Dermatology Community
53.6k Members
Avatar universal


I've been reading alot of websites, doctors advice, books on dermatology about how Retin A can improve not only your acne but your overall skin. By erasing fine lines ("only cream to have been proven to erase wrinkles") -which is B.S. to say the least, gets rid of acne, builds collagen, youthful looking face!
Sounds like a deal. A general doctor just wrote me the prescription in 5 minutes and a day later I got a $150 dollar Tretinoin cream 0.1%. I was never given any instructions, warning, use of this product. So I put a layer of the cream all over my face with an spf moisturizer- EVERYDAY- for 1 week. I noticed my skin was soft at first but exacerbated into complete cystic acne face with craters /blemishes now, my eyes were red, irrtiated, crinkly,swollen, dry and which escalated into me developing conjunctivitis. I paid about $200 to get some conjunctivits ointment. Cant wear contacts and am severly sensitive to the light. My upper eyelid is so thin especially on one eye, Im having to get blepharoplasty because my eye gouges into my socket like an 80 year old and I have this thin skin just hanging over my eyes. I have dark circles with veins under my eyes and was told it was because of vascularization and needs to be removed by laser treatments..I slept on my side one day for not more than 1 hour and woke up with bruises on the side of my forehead -due to thin skin.

All you hear on the web, media for side effects of retin a are:
(stupid trivial things thats not life threatening)

Here are more severe life threatening side effects:

I called so many dermatologists and tried getting advice on websites from "doctors" but all they say is the same thing

"Retin a does NOT thin the skin, it thins the outer layer and thickens the dermis"  (But what about the millions of people that used the retin a for 10 years that witness thin skin..are they not legit, what about the websites that state "Retin A will and does thin you skin but its worth it for good skin" are those all lies? is my thin skin an illusion?)

"Retin a builds collagen and is good for around the eyes"  (-then why are my eyes gouged in and why do people that use it for years look like a fat person that lost weight? Their skin tone is good but their skin is soo thin which altogether is quite kind of oxymoronic . the fact that these factors cancel each other out- doesnt make their skin overall look any younger or better.

You hear the doctors boasting of this product but then you hear the people that actually use it saying the opposite. Is this like the HPV vaccine? A money making business scheme?

But did anyone tell you that retin a would cause the following:
thin skin permanently- suseptible to injury, bruises, wear tear -old age skin
dark circles -  due to vascularization or liver problems which are ALL from long term use/ side effects of Retin A)
broken capillaries exposing veins
acid imbalance on the face
more wrinkles all over the eyes in all directions
more sensitive to sun so more prone to gettin wrinkles/cancer
long term use- undetermind side effects.........

Besides all the above being personal experiences that have yet to subside, they are all on legitimate websites on the internet..so dont take my word for it.
You invest in a $150 dollar tube and end up spending over $10,000 to get youself looking back to normal.
blepharoplasty  upper eyelid- $3k
fat transfer -over 1k
laser treatment for craters- over 1k
laser treatment for dark circles- over 1k
conjunctivitis- $300.000
wrinkle remove- TBD
pain and suffering?  NOTHING

Anyways, I know that "some respond differently to certain products" the dosage may have been too high" I used it too frequently"....
Its been 2 weeks since I stopped using it- My side effects are still present.


(dry wrinkles, thin drooping upper eyelid, dark circles)
15 Responses
1422814 tn?1333573302
I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with Retin-A.  You're doctor never talked to you about its application?  Both my mom and I have used this for years (my mom going on well over a decade), and we've had very little symptoms.  It does thin the skin a little and makes the skin more sensitive to the sun, but its because it helps the skin exfoliate to its newer layers.  Our dermatologist started us out on the lowest strength, instructed us to use a pea-size amount every other evening, and utilize facial sunscreen in our daily regimen.  After two months, he adjusted the application accordingly.  But never did we apply it around the eye area - that's just stupidity on the doctor's part.  I hope you get relief soon, after stopping your treatment.
Avatar universal
Hey thanks for replying. Its on the internet as well that applying around the eyes, eyes in general is ok...so Im confused. I know it thins the skin to slough off the outer layer but I was wondering if it thins the skin permanently. I.E. if i were to discontinue using Retin A will the skin still be transluscent with veins appearing everywhere? I heard that broken capillaries caused by retin a doesnt go away fully. Retin a causes vascularization which is dark circles under the eyes. Retin a thins the skin and exposes veins under the eye. This has to be treated with laser treatments because apparently it doesnt go away.
I dont understand the use of Retin A. It worsens the skin wrinkles, acne, thin skin, dark circles....and then after 6 months or years of use..."you hope" that itll get better... the side effects may subside and skin tone may look better....but is this all worth it?

If I continue to use this and  if no results come about in 6 months to a year (which have been common) and my dry crinkly wrinkles get worse along with this thin skin..by then itll be too later to even fatham about the side effects reversing.
But If you discontinue use of retin a  acne will come back full blown- reluctantly making retin a a necessity- like a coke addict.
But if you continue on for a lifetime...long term use is undetermined but include- acid imbalance, prone to sun exposure, skin cancer, vascularization and permanent thin skin

Its like I wish I NEVER EVER STARTED THIS. WhAT DID I get myself into
Avatar universal
Hi. I just wanted to know if you ever recovered from this? I did something similar for my under eyes and now it's looking horrible. Thanks.
Hey, did you ever recover?
Unfortunately, never 100%. My dark circles and wrinkled under-eye skin has been with me since the retin-a disaster. I've pretty much accepted it now and at the age of 33, I guess it fits me.
Thanks for the reply heero. Sorry to hear it never improved for you. My symptoms have only got worse. My under eyes are insanely hollowed out now. This is criminal and we shouldn't have to live with it. Would you have a before and after photo that you could send to me anonymously (you can black out the eyes, as long as the under eye hollowing shows) because I'm trying to put a case together for my doctors that this has happened to others also, so any help would be hugely appreciated. My e-mail address is: sarah avon 2010 @ gmail . com (obviously without spaces). Thanks so much
Avatar universal
Becuz of retin a ..my skin is so red n i dont even know wht to do...
Avatar universal
did your eyes ever get better...i'm going through the same thing and am VERY sacred.
Same. Did your eyes ever get better/less sunken?
Avatar universal
I had some severe side-effects when i used it a few years ago. My skin became very thin and prone to injuries. It used to become tomato red with sudden temperature change such as moving to an air conditioned area from the outside during very hot days. If i ever scratched my face even very lightly, the marks of my fingernails were badly obvious. My eyes were so sunken. To top it all, i had severe facial hair which i removed with threading and it was just too harsh for my skin. My skin looked damaged as if i had been beaten up. It was very embarrassing. My cheeks were so sunken that i looked malnourished. I thought it would never be normal, but it did. I am not sure what factors were involved, but maybe time did it. I changed my job and didn't have to commute in the sun anymore. Maybe that helped too. Whenever i went out, i covered my whole face with a scarf like a terrorist. It helped with the sun damage somewhat. I ate more proteins but i dont know how good that was. Now my skin can tolerate almost all face washes. Earlier i couldnt use the regular ones. I can easily thread my skin. Although i use Remington spring now which is easier on the skin. I also us a hair reducton cream that works quite well. The point i am trying to make here is that the skin recovers but takes a long time. This is what i can conclude from my experience.
Hey recoveredme, I am dealing with very similar symptoms..I can't even recognize myself in the mirror and look like a zombie..only 23 years old..may I ask you just how long it took for your skin to finally get better?
Hey recoveredme, did the zombie look, i.e. the sunken eyes recover? This is the part I am most concerned about
Avatar universal
I began using RA over two weeks ago. I went to my dermatologist because I felt that as a person past 40 (I'm 44), that the oiliness would not be as much as when I was a teen. After two hours of applying makeup, my face looked like I had smeared Crisco on it. While I awaited for a a preauthorization of RA, I was given the. 025% sample of the gel. The pores are way smaller and my face less oilier.  I never knew that it could be applied to under the eyes. I was already using ROC retinol for the eyes (formulation for sensitive skin).

When I was approved for the medication, I was given a a gel of. 01%, which is the lowest strength in a gel. I used it under the eyes and I have not noticed any redness, yet it lightly peeled. I wiped at it lightly and it came off. I think that for the eyes, a very low dose needs to be used since the undereye area is sensitive. It is recommended for ppl who are beginning to see fine wrinkles, not for pronounced wrinkles. Also, applying it lightly or directly to the wrinkle with a Q-tip is best. Some ppl overdo it thinking that more is better. At a high dose (.1%) right out of the gate before accessing tolerance is bound to cause trouble.
Avatar universal
So you didn't read the instructions that came with the product? You can't blame anyone for your results but yourself. Sorry, but the instructions are very clear on quantity and where not to put it. I've come across your story on a couple of websites now. Why not turn your experience into a warning to "read instructions before use" rather than slam the product?
They’re not even slamming the product. They literally stated facts. It DOES cause thinning of skin and it does lead to those side effects for many people. Every person I see that uses these creams literally looks older than they really are. This is why I refuse to stick to prolong use of these creams.
NOWHERE on the instructions does it say: zombified hollow eyes, hollow sunken cheeks etc. NOWHERE. Why are you more concerned about the reputation of a "product" than what has happened to this poor person? I am from the UK where tretinoin isn't even licensed (for good reason I'm starting to think now) and I'm starting to think this is one big marketing ploy on the internet with people like yourself paid to uphold the reputation of the "product". Disgusting.
14962895 tn?1437592780
Hi, I just found this discussion board, and know it's been years and years since you posted your experience with Retin-A.
I wanted to say that I had scary results with Retin-A, also. This was about 12 years ago. My Derm Dr had prescribed the lowest dosage for the acne on my cheeks and jawline. I applied it only to me cheek area and jaw bone area (avoiding the eyes).
Weeks later, my skin started doing "strange" things. Painful cysts started forming (I had never had cystic acne before, only pustule). Once, after a sterile extraction, the skin formed into a lesion after 24 hours (instead of healing like normal skin). When my mom saw it she was scared for me and said it resembled a "bullet hole". I had to put Neosporin on it 24/7 to get it to heal.
The second scary thing that started to drastically change was my vision (even though the Retin-A never even came close to my eyes). I noticed when I was driving that the billboard and road signs were blurring at a distance. This really scared me, as I have always had really, really good vision (tested at 20/15).
I asked my Derm Dr about this, and I was told it was just a coincidence.
I wasn't able to shake the worry so I made an appointment with an Ophthalmologist. This Dr. admitted that the Retin-A meds COULD have an adverse reaction with the macular muscle and nerves of the eye, due to the fact that they penetrate to the dermis, where the blood is.
FINALLY! I had someone who didn't think I was crazy. He actually advised me against getting contacts because he was concerned I would encourage the eye muscles to go "lazy", rather I might do better with getting off the meds for awhile and monitor the results.
So I quit the Retin-A. To make a loooong story shorter, years later, my eyesight returned to normal for me! BUT- I did a lot in between there to regain the health of my eyes.
First thing is I came across this study from the Well Being Journal Jan/Feb 2005 issue by Scott Eugene Miners, of a man named Elton Baker who clinically cured himself of Glaucoma in 1967. He did it by high oral doses of ascorbic acid (vitamin c) - approx. 38 grams a day / every 2 hours so his body had enough around the clock to heal his eyes. Six months later he was cured, and his vision resulted even better than when he was young. (Eye tissue is made up of mostly vitamin c and meds deplete this right away, as vitamin c is water soluble and will not store in the fat for later use)
So, this was enough to convince me I could do this with my eyes, too. I was on a much lower dose for about 6 months. I took approx. 2 grams (20,000 mg) a day - spread out every 2 hours of vitamin c powder (Swanson Vitamin brand ascorbic acid), plus I took 30,000 IU a day of Beta Carotene (Solgar dry tabs). My vision healed!
Now as far as acne- that took a whole overturn in my eating. But I am now so clear skinned that I can do skin care modeling on HSN live-Tv with NO makeup on! My "prescription" for that started with reading "The Acne Prescription" by Dr. Perricone. I stopped eating ALL dairy and white sugar from my diet (which was very hard at 1st, but now it's 2nd nature), and the only meat I ate was Salmon.
My face started to clear up drastically. After a year, I took the leap and went completely vegetarian. (with emotional support from my family). My diet now consists of salads everyday, lots of brown rice, nuts, tons and tons of yummy bean and rice dishes, "cheeses and creams" made out of cashews, seeds, whole fresh fruit, millet breads, and a gallon of spring water to drink every day. And I still take all the supplement recommendations from Dr. Perricone.
For my face skin care, I now use a light glycolic cleanser, a "spray" of colloidal silver as the toner, then a light patting of Kukui oil for my moisturizer. And that's it.
Done. Eye problems fixed. Skin problems fixed. Face and skin look better than ever.
I hope this helps. I just wanted to encourage anyone else out there that healing can happen, and damage doesn't have to be permanent if you give your body what it needs. Alkaline it, and get off the meats and dairy. Our daily diet requires a measly 6% of protein and 94% of complex carbs. Carbs! I was lied to for so many years. I guess there's too much money involved with our meat and dairy industry in the US?
People ask me now, oh my gosh, you're skin is glowing, what do you do? I tell them, and the first thing out of their mouths is, "But where do you get your protein?" Sigh. Protein is in everything. Even a blackberry. And our bodies have the ability to "gather" all the amino acids from our foods in a 24 hour period to "complete" the amino acid profile our bodies need. People usually respond with, "Really?????"
Dr. Perricone explains acne (the reason we go to Retin-A in the first place) is inflammation. And inflammation is caused by an overly acidic diet. And acid comes from the meat and dairy aisle.
All I know is, I'm happy I'm cured, and my skin is youthful again.
Also, if you have a suspicion about a med, your body is probably trying to tell you it doesn't like it. There's almost always a healthier alternative out there.
Avatar universal
Wow...all this after that short period of time. Well anyway I am dealing with the same skin problems after a few years of tretinoin. My skin has become extremely sensitive & my face...seriously I used to have a fat face with nice big cheeks. Youthful looking! Now it is all skinny. Way less facial fat & everything looks sunken in and saggy. Really takes its toll on my self-esteem. Also extremely dry and dehydrated...can't use any cleansers & my moisturizers evaporate away. I never lost a bunch of weight or anything so I know it is not that. I cannot believe I was dumb enough to use this crap but hey when you have acne, you want to get rid of it. And the results were good...at first.  I am angry that doctors did not warn of these side effects. All I knew is the same trivial things you mention...that it would make the skin dry, sun sensitive, etc. I do not know what to do anymore & I want my youthful face back.
Hi sadsad_girl, this happened to me too. It has completely ruined my quality of life. If you'd like to contact me about this experience (I am seeing an internal medicine specialist to look into it and will be pursuing litigation if I can prove it (may also be useful for you)) please e-mail me: ***@**** and/or message me back here.
Avatar universal
the same thing happened to me and i'm only 21. now i look like an old lady. i'm going to kill myself if this doesn't go away by the end of the year
I know it sounds excessive but..SAME.

I'm dealing with the same thing and I will literally end my life if this doesn't go away.

If someone here has experienced this and fully recovered, PLEASE REACH OUT and say something.
Dont lose hope. Things get better with time. At moment things look hard and crazy but your skin will regenerate and look great soon. I promise u.
Did you experience this? What did your skin look like? Did it heal? What did you use to heal?
Did u get damaged too? Did it eventually resolve?
Avatar universal
My heart just dropped.
I started tretinoin 0.1% 2 weeks ago. I went by the ddirections and. Applied light layer. No problem. Next morning, my skin felt OK, that night, applied it again. Skin got sensitive. By that night my skin felt like flames. Huge pustules like volcanos came out of my skin, my whole face was red, and on fire.
My eyes were swelling shut and itching fiercely. I took a benadryl. Tried to sleep. Maybe 45 minutes of sleep here and there...but I would scratch in my sleep. The pustules opened up the next day, revealing huge sores with craters. Swollen eyes an wrinkles around my cheeks and what would be described in that area as the sunburn from hell.
  I checked online, found that sensiderm for diaper/rashes helps. I had a lower back rash in the hospital,and it cleared it right up. So, I thought, did I take that home with me? Why would I, and low and behold I found it. I used it last night and it REALLY helped. It only has 15% zinc, but apparently that helps acne (and take a zinc supplement as well) there are other creams stronger but I was happy to see I had it . It has a protective barrier for denuded skin, and is hard to get off,because of the fact...we cannot scrub...we cannot use hot water. But I'm not leaving the house so,....so what. The other website said to use baby soap/Shampoo. Ordering that from Amazon Now.
   I hope these posts will educate some poor unfortunate souls like us, that have been scarred by this ( which is EXACTLY the opposite promised.)
I was thinking of using the baby cerave diaper rash cream but I'm not sure if the zinc will just dehydrate the skin more.
And yes everything is very hard to get off his damaged skin for some reason.
I just want to die
Avatar universal
i have the cure! samething happened to me a year ago and i couldn't find anything to help it, it was getting worse after a year i thought i was doomed. i fixed the problem in one week! buy 100% manuka honey put it on your face for an hour then rinse it off. do this twice a day once at night then once in the am. after you do the manuka honey, get you an avocado smoosh it up and add a very small amount of olive oil to it then apply it to your face. leave it on for 30 min then rinse it off. you will literally feel your face tightening and the wrinkles and huge pores disappear before your very eyes :) after a week passes and the skin starts to heal buy some castro oil, make sure its 100% real and organic put it on at night before you go to bed. this reverses aging. i swear i look like im in my 20's now!
Hey can you tell me what the Retin A did to your skin that you managed to fix? I'm seriously going mental over this. It's been 15 months of pure hell. Please help....email me at ***@****. Thanks
I guess it won't let me leave my email so if you can just write back on here. Thanks
Avatar universal
Honestly, I agree with everything you said. How can a cream placed and absorbed into your skin, help produce collegan? That part makes no sense to me. The fact that if you stop using the creams, your skin does revert back to how it was before- proves that it doesn’t actually “help produce collegan”. If it does then you should have retain the effects. Honestly a scam, I’ll stick to my meals of chicken liver and fish. Works great for me for all these years and I’m almost 30 but have been told I look 16. Ouch.
I think retinoids create inflammation which can lead to a plumper, younger looking face. All that inflammation doesn't seem very healthy though. The retinoid products have a lot of nasty fillers too. You have to keep using it for the effects---exactly. I feel like I got addicted to the effects when I used it.
Avatar universal
Hi, did you find a solution to this? I've just had the same issue. Please help
So sorry you are seeing similar issues with Retin-A- how are you doing?  Have you stopped using Retin-A?  Have you contacted your doctor about what you are seeing as side effects?
I only used it once - ONCE - and it completely hollowed out the fat layer of my skin (it must be extremely thin/sensitive). I now look slightly like an alien (huge forehead because the rest of my face has shrunk) and my eyes have completely hollowed. I have contacted my doctor and she told me there is nothing they can do to regrow this - I'd have to consider a very expensive and risky cosmetic procedure such as fat grafting. I will obviously never use it again.

Did this ever happen to you and did you recover?
Have an Answer?
Top Dermatology Answerers
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Learn to identify and prevent bites from summer’s most common pests.
Doctors argue for legislation to curb this dangerous teen trend in the latest Missouri Medicine report.
10 ways to keep your skin healthy all winter long
How to get rid of lumpy fat on your arms, hips, thighs and bottom
Diet “do’s” and “don’ts” for healthy, radiant skin.
Images of rashes caused by common skin conditions