NOTE: PocketDerm has rebranded itself as Curology and eliminated the distinction between “Anti-Aging” and “Acne” goals. All ingredients are now fair game for inclusion in your Curology prescription–regardless of whether they’re anti-aging or acne.
I just finished my fourth week of PocketDerm Anti-Aging. To recap, my personalized formula is 0.08% tretinoin, 4% niacinamide, and 5% vitamin C. I’m currently applying about 2 pumps’ worth almost every night (at least 5 nights a week). My skin is generally smooth and has remained clear, and, after I clear off the flakes, I really like the way my skin looks. Occasionally, skin texture feels rougher in spots due to peeling skin. So far, I haven’t noticed any improvement in hyperpigmentation or fine lines, but I’m not expecting to see results this soon anyway.
The most obvious evidence that the tretinoin is working: the peeling!
Starting the second week, the flaking around my nose and mouth went into full force and it hasn’t stopped. Some days it’s dry flakes, and other days it’s sheets of moisturized skin peeling off. (Sorry, ew.) My face also appears pinker than my neck, which I can only attribute to the rawer state of my skin. I’ve noticed the flaking beginning to lessen, but it still happens every day. So this post will focus on two critical aspects of skincare while on tretinoin: flake management and flake removal.
Here are tips on how to manage (and mitigate) the amount and appearance of flaking and extend the interval of time before the flaking begins again.
The things I’ve tried below have been effective for me. Note that I haven’t used a humidifier nor do sheet masks regularly, but both of those should help a lot.
(1) Facial oil
Moisturizer alone doesn’t cut it. Facial oil adds a soothing and ultra-moisturizing element to your skincare and, if it’s heavy enough, serves as an occlusive to seal in the previous layers of skincare. I like mixing drops of oil into my moisturizer as well as layering oil on top of moisturizer. I tried using just oil instead of moisturizer but found it not hydrating enough. So use oil as a supplement, not a replacement.
Recommendations: Tarte Maracuja Oil to use alone. Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Moroccan Beauty Oil (lighter and less moisturizing than the Tarte) as a serum or to mix with moisturizer.
(2) Reapplying moisturizer
I have found it impossible to avoid reapplying moisturizer during the day–unless I want the lizard look by 3pm. At the office, I keep a hydrating mist as well as moisturizer and a facial oil handy. When skin begins to feel tight and flaky, spray mist and apply moisturizer and/or oil. This is a great way to use up samples! Just beware that oil can break down sunscreen and makeup.
Recommendations: Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Moist Mist and Tarte Maracuja Oil.
(3) No makeup
Makeup–no matter how moisturizing it claims to be–isn’t really hydrating, especially compared to an actual moisturizer. Makeup also worsens the appearance of flakes and dissolves when you reapply moisturizer midday. I’ve also found that makeup just turns patchier a lot faster now that the skin is drier.
If you must wear makeup, limit it to the least patchy areas and avoid rubbing/buffing. For me, that means the upper+outer cheeks and the forehead, which is enough to cover up most of my hyperpigmentation and create a general impression of evened out skin tone. And of course I still do my regular eye makeup so I’m not totally unrecognizable, ha.
Recommendations: Any non-drying BB cushion compact for coverage (the patting motion is gentle on the skin) or Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint for smoothing out skin texture (coverage is almost zero though and application requires light rubbing).
(4) Sleeping mask
Top off your nightly skincare with a sleeping mask to seal in moisture overnight. I wake up with no flakes or fewer flakes when I use a sleeping mask.
I’ve seen Vaseline recommended but haven’t tried that yet. Update: I’ve tried a light layer of Vaseline during a period of light to moderate flakiness and it worked terrifically.
Recommendations: Laneige Water Sleeping Mask and First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Overnight Mask.
Below are the four most effective means of removing the flakes that have developed over the day or overnight.
(1) Oil cleansing
I’m always impressed with how many flakes roll up and rub off during oil cleansing. The gentle friction is really effective, and sometimes I can feel my skin becoming rawer during oil cleansing–in a gratifying “I’m really getting all the dead skin and unveiling a layer of fresh skin” way.
Recommendation: Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Melting Cleanser.
(2) Konjac sponge
A damp konjac sponge (soak it wet and then gently squish it between your palms) is a gentle way to physically exfoliate flakes. The Clarisonic is too harsh at this stage of tretinoin use.
Recommendation: Original Dew Puff Pure Plant Fiber Sponge.
(3) Damp cotton pad
If you apply toner or a first essence with a cotton pad, you’re already doing this. I never used to use a toner until I began my foray into Asian skincare, where the toners serve a hydrating rather than astringent function. I highly recommend incorporating this into your routine to not just remove flakes but to add another layer of hydration. At night, I apply PocketDerm 5 minutes after toner/first essence.
Recommendations: Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum, Missha The First Treatment Essence, UNT Ex White Melalight Anti-Pigment Toner.
TMI? The three methods above are great as part of your skincare routine. But when you’re out and about, you can’t exactly whip out a damp konjac sponge. Use slant-tip tweezers to precisely pluck off flakes that develop over the course of the day. It’s very helpful to do this before you re-moisturize so that you’re not just plastering down flakes.
Recommendations: Tweezerman, Slice.
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Part 1 of my PocketDerm review is here.
Interested in trying Curology (PocketDerm’s new name)? If you use my referral link, you can get a free month or 30-day supply (and I will receive a $10 credit if you sign up). If you’d prefer not to use the referral link, go to the normal homepage at https://curology.com/.