It’s only now that I’ll be easing my way into using tretinoin.  Previously, this was my prescription from the derm:

  • Kojic Acid Soap
  • Anti-bacterial Toner (alcohol-based)
  • CHAT 2% Solution (chat = clindamycin phosphate, hydroquinone, alum, tretinoin)
  • Retinoic Acid .1%
  • Blending Cream (hydroquinone cream?)


This prescription is strong.  I was told to use only the first 3 in the morning and all of them at night. I was also asked to start immediately after the day the doctor did a mild TCA peel procedure.

On my fourth day, my skin was so raw that when I touch my jaw, I felt like I was touching raw flesh.

I called the doctor and asked if I could substitute the soap with a gentler cleanser, something like Physiogel.  S/he told me to fight through the pain and continue using the Kojic Acid soap.  I didn’t follow the doctor’s advise.  My gut told me to listen to my skin and I’m so glad I did.  I might have ended up filleting my face if I pushed through with the soap.

Right now, I’m sure that to some extent, my tolerance to tret has lowered.  It’s been almost 4 months since I used it.

Used incorrectly, tretinoin can destroy the skin.  It can make the skin more pimply, crepe-y, and wrinkly.

Here’s my game plan:

Start Slowly

Technically, I’m not starting slowly because I’m using the highest percentage of tretinoin available. But I don’t want to buy another tube in a lower concentration.  To compensate, I’m using it only 2x this week.

Many people attempt to rush to the finish line with this product.  Unfortunately, no matter how generous or how frequent you apply tretinoin, your fine lines or pimples will not necessarily go away faster.  Applying more of it too soon in the beginning will result in increased unnecessary irritation.  How fast your skin positively responds to this cream will depend on its tolerance to the product.  The damage could be irreversible if you’re stubborn >>> this should scare you.

I’ll use just half of a pea-sized amount on the entire face

It is recommended to use a pea-sized amount.  When they say pea, did they mean the local green pea that I’m more familiar with?  Because if I apply that amount, that would result in dandruff-faced Rae.

I used to apply tretinoin as thin as I possibly can regardless of the concentration.  I plan on still doing the same.  On estimate, that’s about the size of two rice grains.

All of the tretinoin cream brands I’ve used are very easy to thin out. Believe me, you can spread two rice grain-sized amount of tretinoin cream all over the face.

I repeat: Applying more equates to more irritation — not more benefit.

Make Sure My Skin is Moist

My first priority is moisture. Always.

If moisture is compromised, I will drop everything else. Just as I did 4 months ago.

I believe that if I keep my skin from drying out while on this treatment, it has better chance of fighting through irritation and all the other stuff it battles.

Incidentally, I just learned about the superpowers of niacinamide being able to lessen the susceptibility of tretinoin. I’m glad that this ingredient is present in almost all olay skin care moisturizers.

My tretinoin nights look like this:

  1. Pre-cleanse with micellar water (if I wore makeup during the day)
  2. Cleanse with a creamy non-foaming cleanser (hello, VMV!) — I want to avoid stripping my facial oils at all costs.
  3. Apply a niacinamide serum or moisturizer right after washing and patting my face with a towel.  Currently, I’m using an olay serum.  After that I wait for about 15 to 20 mins.* This is a perfect opportunity to read something. Right now, I’m re-reading C. Palahniuk’s Fight Club.
  4. Apply tretinoin.
  • Waiting is very very important. If tretinoin is applied while the skin is still damp — again: Dandruff-face Alert!

My morning skin care routine looks like this:

  1. Cleanse with a creamy non-foaming cleanser, again.
  2. Apply the niacinamide serum (if I’ll be using a sunblock with alcohol).
  3. Apply sunblock
    Sunblocks I’m currently rotating:
    Kanebo Allie Extra UV Long Keep SPF 50+ PA+++++
    Biore Perfect Face Milk SPF 50+ PA+++
    Mentholatum SunPlay Clear Water SPF 50+ PA+++

I haven’t been wearing face makeup lately.  Sometimes I mix the watery sunblocks with a drop of MAC Face and Body Foundation.  But most days, I go out face makeup-free.

Hopefully, I don’t break out.

If everything goes well. I’ll continue with this routine and I’ll up the frequency of tretinoin usage to 3x a week.


Hi, I’m Rae and I am a scatterbrain. I am in my 30s and I write in this blog from the Philippines. I spend a tiny portion of my time de-stressing with makeup and skin care. Email: | Instagram: @scatterbraintures


  1. Hi ate rae, and I just wanna know where did you bought your Retacnyl and how much is a tube po? Also, did you experience any breakout in the first few weeks of using it?

    • Hi Stradmoore! I bought mine from Watsons (Pharmacy). I think most pharmacies carry it. It’s around Php 1,000+ per 30g tube.

      The first few weeks of using tretinoin, I was using a product from the dermatologist. I did break out. It’s a common side effect, I think. Those people who don’t experience purging with tretinoin are lucky!

  2. I am sorry to say but:You look much more ‘mature’ than being only in your 30’s.
    Why do you use all this ant aging stuff if your face does not show any antiaging result. Unless I can’t see them, so maybe you could point them out please.
    Are all your fine lines and wrinkles has disappeared?
    Are your scars and blemishes are all gone?
    Is your complexion perfects? so you don’t haver to wear foundation anymore?
    If you have answered no to all there questions….than what is the point in all of this?
    I am sorry , if I come across rude or harsh, however you are advising/advertising very strong, expensive treatment , and before I would agree to give it a try -I want to see before and after photos., raw and untouched. To see is what I see worth both time and money.

    • Rae Reply

      I’m mainly using this for acne and have been using this for 8 years to keep my skin from breaking out.

      The link below answers some of your questions on why I’m using it (TLDR; a doctor prescribed this to me, although you can buy this without prescription in ph, I don’t recommend using this on a whim).

      Before Using Tretinoin, Here Are 6 Things to Consider –

  3. Ate rae. Just want to ask. When you used the maxipeel exfoliant solution. Did your face became smooth? The pimple marks was gone? And also the acne scars? Can you post another present picture of yours? I tried maxipeel but i discontinue it bc i feel that it doesnt make my face better. But after reading your blog i think i want to continue using maxipeel again.

  4. Where can I buy stieva-a? They stopped selling it here in the Philippines

    • Rae Reply

      Yeah, I’ve been looking for it, too. :(

      Anyway, I bought retacnyl na lang.

  5. Hi Ate Rae. Where did you bought Stieva-A in the Philippines? I tried in watsons but no luck. I don’t know If they’re just out of stock.

    • Rae Reply

      I bought mine from Watsons, pero lately nga daw it’s always out of stock. Have you gone to mercury drug? Siguro meron din sa lesser known pharmacies.

  6. Hi Rae! I was browsing for acne treatment products and I got your page. I can say it’s very helpful and informative. I’m just wondering how much are the costs of the products you’re using, if you don’t mind. Like the Tretinoin and Kanebo Allie Extra UV Long Keep SPF 50+ PA+++++
    Also where to avail the sunblock?

    Thank you!

    • Rae Reply

      Thank you! The brand I use, Stieva-A, is around Php 600+. It’s usually available at most pharmacies. Kanebo Allie on the other hand, is available at The Landmark, SM Store and at bigger Watsons stores (Php 1,500+), a cheaper option is Biore Aqua Rich Whitening Essence.

  7. Hi Ate Rae! I’ve been reading your articles especially those about maxipeel. I just want to ask about my current condition. I have used Maxipeel for two months and I could say my face got better, lighter marks of past acne and lesser small acne on my chin. A friend who is also a blogger told me to stop for a month and resume on the regimen. I resumed on in the middle of August but I was surprised that my face didn’t get better, in fact I have a huge pimple on my nose and the small irritating-to-look-at ones on my chin increased in number! My mom told me to use the soap acne-aid. But sometimes Idk if I should continue using that because I see no effect and resume to maxipeel soap. Right now I use acne-aid/maxipeel soap, maxipeel pore-refining cleanser, maxipeel exfoliant, and garnier whitespeed in replacement to maxipeel moisturizer because I wanted my dark marks to be gone. What do you think should be my proper regimen in the morning and evening using these products? Right now I dont usually go out so I dont use the sunblock, i’m really worried about my face now because it wasnt like this when I was a teen. I’m 20 now. Thanks ate if you would help me out. Godbless po!:)

    • Rae Reply

      Hi, sorry it took me a while to respond. I hope your skin is doing better. Anyway, here’s how I would use maxi-peel:

  8. Pingback: Starting a New Skin Care Routine + Going Back To Tretinoin | Scatterbraintures

  9. Hello Ms. Rae! Lovelovelove the article! I was just wondering if you think tretinoin would work on whiteheads? I’ve been breaking out recently and nothing seems to be working. :(

    • Hi Ann, thank you!

      Tretinoin worked for my whiteheads, too. I don’t get those anymore.

  10. Hello! I love your blog, thorough and very informative. I just have a question, have you tried benzoyl peroxide? If so, what can you say about it? I am currently on my 4th day of using it.

    • I did. I used it wrong the first time, I used to much of it and too frequently, I mildly burned a part of my cheek, near the ears. Hehe.
      Anyway, I didn’t like using benzoyl peroxide. It dries out my pimples but most of them tend to leave a very dark mark after they’ve healed. The type that are so dark it takes months to fade.

      I use tea tree oil for spot treatment, and tretinoin all over.

      • Geez I am afraid of tretinoin. After all I’ve been (and still am going) through with these pimples, I think I cannot handle the additional redness and peeling.

        • That’s totally understandable. Tretinoin is scary to use. I guess you can continue with BP naman. Maybe use a moisturizer with sunflower oil or niacinamide. 2 of the ingredients I know that can help strengthen the skin barrier. Maybe they can help lessen the hyperpigmentation.

          • Thank you but I’m still considering it. I have a couple of questions though: 1. I am curious about your method of using tret, in most routines, medication comes first followed by a moisturizer. Why would you use the serum first? Does it not block the tret from getting to where it’s supposed to be? 2. Since our skin peels continously with tret, do we not come to a point where we’ve peeled too much?

          • I meant with BP. Tretinoin needs commitment kasi, whereas BP, you need to stop at some point because the ‘-oxide’ in it causes free radical formation.

            With tretinoin, professionals are split on this. Some say cleanse and tret lang dapat. Some cleanse, tret, moisturizer. Some naman, cleanse, moisturizer, tret. I follow the latter because it has worked for me for the past 3 years. It also saves time. With cleanse, tret, moisturize. I have to wait after cleansing before putting tret, then wait again before putting moisturizer. Kapag moisturizer before tret. I moisturize na agad after cleansing, wait, then tret. Also, when I don’t put moisturizer agad after cleansing, my skin becomes tight.

          • I only experienced peeling the first few weeks. After that, my skin developed tolerance na. I don’t peel anymore. Except when I put too much or when I wasn’t able to wait lang enough before putting tretinoin

  11. sehunaaaaa Reply

    I’m 25 and I never had a severe case of acne before pero biglang nag silabasan 9months ago, and I was researching about acne and hyper pigmentation. When I look closely in the mirror I can see that my acne-infested face has lesser bumbs but super dark spots (sometimes reddish) so when I distanced my face it looks like a still have those bumps. I have it both cheeks. Co workers keeps commenting things blah blah blah and god knows how much I can take the emotional torture this people gives. I have been to dermas but haven’t faced a real dermatologist yet. Can I but tretinoin without prescription??? I have been doing things a lot to improve my skin. Now I cut back with oily food and too much dairy or sugars and I’m drinking water now. I think my skin is doing fine my mom say so but other people think otherwise and thats just awful. Sorry for blaberring but if you could give advice?

    • Hi, yes you can get tretinoin without prescription (OTC – watsons or mercury drug).

      Anyway, I’m assuming you still have active pimples and hyperpigmentation. The first thing you need to do is tune out all the negative comments and other things that are getting you stressed. Stress have an effect on acne. Also, try as much as you can to get enough sleep. I always get at least 1 to 2 pimples when I undersleep.

      I usually recommend tretinoin as a last resort type of product, if you feel that this is right for you, go for it. It will get worse at first but you can minimize the initial side effects by doing the steps I outlined above. But still, try to consult a dermatologist. For severe acne, sometimes tretinoin is not enough.

  12. Ate rae is it ok na after popping ung white/blackheads ok po ba iapply maxipeel solution? Or bad po ang impact if ever? Thankyou :’) for 3days q na po nag stop muna ng maxipeel .natatakot po kc aq na bka lumala irritation

  13. Yes ate Rae. Thankyou, pero may nabasa nga aqng blog po sav wait for 4 hours before applying maxipeel,,. And ate rae 3 months ago i think nung nag pa facial aq sav nung beautician dont use moisturizer and whitening cream daw if you have pimple… hmm. What do u think ate Rae?

    • My acne prescription from the dermatologist a few years back contains a whitening cream and a moisturizer.

  14. Thankyou ate Rae, i owe you bigtime. Nalilinawan na aq sa mga bagay bagay.hehe. ung olay natural white po ba ate rae is also a moisturizer that should be use in the evening after applying maxipeel?

    • Yup, pero if ok pa yung myra e. Ubusin mo na lang muna :) Sayang. Make sure lang to wait 15 to 20 mins after washing before you apply tretinoin para less unnecessary irritation.

  15. Oh you mean ate Rae. After 2months using maxipeel then ung treninoin naman din for 2 months tapus back to maxipeel ulit..

    Ate Rae, i went to watsons an hour ago and i ask how much olay mosturizer. Its so expensive pala. It costs around 800 then ung tretinoin cream may percent pala cla. May o.05 something like that.. what percent should i use po kaya? Like wise it’s also expensive 0.05 percent is about 500 plus..

    • There’s a new one for Php 369, olay natural white face serum swirl. If limited budget, meron silang sachet or mga travel-sized tubes.

      Yung tretinoin cream. May murang brand Derm A. Php 200+. Yung per cent, check your maxi-peel bottle. There’s a percentage there too. I think 0.025, that’s what you need :)

  16. Helo ate Rae. Thanks for this blog .but im still confused how to use it. All i understand is to wash my face ,cleanse it, put olay moisturizer and sunblock in the morning then in the evening wash, cleanse and put tretinoin. And so if thats correct how long should i use that tretinoin cream before going back to use maxipeel?

    • On one of the articles I’ve read written by a derm doc. Use products with hydroquinone in 4-month cycles daw. That means, 2 months (hydroquinone) maxi-peel, then 2 months (no hydroquinone) tretinoin cream :)

  17. Sumi Go | The Purple Doll Reply

    Props to you for taking good care of your skin! I’m still at this point where I put more emphasis on makeup than skincare. Hopefully, I can get more into skincare since I don’t want to grow old hiding behind and depending too much on makeup.
    Anyway, is tretinoin good for those with blemishes? Or is it solely used for treating pimples? I’m not sure if I should consider using it. I’m still scared after I incorrectly used benzoyl peroxide several years ago. I used to not have problems with pimple scarring, but wanting to get rid of the bumps faster, I used the product more often and generously too! >.< It made my pimples dry faster, but they left dark scar marks. :(

    PS: I nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award! Hope you can do the tag when you find the time. ^^

    • Hi, thanks for dropping by! I hope I’ll find time to do the tag. :S

      Anyway, is blemish the same as dark spots? If yes, tretinoin will not help that much. Anyway, Benzoyl Peroxide really causes post-acne hyperpigmentation. I find that if I dry my pimples out, I ended up with those dark spots. So, even if it takes long to heal, I just let it be. For spot treating, I don’t use acids anymore. I use either the SOS Clindamycin roller ball or tea tree oil.

  18. I used to go to derma clinic from 2012 and early half of 2013. I was always prescribed with Tretinoin because of the state of my skin that time. But then I noticed that it’s like on and off with my pimples every other month so I stopped consulting the doctor (as well as using his products because of the amount of money I’m spending haha!). Hope you’ll get good result with the routine sis :) have a nice day!

    The Budget Fashion Seeker

    • Thanks. This has been my routine for the past 4 years. I just stopped tretinoin for a time. I’m hoping it still works the same.

  19. I can always count on your thoroughness. Thank you for making me realize that I am still having fun slutting it up with my different skincare products and that the commitment to Tretinoin is definitely not for me (at least, in this slutty stage of my life.)

    • Not to discredit some (not all) of our local dermatologists, but I think they generally give insufficient instructions and warnings.

      Instructions like “Apply thinly every other day.” is not enough. They should warn the patient what will happen if they apply too much or if they hasten the process. Being an acne-prone person, I feel desperate to see results immediately and I know I am not alone. I’ve seen a lot of horror stories re: tretinoin and it could’ve been prevented.

      And yes, this might not be for you. It doesn’t seem evident that I’m a skin care addict because I use the same stuff over and over. Hahaha.

  20. Just reading this made me feel so tired. Not because of the way it was written, of course. Grabe daming process, dami kelangan tandaan. I don’t know how I’d be able to keep up. Napakatamad ko pa naman. Just the mere act of removing my makeup at the end of each day feels like a chore already huhuhu

    Tretinoin’s not for me :(

    • Hahaha, maybe because I’m more of a skin care than a makeup person. Pero if you look at the routine, konti lang yung products.

      • Hi ms rae, im alexis, ive gone to some watsons and mercury drug stores to buy steiva a, but theres no luck finding one, mercury drug main store said that the product is already faced out (was like..nooooohhhhh!!!! On the phone during my inquiry), is there anything alternative you can share that works the same as steivaa?, please respond, thank you for time….

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