and error, but for acne; I recommend avoiding castor oil. Start out with jojoba or olive oil as your "base".

    Good Luck!


Constructive criticism is deeply appreciated. ♥