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My Thoughts on Tretinoin (Stieva-A Cream 0.05%), ClindaTech & General Acne Update, Part 3

Aaaaand Im back again with an update on how I’m doing using a stronger does of Tretinoin and with a general acne treatment update! Quite a few things have changed in regards to the medication I am taking. I was on ‘Implanon’ (a contraceptive) and have gone back to the ‘traditional’ pill Yasmin, because it worked so much better controlling my acne in tandem with Aldactone. I originally went off Yasmin because it was expensive ($75 AUD every 3 months) and it was a pain taking it every day. Because my skin went absolutely nuts after I had the Implanon inserted, I was spending more money on seeing a Dermatologist, so really I wasn’t saving any money and was causing more damage to my skin (there were a few other reasons I stopped taking Yasmin, but nothing major and skin related, so I won’t go into those details unless someone asks). I’ve been back on Yasmin for almost two months now, and I’ve only had one cystic spot appear recently. That’s pretty good! 😀 I’ve quite going to the demo for now, as I don’t think he was listening to me as much as I’d like. My GP will now be supervising my acne treatment plan. It’s still a slow road though. I’m waiting and working on clearing up the congestion in my skin and redness. To help with this, I have started using a stronger tretinoin from the last time we ‘spoke’. There have have been some changes but also some constants, so if you would like to know more, keep reading on!

Making the change from Stieva-A Cream 0.025% to 0.05% (tretinoin)

Making the change from 0.025% tretinoin to 0.05% hasn’t been difficult or painful. I still really enjoy the Stieva-A ‘brand’ too. Did I experience a lot more skin peeling (as a result of intense retinoid exfoliation) or irritation? Not really… Perhaps because I use the cream every second night (alternating with acids every second night) and one ‘break night’ a week. What’s a ‘break night’? A night where I use no tretinoin/retinol or chemical exfoliants. Yes, laziness is part of the reason why this happens once a week (at least) but I find it gives my skin time to relax and rejuvenate. This doesn’t mean I don’t use any skin care on these ‘break nights’ (see more on what I do use below) just no actives. The area I do find I experience most irritation is my chin area which can become quite red and sore. This isn’t the tretinoin’s fault per se, but more so because it is a targeted area for all types of exfoliation for me (in particular the Benzac AC spot treatment, which I will use on spots and trouble areas on acid or ‘break nights’ if needed – but don’t ever use this together with tretinoin) as I experience quite a bit of congestion here (and my nose). The tretinoin itself has helped to reduce the congestion in my t-zone quite a bit. I am also hopeful that it will help my skin long term, in fighting any potential scarring (I have two or three very small spots I am worried about).

As it turns out, tretinoin is good for reducing acne scarring (called atrophy scarring – which is when there’s an indentation in the skin) and for helping with new collagen formation. Not only that, scars are reduced even more when glycolic acid and tretinoin are used as a duo! Now I’m not game to use those two ingredients together (and neither should you without the supervision of a doctor) as I don’t want my face to burn off completely but I do currently use glycolic acid as part of my acids routine on those alternating nights. So I will keep you updated on how my skin is doing re warding off scarring.

On an average 80-90% of people with acne scars have atrophic scars associated with a loss of collagen compared to a minority who show hypertrophic scars and keloids. Scars originate at the site of tissue injury (during healing of active acne) and the wound healing process progresses through three stages: (1) inflammation; (2) granulation and tissue formation; and (3) matrix remodeling.

During inflammation, vasoconstriction for homeostasis results in blanching. After the blood flow has been stopped, vasodilatation and resultant erythema replace vasoconstriction. Melanogenesis may also be stimulated. This step plays an important role in the development of postacne erythema and hyperpigmentation.

During granulation and tissue formation stage the damaged tissues are repaired and new capillaries are formed. New production of collagen by fibroblasts begins approximately 3-5 days after the wound is created.

The matrix remodeling stage is associated with production of enzymes, by fibroblasts and keratinocytes, that determine the architecture of the extracellular matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitors of MMPs. This results in an imbalance in the ratio of MMPs to tissue inhibitors of MMPs leading to the development of atrophic or hypertrophic scars. Inadequate response results in diminished deposition of collagen and formation of an atrophic scar while, if the healing response is exuberant, a raised nodule of fibrotic tissue forms hypertrophic scars.Topical retinoids such as tretinoin have been shown to decrease the synthesis of MMPs and increase dermal procollagen and collagen synthesis and hence may provide some benefits in preventing scar development and potentially reduce the extent of scar formation that is in progress. Schmidt et al. in their study showed that tretinoin-iontophoresis significantly decreased the depth of atrophic scars in 94% of the study subjects.Topical retinoids improve several features of photoaging that include dispigmentation and wrinkling (fine and coarse). The clinical improvement is accompanied by the reversal of epidermal atrophy and dysplasia along with increased collagen synthesis. This is supported by the study conducted by Schwartz et al. which stated that retinoic acid stimulates collagen synthesis in vivo. ‘Retinoic acid and glycolic acid combination in treatment of of acne’, Chandrashekar et al. Journal of Indian Dermatology, 6 (2), 2015, p. 84 – 88.

I don’t feel a need to move up to a 1% tretinoin treatment at the moment, as to much of a good thing can be bad…. moderation is key! If I was using my tretinoin treatment every night, containing and controlling the side effects would be difficult I suspect. I also then wouldn’t be able to use glycolic acid in my ‘treatment plan’ either. There’s no way I’d use glycolic acid in the morning, making my skin more sensitive to sun damage (I live in Australia, so avoiding sun exposure is impossible!). I will continue using ‘Stieva-A’ produced by pharmaceutical brand ‘Stiefel’ as it seems to suit my skin. I pay roughly $25 AUD for 25g. A little goes a long way. Check out my acne ‘Part 2’ update if you want to see how I make the cream absorb into my skin more easily (most tretinoin creams tend to be thick and tacky) and what products I use to lessen irritation!


This prescription topical acne treatment was a first for me. My Dermatologist recommended it for use in the mornings under my makeup. It contains 1% clindamycin hydrochloride (an antibiotic). It’s just a clear lotion, that’s quite thin and watery. The applicator is weird because it’s this mesh sponge (so you apply the lotion only to nicely clean and cleansed skin). I wasn’t a fan of this treatment. I just didn’t find that it helped heal or dry out any current ‘active’ pimples or congestion. I see a quick difference when I use Benzac AC as a spot treatment overnight (the benzoyl peroxide kills acne causing bacteria). Benzac AC dries spots out and stops some of them from developing further. The ClindaTech treatment? Not so much. You don’t need a prescription for Benzac AC (you can get it at your local chemist) and it’s much cheaper (between the $10 – $20 dollar mark). To be fair though, I didn’t use it everyday in my routine. In my defence though, the Dermatologist didn’t say to use it on a daily basis, but rather when my skin was going through a ‘rough patch’. So as needed. And it just doesn’t work for me in this role.

I also didn’t usually apply it underneath makeup even though you could, as it’s watery and should ideally be applied underneath moisturiser or any serums. But by the time it dries to the point you can layer your other skincare on top (so you don’t spread it around everywhere whilst ‘wet’) my skin is dry and it adds another step to my routine when I am rushing. I’d only really use it when at home and when I wasn’t planning on wearing any makeup. It may help clear up your acne, but for me it was fail. It’s also not super cheap. I payed around the $50 dollar mark for a 100ml bottle. I didn’t buy it from my usual chemist either, where it would have been a little cheaper most likely. Ahhh the burn of wasted money when you know you won’t use the product up….  *sigh

Differin, 0.1%

I’m still using my Differin gel-cream under the eyes, on the nights when I use the Stieva-A (tretinoin) on the rest of my skin. I’m still liking it in this role. The synthetic version of tretinoin found in Differin (adapalene) makes it gentler than the traditional kind and so it is perfect to combat damage in this delicate area (helloooo firepower!). I generally don’t experience any irritation when using Differin as an eye cream/treatment, but, I have found that when I am overly tired or stressed, the skin in my tear duct area can become a touch more sensitive. This just means that when I apply the Differin my skin can tingle a touch and feel sore, with  some slight redness being visible but this fades quickly and doesn’t cause too much discomfort. Remember to apply a basic moisturising eye cream over the top and build up your tolerance to any retinol/vitamin A based products.

Besides my usual night cream on top of my Stieva-A treatment (which is L’Occitane’s Immortelle Divine Cream) there’s two ‘SOS’ moisturisers or balms that I have been enjoying on days and nights that I have overdone it with the exfoliation and/or if my skin feels parched and dry like cardboard.

La Roche Posay Baume B5

The La Roche Posay Baume B5 is a reparative balm, designed to bring relief to sore and compromised skin instantly. What I love most about this cream (I’d say it has the texture of a thick cream, because it isn’t oily or greasy at all like you imagine a traditional ‘balm’ to be) is that it does indeed instantly soothe skin and bring it comfort. I don’t use it all over my face – but rather on areas that need it (e.g. my chin or any other area with cracked skin). I tried Bioderma’s Cicabio Creme before trying the La Roche Posay offering and that one didn’t work for me because the cream was too light and my skin would ‘absorb’ the cream, leaving it sore and red as before. So for a compromised barrier where your skin has no protective layer left (so if you are experiencing red, flaking and ‘cracked’ skin) the La Roche Posay offering will be better for you.

This soothing multi-repairing balm favors the recovery for sensitive skin. Thanks to its formula associating Panthenol 5% with Madecassoside with a highly-cosmetic texture. Suitable for the entire family: babies, children and adults.PROPERTIESSkin irritations in adults, children and babies Cracks Rough areas Infant redness Dry patches and chafing Intense dryness Superficial burns      Can be applied to body, face and lips. Optimal tolerance, suitable for sensitive skin. Paraben-free. Fragrance-free. Lanolin-free. White-mark free.A triple-action complete formula: • Optimal skin recovery [Madecassoside] + [Copper – Zinc – Manganese] • Soothing of dry, irritated areas [5% Panthenol] • Skin protection [Rich, nourishing texture] + [Antibacterial Agents]TEXTURE & APPLICATIONApply twice daily to pre-washed and dried skin. Can be applied in a generous layer. Can be applied to body, face and lips. Avoid the eye contour area. Suitable for babies, children and adults.

It is thick and will leave some noticeable white patches on your skin, so it’s a treatment for use at home (I apply it quite thickly) 😉  I love that the texture isn’t oily or greasy at all. When you have acne prone skin, you are definiately paranoid when it comes to oil and greasy textures. I can’t find anywhere on the box or website that says that this cream is non-comodegenic but I assume it is, as part of La Roche Posay’s ‘ethos‘ is to create products which are non-comodegenic. It also contains antibacterial agents, which is great for spots. It comes in a handy tube, which is quite small and light (containing 40ml of product) so you could travel with it very easily or keep it in your first aid kit for the whole family to use. I bought mine from Priceline for $15.99 or you can also pick it up at Adore Beauty for the same price (and free shipping). 

Kicho Camelia Oil Sleeping Pack

This is a product that really surprised me. It has all of these ‘rich’ ingredients like lanolin, camellia oil and Shea butter, and yet, it isn’t oily or greasy at all. How confusing! I always imagined an ingredient like lanolin to be comedogenic and low and behold, it’s not! If you’ve tried other lanolin products before (like Lanolips) it has that greasy and thick unpleasant texture, but this sleeping pack is nothing like that at all. The texture of ‘the pack’ is just of an ordinary cream. Not a balm or a gel, but nicely in-between. It sits on top of the skin but it’s like it forms a ‘cushion’ effect on the skin, so it’s pleasant. You can use it ‘solo’ as an overnight mask of course (sans any other products) but I use it on top of ‘treatments’ (like a tretinoin cream or chemical exfoliants) or active serums when my skin is feeling parched. I would even go as far to say that you could easily use it as a night cream. I feel like it ‘seals’ in everything I’ve applied to my skin beforehand, whilst providing comfort and hydration. It has some slight colour but even if you apply it in a generous layer, the colour fades and it becomes transparent.

PRODUCT BRAND: K I C H O (kee-cho)The philosophy of Kicho is to wholeheartedly embrace the elegant order of nature. Kicho is dedicated to bringing back the basics of skincare, combining ancient arts with modern scientific research. Kicho works in unity with the skin, respecting the skin’s essentials, by avoiding harsh chemicals and using patented formula’s derived from natural ingredients. Kicho products are cruelty free.PRODUCT SIZE: 100ml + Mask BrushPRODUCT FUNCTION: Overnight restorative maskHOW TO USE: Apply a thin, even layer to freshly cleansed face, neck and décolletage using mask brush or fingertips.  The brush enables professional application. Use up to 3-4 times weekly as part of your evening beauty ritual.KEY CONCEPTS:Camelia Oil, Rosewater, Lanolin, Hyaluronic Acid, Green Tea and Black Ginseng are infused in this soothing, powerful formula that lets nature replenish your skin while you sleep. Combining vitamin and antioxidant rich ingredients with the restorative power of sleep this nourish mask amplifies hydration and repair leaving skin with a dewy glow. That means no rinsing until you wake in the morning. Appropriate for all skin types. Ideal for dry and mature skin.FEATURES:
  1. ­­­­­­­­­­­­Dermatologist tested

  2. Silky, light cream format

  3. Camelia Oil & Ginseng extract are packed with anti-oxidants to protect and maintain skin health whilst brightening skin

  4. Camelia Oil contains:

  5.  Triglyceride Oleate: a substance that is similar to human tissue and is effective for treatment of atopic skin conditions

  6. Gamma-linolenic acid: has excellent moisturising properties to work to smooth skin and improve lustre

  7. Rosewater is anti-oxidant rich and ultra-hydrating whilst acting as an effective anti-bacterial skin protector

  8. Lanolin is the ultimate natural emollient and protector to restore skin balance. Skin affinity allows for rapid absorption and deep nutrition to rejuvenate skin

  9. Saponin, a powerful natural anti-oxidant produced through extensive natural fermentation and refinement of fresh black ginseng , functions to strengthen, soothe and restore skin

  10. Skin loving ingredients include extracts of Magnolia, Willow, Grapefruit, Propolis, Totarol, and Chamomile

  11. Panthenol, Vitamin E, Alantoin and Shea Butter support and enhance skin condition

  12. Hyaluronic Acid is a widely used moisturising active ingredient. One molecule of HA can hold 10 molecules of water!

Panthenol, alantoin and Shea butter are very soothing ingredients, which is why the La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 also include these particular ingredients in its formula. The sleeping pack smells quite ‘fresh’ and touch floral (you get a very mild rosewater scent). I just apply it to my skin using my fingers rather than the brush that you get (I’m lazy like that). It’s a wonderful formula and I do believe it soothes the skin and reduces any redness or flaking that would have been there had I not used the sleeping pack. I wouldn’t say it leaves makes my skin ‘bouncy’ in the morning but it’s smoothed and I know it’s helped my skin absorb all the goodness I applied underneath and the sleeping pack itself.

I think I will take this guy with me to Europe this year, as the squeeze tube makes it perfect for travel (and it’s light!). I bought my Kicho Camelia Sleeping Pack, 100ml from Nudie Glow but it seems to be out of stock there at the moment (though they also stock other Kicho products!). You can pick one up from Glamaco for $69.95 AUD. 

So that’s it Beauties! There’s still a little way to go in regards to my acne being totally under control, but I’m getting there… *sigh I’ll keep you updated of course, especially in regard to the small acne scarring I am hoping to reduce! Let me know how you are going if you too are battling acne 🙂

Catch ya next time!

Beauty Bee~

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