Skin Update #6: Acne + Scars

It’s been quite a while since I shared my last skin update, so I thought it was about time for a new one!

In this update, I will be sharing my 1 year experience with using Tretinoin (Retin-A Micro), 2 year experience using Dapsone (Aczone), why I stopped taking Spironolactone after 6 months of use, and a brief chat about my experience with CO2 Fraxel Laser.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I highly suggested looking at past skin updates to understand the context of this one:
SKIN UPDATE #5: 0.04% to 0.1% Tretinoin, 6+ Months of Spironolactone, Professional Microneedling
SKIN UPDATE #4: Switching From Adapalene (Differin) to Tretinoin (Retin-A), Taking Spironolactone, Acne Scar Revision?
SKIN UPDATE #3: 1+ Year using Differin
Skin Update [#2]: August 2019: My Skin’s Progress so Far!
Skin Update [#1] December 2018: Acne + Scars


Tretinoin 1 Year Later

If you recall, I started using Tretinoin last spring. My derm bumped up my prescription from 0.3% Adapalene because it was clear that its strength was not enough to controls intense breakouts. It has been just over a year since I started incorporating Retin-A Micro in my skincare routine, so here are my thoughts.

  • It is a powerful molecule. I said it before and I’ll say it again, 0.04% Tretinoin did more for my skin than 0.3% Adapalene. I noticed in a month existing acne healed quicker, pores looked smaller, overall skin texture is smoother, skin quality is just overall better.
  • Slow and steady really wins the race. When I bumped up to 0.1% Tretinoin, my skin still had to go through a bit of retinization because I did experience more sensitivity with it. I was using it every night after, but started noticing my skin would look flushed and my pores would look very exaggerated. I now cut the usage to 2-3 times a week and my skin has been in a very happy state.
  • It is not the end all of acne control and anti-aging. Yes, I noticed a number of benefits when I started using it and will continue using it for the rest of my life. However, after years of on and off using a vitamin A topical, even using sunscreen, chemical exfoliants, vitamin C serums… Being super consistent with my skincare for years, I can still see wrinkles coming through on my forehead, my pores were sagging a bit which is a sign of collagen degradation, I still freckle when it’s summer time. It has only been in recent times I’ve been able to control my acne, and a big reason for it is both the use of this topical prescription as well as taking care of myself on the inside. After a year and a half of experimenting, I have finally managed to connect the way I eat to my skin health. Being disciplined in my eating habits plus these topicals help keep my skin clear and overall contribute to the graceful aging process.

Dapsone 2 Years Later

I started using it day and night everyday since January 2020 when I did my 1 year of Differin update. I felt like I could have saved myself a lot of time and money if I just stuck with what was prescribed to me and not freaked out so much about short term side effects. Dapsone is one of the gentlest prescription topicals I have used for my acne and it’s an unsung hero for sure. It helps reduce inflammation around active acne, I have been able to use it alongside other actives with no issues (tretinoin, AHAs, BHAs, Vitamin C), there’s no irritation if I overapply, and it doesn’t make other skincare textures not work in my routine. Now that my skin has been staying fairly clear, I reduced the usage and only use it at night when I use my tretinoin.


6 Months of Spironolactone

Spironolactone is an oral medication to help further assist with acne control. Originally prescribed as a diuretic to help lower blood pressure. How it works for acne is it also inhibits androgen production, which us with hormonal acne tend to be in excess of.

I first started taking it because I had a bad breakout when I saw my dermatologist in the summer of 2020. Fed up with breakouts, I agreed to going on Spironolactone while continuing my topical treatments tretinoin and dapsone. The first 3 months I most definitely had side-effects, the worst being dizziness and spotting for an entire month. After this time had passed, I definitely noticed its benefits. When I ate too many carby foods, I still did not have a bad breakout – maybe a small pimple that disappeared quickly. When it was my time of the month, same thing! Little to no breakouts. I would say I was about 98-99% clear at that point.

I took Spiro consistently for another 3 months until I ran out and decided not to get a prescription refill. I knew it was a bandaid to my lack of discipline with what I ate, and as time pass this fact bothered me a lot more. I finally figured out my gut health and how it has been effecting my skin, and the Spiro just allowed me to be lazy and undisciplined. I also didn’t like the side effects when it came to hormonal changes. I have had experience with birth control in the past and part of the reason I stopped taking it is to not be reliant on oral medication, I wanted control over my body. Spiro also effected my hormones, my period being the obvious indicator. If I was younger I wouldn’t care, but now that I’m in my 30s, hormonal health is very important for me. I know a few people who had difficulties conceiving and I was afraid that iIwould have that problem. Although the rewards of taking Spiro were good, for my situation the risks outweigh it, so that’s why I stopped taking it.

Frankly I don’t miss it, because I’m way more disciplined with my way of eating and lifestyle than I was at the time when I started taking it. I also feel very free not relying on oral medication for my acne.


CO2 Fraxel Laser

YES, I finally did it! I got my first CO2 Fraxel Peel session to address my old atrophic acne scars. I started 3 professional microneedling sessions last year and while it definitely lifted some of the scarring, improved my pores and gave a moment of plumpness to my skin, I knew I needed something more heavy duty. Even the dermatologist who performed the procedure said prior that my scars are too old and therefore difficult. I documented my healing time over on my Youtube so be sure to check it out! Long story short, it hurt lol. Now that my skin has settled from the procedure, I find my skin definitely looks smoother; Scars look more lifted, pores look more minimal, and obviously overall skin texture has been refined. I have already completed a 2nd session and will probably get a 3rd in the new year.


And that’s all, folks! As always, I hope you find content like this helpful and informative.

xo, M

My Summer 2020 Nighttime Skincare Routine Ft. Retin-A Micro & Aczone

Following my 2020 Morning Skincare Routine (Summer Edition), here is a breakdown of my nighttime skincare routine for the warmer months!

Skin type: Acne prone, normal to dry. Becomes easily sensitized from drying products or environment.
Skincare Focus: Acne control, hydration, barrier protection.
What my skincare addresses: Acne prevention and healing, hydration, barrier protection, graceful aging,  fading pigmentation, minimizing pore size, reduce redness, reduce inflammation, improve texture, promote collagen synthesis, skin thickening.


Products marked with * are PR Samples/gifts. This does not change my opinion of the product. My thoughts are honest, always *casts doe patronus*

All links are affiliate links. This means when you use the link to make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thank you if you decide to use them! If you feel uncomfortable, feel free to google a new link.


NIGHTTIME SKINCARE ROUTINE

wp-1597845827568.jpg

The products below are my tried and trues out of the rotation of items I receive from PR, gifts, and my own purchases. Each are purposeful and contribute to my skin’s overall health.

1. Eye Makeup Removal

Product: Marcelle Gentle Makeup Remover for Sensitive Eyes
How I use it: Apply on a cotton round and rest on eyes to break down waterproof mascara. After a few seconds, I lightly move the cotton round through my lashes to remove as much as possible.
Why I use it: My eyes are quite sensitive – any oil-based cleanser I have used around my eyes for a few seconds burn them. I need to go in with something gentle, especially when I wear eye makeup. The Marcelle one has been repurchased multiple times for the simplicity, price, and how effective it is while still being gentle.
Where to Buy:
Well.ca

2. 1st Cleanse

Product: Hada Labo Gokujyun Oil Cleansing
How I use it: Dispense a full pump and gently massage all over my face and neck. After 30 seconds or so, I wet my hands and massage my face and neck again to emulsify the oil. I do this for another 30 seconds and then rinse.
Why I use it: It’s important for me to remove a day’s face, especially in the summer time. I’m sweating a bit, my sebum production is higher, I tend to reapply sunscreen more, I still like to wear makeup, and I’m outside exposing myself to environmental pollutants more frequently. It all must go! The Hada Labo oil cleanser is cost effective for the amount you get and I enjoy using it to massage my face longer to remove grit as well.
Where to Buy:
Yesstyle
DokoDemo

3. 2nd Cleanse

Product: Bioderma Sebium Purifying Foaming Gel
How I use it: Dispense half a pump and lightly massage all over my face and neck, with a focus on my T-zone.
Why I use it: It is also a cost effective cleanser for the size and amount you get. It is pH balanced around 5.5 (last time I checked), low foaming and surprisingly it softens my skin despite its marketing for oily/combination skin. I also use it on my body as a shower gel and a shaving gel!
Where to Buy:
Dermstore
Well.ca

4. Hydrator

Product: By Wishtrend Quad Active Boosting Essence *
How I use it: After patting away excess water with a face towel but skin still damp, I immediately pour a nickel-size amount onto the palm of my hand and massage all over my face and neck. Depending on how skin is feeling, I may apply another layer or 2.
Why I use it: Due to my problematic skin, I do not like completely drying out my face so I only remove the excess water. Layering something as light as a hydrating toner/essence/lotion really helps reduce my skin’s chance of becoming dehydrated without feeling congested. I also find hydrators make my skin just a bit plumper, brighter, more even, softer. I don’t find implementing this step prior to my prescriptions irritate my skin at all.
Blog Post: REVIEW: By Wishtrend Quad Active Boosting Essence
Where to Buy:
Wishtrend
Yesstyle

5. Retin-A Micro

Product: Valeant Retin-A Micro 0.04% Tretinoin
How I use it: Dispense one pump and apply it all over my face and underneath my jaw. Because my skin is acclimated to it, I also bring it underneath my eyes.
Why I use it: It is the star ingredient that controls my acne. It works by normalizing my skin cell turnover so there is no buildup of dead skin, and reduces my skin’s sebum production. Tretinoin in particular is also the only FDA-approved ingredient effective at diminishing the signs of photoaged skin (pigmentation, wrinkles, fine lines). Since I’m turning 30 this year, I’m really happy I got an upgrade to my vitamin A prescription! I have also noticed it help refine my skin’s texture and minimize my pores, making my skin look overall clear and healthy.
Blog Post: SKIN UPDATE #4: Switching From Adapalene (Differin) to Tretinoin (Retin-A), Taking Spironolactone, Acne Scar Revision?

6. Aczone

Product: Valeant Aczone Gel 5% Dapsone – (prescription only)
How I use it: Once the Retin-A has settled a bit, I apply a thin layer all over face and under jaw.
Why I use it: It’s very effective at reducing inflammation around any active acne lesions, it also helps to control non-inflamed lesions. It also pairs well with my Retin-A Micro, Vitamin C serum, and chemical exfoliants. After my skin acclimated to it, it always feels mild – never sensitizing my skin, doesn’t add or subtract moisture from my skin.

7. Moisturizer

Product: Bioderma Atoderm Intensive Baume
How I use it: Apply once Aczone has settled. Massage half a pump or more all over face, neck and chest.
Why I use it: Another cost-effective skincare item! Skin always feels comfortably moisturized without feeling congested. Calms my skin, softens it, and leave a non-greasy residue. It is pretty much my HG moisturizer at this point!
Where to Buy:
Dermstore
Well.ca

Video:


And that’s it for my nighttime skincare routine during the warmer months! As always, I hope you find this type of content helpful and informative!

xo, M

SKIN UPDATE #4: Switching From Adapalene (Differin) to Tretinoin (Retin-A), Taking Spironolactone, Acne Scar Revision?

Sun’s out, lockdown is sort-not-really lifted here in Ontario, and I saw my dermatologist for the 2nd time. My 1st visit was back in October 2018 so I was definitely overdue for a follow-up of how my skin has been. It was quite a productive appointment, so I thought I’d share what’s new in my pursuit to clearer skin!

Previous Skin Updates:
Skin Update [#1] December 2018: Acne + Scars
Skin Update [#2]: August 2019: My Skin’s Progress so Far!
SKIN UPDATE #3: 1+ Year using Differin

Recap of what I’ve been doing since January 2020:

  • Using 5% Dapsone (Aczone) day and night
  • 2 at-home microneedling sessions with the Banisher 2.0
  • Eating High Fat Low Carb (Keto) and working out consistently
  • Visited dermatologist – prescribed 0.04% Tretinoin (Retin-A Micro) and Spironolactone

ACNE

Staying consistent with Aczone for the past 4 months has really helped to control my acne. Reflecting more, this is the first topical prescription I have tried that had a minimal adjusting period. It reduces inflammation quickly, prevents painful large breakouts (my last update I had that huge AF cyst -_-); It also plays really well with other actives – Adapalene, Tretinoin, L-Ascorbic Acid, AHA, BHA. Despite my concerns and initial redness in the first couple of months using it, Dapsone has been fairly easy to use in my routine and had the most minimal to no side effects from *knocks on wood*.

Alongside my nightly use of 0.3% Adapalene (Differin), eating Keto and working out consistently has also contributed to my skin’s clarity. I found most of the time my skin stays pretty clear, I don’t get a painful cyst during my period, and any inflammatory breakout subsides quickly. My guess on this is that my hormones are becoming more balanced.

The one huge issue I have been having with my acne though is when I just want to indulge in something sweet and/or carby. I don’t eat many carby foods anymore, but on the off days when I do (say once every 2 weeks), my skin is NOT having any of it, and I break out no matter what. Why not just eliminate sweet/carby foods completely? Cause I’d like to enjoy foods like gelato once in a blue moon, or not be picky at a family gathering when someone has spent an entire morning and afternoon cooking.

5% Dapsone, Spironolactone and 0.04% Tretinoin

After discussing with my dermatologist what my eating habits are, digestive history, oral medication history, and my future plans, she prescribed me Spironolactone and bumped my Vitamin A prescription to 0.04% Tretinoin (Retin-A Micro (RAM)). I have read many positive experiences about Spironolactone and I’m excited to see how it contributes to my skin’s health. For the 0.04% Tret, I asked the derm if it was actually “lowering” the dose since most studies compare 0.3% Adapalene to 0.05% Tretinoin; She said 0.04% Tretinon is still stronger than Adapalene so it should have a better effect for acne prevention and of course, preventative aging benefits!

I’m really hoping that 5% Dapsone, 0.04% Tret and Spironolactone together will show greater improvement in my skin clarity and health, especially on my cheat days :3


ATROPHIC SCARS

The original reason for my appointment was for a consultation on Acne Scar Revision. In short, the 2 options presented to me were Microneedling (3 sessions to start) or Fraxel laser (also 3 sessions, not sure if she meant Halo – Hybrid Fractional Laser or ProFractional). However because I am still breaking out, I must wait to clear my face again (maybe a month or 2) until I can book a treatment. In the meantime, I’ll continue the at-home microneedling. Once my face is more consistently clear, I can book an appointment. I’m leaning more towards microneedling because 1) the down time is only a day 2) 3 sessions would cost me $1350, whereas Fraxel is $1000 PER SESSION, and I would need to do around 3! So given that, I’d rather pay for 6 microneedling sessions.


PLAN OF ACTION

I only just started my new prescriptions, so my plan of action is just to follow what my derm told me to do:

  • 100mg of Spiro daily to start; Decrease the amount by 25mg once acne looks more controlled until I only take 25mg daily.
  • 0.04% Tret twice a week; Increase the usage as tolerability goes up
  • 5% Dapsone day and night
  • If in a month my skin has cleared up, I can book an appointment for an Acne Scar Revision treatment

I am definitely still continuing Keto (and working out) – I have never seen such a drastic change in my gut health and I feel a lot better and healthier. My derm is aware of my lifestyle choices so I trust she wouldn’t have prescribed Spiro otherwise.


And that’s it for this skin update! Not as complicated, but still a work in progress.

If you’ve ever been on Spiro or currently taking it, let me know how it’s been going for you in the comment section down below!

xo, M