My Retinoid Journey From OTC To Prescription Strength.

4th October 2020 in Hints and Tips, Skincare - 15 Comments - Talia James (The Skincare Saviour) - 4 min read
My Retinoid Journey From OTC To Prescription Strength.

Welcome, Skintellectuals!

I posted on my Instagram curiously to see if anyone would want to hear about my retinoid journey thinking only a few people were going to respond but when I was bombarded with messages I thought it would be better to do it as a proper blog post instead of on Instagram which you can follow me here >>> @theskincaresaviour

I feel like when talking about retinoids a lot of the time people just want to use the strongest retinoid out there first go and while you can do that but the downside is the peeling, the irritation and the very stripped back skincare routine you’ll have to do for quite some time.
Now anyone who knows me will tell you that im the least patient person about but i wanted to do this properly with as little irritation as possible.

The way i went around retinoids wasnt an overnight thing it was over the course of a few years and im going to explain to to you how i did it.

My Retinoid Journey From OTC To Prescription Strength.
The above retinoids are representative of starter retinoids as i dont use my original retinoids anymore.

When I first decided I wanted to use retinol I knew I wanted to try the lowest strength I could find that would still give results. The first two retinoids I used where Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Oil this was around 2016 when I first started getting into skincare. For about 9 months of 2016 I used Luna which was a really gentle retinoid that contained Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, I like to think of this as the cousin to pure retinoic acid (If you want to learn how to choose the best-starter retinoids check out my post HERE)

My Retinoid Journey From OTC To Prescription Strength.
Verso Super Facial Serum, Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

In 2016 I used 2 retinoids the Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil and the Pestle and Pestle & Mortar Superstar Night Oil which was very similar to Luna. At the start of 2017, I switched things up and started using stronger retinoids still over-the-counter but punchier formulations. This is when I first discovered the Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum at the time this was a really strong retinoid then I moved on to the Verso Super Facial Serum. It must have been about 9 months later into 2017 when Paulas Choice sent me their Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment which was the strongest retinol I used to date.

My Retinoid Journey From OTC To Prescription Strength.
Dermatica Adapalene 0.1% and Skin & Me Tretinoin 0.015%

Come August 2018 I had been using the Paulas Choice 1% for white some time now I had used at least 3 bottles of it at this point. I stopped using the PC retinol when I got the chance to try out a new brand that had launched in the UK called Dermatica (full review here) this was the UK’s first online dermatology service where you are able to get prescription-strength skincare products for £19.99 a month. Now, this is where the game changed, I had never used a prescription-strength before and I was worried that I would get a lot of irritation and peeling but thank god I didn’t. While I did get some sensitivity I couldn’t use acid exfoliators for the longest time but eventually, my skin acclimatised to the Adapalene and my skin has never been better.

2 years would pass of me using Adapalene every other night and I honestly thought I would be happy with that but then another new brand came onto the market called Skin & Me but they blew Dermatica out of the water. This was another online dermatology service but the difference was so apparent from the customised packaging, the daily doser packaging to the number of different drugs they could compound with. I got to try out something from Skin & Me and now in October 2020, I am using tretinoin. Whilst I might be using a lower dose, you know I want to take things slow to get the best results. I’ve been using tretinoin for about 2 weeks now and I’ve had no dryness so irritation and no peeling.

My Retinoid Journey From OTC To Prescription Strength.
My favourite go to sunscreens.

I will always tell you to go low and slow this way you’ll get the easiest time with your retinoids with little to no side effects.

Just as a little note on the end that the use of retinoids is a serious thing, it’s a big decision to make. When using retinoids you NEED to wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and reapply it throughout the day. Retinoids make the skin more sensitive to the sun so if you can’t stick to wearing sunscreen every day then retinoids are not for you. There is no point in years of work if you aren’t going to wear a sunscreen as you’re just wasting money and undoing all the hard work
Some of my favourite sunscreens are the La Roche Posay Anthelios Shaka Fluid SPF 50+, Lagom Cellus Sun Gel SPF 50 and the new Ambre Solaire Ultra-Light Sensitive Face Fluid SPF 50+ (It’s basically Anthelios but more affordable)

What are your favourite retinoids?
Are you going “low and slow”
Leave a Comment!

Talia James (The Skincare Saviour)

Scottish science nerd obsessed with all things beauty! Creator of The Skincare Saviour, a skincare blog covering everything from reviews, tutorials to busting myths, finding dupes and breaking down trends.

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  • Laura 4th October 2020 at 4:51 pm

    I just decided to start with retinol and I bought the La Roche- Posay Retinol B3, I figured it’s very mild and that’s what I need at this point. I’m waiting until winter to start using it. Thank you so much for this post., I’m taking notes of the brands that I can buy here in USA.
    P.D.: I think an Instagram live about this will be a hit! 😉

  • Fi Neil 4th October 2020 at 5:53 pm

    Super impressed with the journey you have shared. I have been using Beaty Pie Retinol products for a while. Low and slow . It’s now time to switch up and I have signed up with Dermatica – Tret . Wasn’t ready to do this in the summer time.

    • Kristina 4th October 2020 at 6:56 pm

      Thank you for this post! I want to start using retinoids but there are so many options at the market which is making it hard for me to choose good beginner retinol product. This was a great help 😄

      • Talia James (The Skincare Saviour) 4th October 2020 at 11:22 pm

        You’re welcome! <3 I'm glad I could have been of help to you. Retinol Reface by Indeed Labs is a great place to start if you want to get into using retinoids

    • Talia James (The Skincare Saviour) 4th October 2020 at 11:21 pm

      I’m so glad that this has been of help to you! Low and Slow is definitely the way to go. You will be amazed at the difference you’ll see when on prescription strength.

  • nura 4th October 2020 at 6:56 pm

    Wow you sure have tried out so many different brands and products. I started with TO Retinol 0,5%, then the 1% but the PC Retinol 1% was an absolute game changer. I might try other products as well. Thanks a lot!

    • Talia James (The Skincare Saviour) 4th October 2020 at 11:24 pm

      Yeah, I have tried out a fair few haha. You’re so right the PC Retinol is definitely a game-changer as I think it’s one of the strongest OTC retinoids on the market

  • Allison Johnson 4th October 2020 at 7:08 pm

    Thank you for the post! I am am using up this bottle of LRP Effeclar Duo and then I’m going to try and get on a prescription retinoid. I have such bonkers skin! Not dry, not oily, but I can’t seem to get rid of my comedonal acne on my chin and side cheeks. Prescription strength would honestly be my last option, so I’m holdin’ our for a hero. Thank you for the blog!!

    • Talia James (The Skincare Saviour) 4th October 2020 at 11:27 pm

      You’re welcome <3 I hope it helped you in some way. I would definitely try out a retinoid even an OTC one like Retinol Reface by Indeed Labs but also remember that if you need it go for it. It really does help.

  • Anne 7th October 2020 at 3:56 pm

    I was on Adapalene and now am on Tretinoin due to my adult acne, but I second the “low and slow” approach.

  • Iryn 7th October 2020 at 10:58 pm

    This is another great article from you, simple straight to the point. Just starting on my skin journey so this was timely. I’m just about to start using retinals and I’m torn between Indeed lab retinal 0.3% and PC 1%

  • Marise Decosta 7th April 2022 at 11:03 am

    My name is Marise Decosta, i am really impressed with this post, Thank you for sharing.

  • Marise Johnson 20th June 2022 at 6:21 am

    I have liked all these creams, will try them in the next time, now I am using Emirium cream, This cream is also very good. And I like it too.

  • Men beauty 24th July 2022 at 3:58 pm

    Partial to all things lather and lather, face masks, martinis (extra dry, up, with a twist), this male beauty blogger thirsts for the latest and greatest,

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    Welcome to fellow skintellectuals to The Skincare Saviour, a skincare blog covering everything from reviews, tutorials to busting myths, finding dupes and breaking down trends. All posts marked * have been sent to The Skincare Savior for consideration for review. All opinions on these products are my own. Read More


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