Tretinoin – Going from .05% to .1% Strength

After using tretinoin for over a year at .05% strength I decided it was time to move up to the strongest strength. I did have some issues when I started with tretinoin and you can read about my journey hereherehereherehere, and here. If you want some basic information on tretinoin you can find it here and here.

I learned from my mistakes when I initially started tretinoin and slowly worked up to the higher strength. I began by using .1% strength one night a week in May. I continued to use the .05% 5 days a week. Around the end of March, I had started using AHA pads one night per week in place of the tretinoin. I wanted to get the benefits of this type exfoliant too. I wanted to give my skin time to adjust to that before I made any more changes.

I had no problem adding the AHA. I was still having flaking 1 time a week or so around my mouth, nose, and chin. This has been an ongoing issue the entire time I have been using tretinoin.

I made this change during #MaskaDayinMay where I was using a mask every day. This may have helped because I actually experienced less flaking after adding the .1% strength once a week.

In June I started using the .1% two nights a week, the .05% four nights a week, and an AHA once a week. I had flaking about once a week during that month. It was the same areas – nose, chin, mouth. It was no worse than what I had in May. It also was not happening on the mornings after I used the higher strength.

My chest was another story! As I was increasing the strength on my face, I was decreasing the strength on my neck and chest. I was skipping nights and using .025% on some nights. neck and chest were dry, shiny, itchy, and peeling. It was a mess!

I stopped using tretinoin for  2 weeks in July because I went to the beach. You should stop tretinoin a week before you know you will have a lot of sun exposure. I still increased the strength by using .1% three nights per week.

I came back from the beach on July 29 and started using .1% four nights a week on July 31. Almost immediately I had burning and stinging when I applied my other morning products. That had not happened before and it happened several mornings that first week in August. The flaking was the same.

The following week I had flaking 3 days and burning/stinging 2 days. My face was still getting shiny by early afternoon. I had been using Clinique Gentle Facial Cleanser in the morning rather than CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. I stopped the Clinique cleanser and started using a sample of Cetaphil that I had. I had also been using Clinique Toner 2 with BHA. I switched back to my Dickinson’s Enhanced Witch Hazel Hydrating Toner. My skin is so sensitive to cleansers and toners now that I use tretinoin.

My chin and nose flaking was really bad. I was having flaking between my eyes too. It was the worst flaking I have had. I actually started putting Aquaphor on those areas. I never imagined I would be using a heavy jelly-like cream on my face! It did help some.

The flaking continued the last 2 weeks in August but was not as bad. The Aquaphor did help with that. It was just SO greasy! I also made a switch in my daytime moisturizer at the end of August.

I have used Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel in the morning for years. It is one of the few moisturizers that is not too heavy for my skin. With all the flaking I decided to switch to Acure Organics Day Cream since it is a thicker moisturizer.

I felt like I needed to make more changes in my Summer Skincare Routine. I didn’t like the way the Aquaphor felt on my skin so I decided to use a heavier moisturizer at night. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion (DDML) is an iconic beauty product that had always been too much for my skin. I started using it at the end of August too and it seemed to help.

I also stopped using tretinoin on my neck and chest at the end of August. They looked and felt terrible. It was just too much. I took some time off to decide what to do.

Even though I was still having flaking the changes I made seem to be having some effect so I went to .1% 5 times a week in September.For the first half of the month, the flaking and dry patches were not that bad. In the 3rd week, I started to have burning and stinging when I applied my sunscreen in the morning. This may have been because I started making my own Vitamin C serum and it might have been stronger than the one I had been using. There were no other changes in my skincare routine. Mild flaking and dry patches in my chin, nose and mouth area continued.

In October I stopped using the .05% strength at all and went to .1% 6 days a week with an AHA product the other day. I also started using Derma MD Skincare morning and night. I had an a.m. moisturizer, a p.m. moisturizer, and a serum from them to try out.

I continued to have mild flaking and dry patches in the same areas. It wasn’t terrible, I could just see it in these areas when I went to remove my makeup at night. As the month went on it did get more noticeable and I had peeling around my nostrils. I also had mornings where my moisturizer stung when applied.

I decided that the Derma MD moisturizers just weren’t moisturizing enough for me and at the end of October, I went back to my usual moisturizers – Acure in the morning and Clinique DDML at night. The increase in strength coupled with the cooler, drier air required richer moisturizers.

So far in November, my skin is looking pretty good. I did have significant peeling on my jawline one morning but I think it may have been because I applied the tret on damp skin. That makes it absorb more quickly and can make it more drying.

As for my neck and chest, I have been slowly increasing how many days a week I am using the .025% strength. This month I am moving up to 3 nights a week. I have had some itchiness but no flaking. I hope to get to daily use at some point and to get back to .05% strength. I don’t know if I will be able to increase the strength but I do hope to get to daily use someday.

I am so happy to have finally made the transition to the strongest strength of tretinoin. At 53 I need the extra help in keeping my skin looking younger. I have been satisfied with the benefits of using tretinoin in the year and a half I have been using it. My skin is softer, smoother, and looks firmer.

Do you use tretinoin? What strength? How did your skin react? Did you have to slowly transition to keep it from drying your skin out?

Thank you so much for your support of my blog! I am humbled to think that other people actually take the time to read my posts. I appreciate it more than you know. If you enjoyed this post please “like” it and follow my blog so you will see new posts.


2 thoughts on “Tretinoin – Going from .05% to .1% Strength

  1. Thanks for the info…my skin is on the dry side. I’ve been using tretenoin at .05% for many years. I’m thinking of occasionally trying to up it to the 1%. Don’t know if this is necessary, but just to shake things up. I figure I could use over a moisturizer to buffer it if my skin reacts badly. I think the .05% is great, but thought I’d try and up it and see what happens. Do you have any thoughts on this?…I have No acne, using it only to tackle aging…I think I ‘d get the Retin A Micro Gel .1% Thanks for any thoughts. Linda


  2. I have the same issues as you and found your blog very helpful as I, myself have been using .5 for over a year now and now just started .1% last night. BUY A FOREO FROM SEPHORA FOR THE FLAKINESS! If you use that device with your face wash both morning and night you will have ZERO flakiness. I never take the time to write anything after reading a blog, but seriously read about it, get one, and thank me later!


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