I went from using Epiduo to Differin to finally Stieva-A and Differin (in part) about two months ago now. I wanted to give you my thoughts on Stieva-A as it’s very different to Differin. I use vitamin A topically for my acne which resurged quite dramatically last year. It’s still an up hill battle, but oddly enough, I am loving using Stieva-A which I did not expect at all! Why? Read on and find out! 😀
Stieva-A Cream, 0.25mg
Stieva-A Cream contains vitamin A in the form of Tretinoin, the gold standard of Dermatology 😉 Tretinoin is the active component of vitamin A. It is available only by prescription from your doctor or Dermatologist. Generally speaking, retinol or retinoids need to be converted in your skin to tretinoin (the active form of retinol). Tretinoin is fantastic because it can address acne and photodamage, which is a rare quality. Tied with hydroxy acids, it is my most recommended ingredient because of this unique duality. I stopped using Differin 0.1% (which uses a synthetic form of Tretinoin called Adapalene) because it just wasn’t giving me the effects I wanted. I found it to be incredibly gentle, not irritating at all after having used Epiduo. Epiduo was brutal, so my skin was more than ok when I switched to Differin. Even though Adapalene is a synthetic form of Tretinoin, I don’t believe it works the same as other Tretinoins because I am getting better results using Stieva-A in 0.25mg strength, than I was using Adapalene at a strength of 1.0%. I’ve tried to research why this is but I can’t anything online. I still had clogged pores, bad blackheads on my nose and some cystic acne spots, so it wasn’t giving my skin the exfoliation it needed. This is where Stieva-A came in 🙂
What is Tretinoin? (source: Futurderm)
Tretinoin or all-trans retinoic acid is a lipid-soluble molecule that possesses an acidic component (specifically a carboxylic acid group) at one end and a lipid-soluble component (specifically a beta-ionone ring) at the other, with a long polyunsatured carbon chain linking the two.
Retinol or Vitamin A is simply the alcohol form of tretinoin that has yet to be enzymatically oxidized, meaning that it needs to lose electrons. Retinol must first be converted into retinal (aldehyde) and then ultimately tretinoin.
Texture wise it is again very different to Differin, which was a gel-cream. Stieva-A has a rich cream base, a little like Sorbelene. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a mineral oil base. It doesn’t sink into the skin very easily at all if your skin is dry. It has the tendency to move about the place as you rub it in, without it actually sinking in. I have found a way around this though! After cleansing, I spray my face using Caudalie Grape Water. A mineral water facial spray would also do a great job. I use a water over a toner, because I need my skin to be quite damp without any chance of a reaction taking place with the Stieva-A cream. Going back to basics! I then apply and rub in the Stieva-A cream, which melts thanks to the water droplets on my skin. It sinks in quickly and beautifully this way.
I didn’t experience many side effects when using Stieva-A 0.25mg. I suppose my skin was super prepared and used to vitamin A in any form by this stage. You may however, experience some redness and irritation. The only ‘side effect’ I experience is some skin peeling. It’s not dramatic or unmanageable (unlike the dryness Epiduo put me through) so I am more than fine with this. Yes my skin is perhaps more dry or moving into the normal category the day after using Stieva-A, but again, nothing dramatic. Has it worked better than Differin? Yes. I have noticed a reduction in the blackheads, clogged pores and cystic acne I experience. They aren’t all gone just yet – but it is a reduction and that’s why I have been enjoying using this cream. It is also way cheaper than Differin (hoorah!) coming in at $22 at my local chemist. I think I will ask to move up to the next level of Stieva-A when I see my Dermatologist in June (so that would be a strength of o.5mg). Differin was around the $60 mark, so it’s a big difference.
I use my Stieva-A cream every second night, alternating with an acids routine. I think this is what also lowers the side-effects and irritation. Sure, I could use it every night but I’m so used to this kind of routine I doubt it will change soon. I also like giving my skin a little rest and time to rejuvenate, especially since the effects of tretinoin tend to last for a while even when you take a break from the product/ingredient. It remains in the epidermis for a while I reckon 😉
I’d be lying if I said I was happy with where my skin is at the moment. I still get the odd cystic acne spot, including one massive and painful one above my right eyebrow atm – grrrrr…. but they have reduced dramatically, so that’s good. My issue is that I’ve still got some congestion (nose and cheek area) and I’m constantly dealing with some surface level breakouts. I just realised not long ago that Aldactone (also known as spironolactone – I also take this to help manage my acne) isn’t working as well as it once did because back in the day I was on Aldactone and Yasmin (the pill). I don’t expect Stieva-A or any other topical product to ‘cure’ my acne, because the problem is almost always internal (hormones etc.). It sure is helping and I’d like to continue using it in the long term, but I’m not sure I can rely on Aldactone like I used to. It will be interesting to see what the Dermatologist suggests on my next visit.
Differin, 0.1 %
I still have a lot of Differin and because it is so expensive, I want to use it up somehow lol so how have I been using it? Under my eyes! Because it is a gel-cream, it is the perfect texture for the under eye area. It sinks in beautifully and is so gentle yet again. I have not experienced any irritation. I actually had some irritation in the beginning when I was using my Futurederm Time Release Retinol 0.25 (but not when I would use it elsewhere, just the eye area because it is so sensitive). And again, my eye area was used to retinol, so the Adapalene hasn’t been a big jump. I let the Differin sink in and then I use a very basic eye cream over the top. I use a Polish product (Ziaja Pro, Krem-Maska do skóry wokół oczu) which is like a balm slash cream, containing ceramides 1, 3 and 6, to help provide hydration and comfort. I use Differin as an eye treatment every second night.
Benzac AC, Benzoyl Peroxide 10%
I still use my trusty Benzoyl Peroxide as a spot treatment. I never user use it when I am using vitamin A products however – only on the nights I am using acids (so every other night). Otherwise it will have a burning effect (exactly like Epiduo LOL) leaving your face raw and red the next day (and when I say red, I mean think of red spots that actually look like a chemical burn….). It works well to stop some spots from developing because it kills acne induced bacteria. It also helps cystic acne heal. It’s the original and best, but can be incredibly drying so only use it on problem areas.
My Vitamin A (Tretinoin) Nightly Routine
These are the products I use when using Stieva-A 0.25mg. I keep things as simple and basic as possible, so the Tretinoin can do it’s magic, while other products hydrate and protect the skin so it doesn’t become sensitised and so it doesn’t peel more than it has to.
- Caudalie Grape Water , not very expensive, very fine mist, works to dampen the skin and hydrates
- Stieva-A Cream, this sinks in very quickly if applied on very damp skin. As such, it doesn’t provide an occlusive or emollient barrier, so you need to apply a basic and rich moisturiser over the top
- L’Occitane Immortelle Divine Cream, silky yet rich cream, which is not greasy at all and doesn’t break me out, yay! It feels nourishing and hydrating, which is exactly what I need after applying a Tretinoin treatment. It’s very expensive I know. I bought mine for half-price when a friend of mine worked at L’Occitane, but she doesn’t anymore 🙁 I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s all gone… It’s beautiful!
- Differin, eye area, wait for it to sink in
- Ziaja Pro, Krem-Maska do skóry wokół oczu, eye area on top of the Differin
What can you do to lessen the sometimes tough side effects of Tretinoin?
- Use every second night, working up to every night if this is what your Dermatologist has recommended
- Start with the smallest percentage of Tretinoin that you can to begin with (which is 0.05%) and then work your way up to 0.25mg, 0.5mg and 1.0mg! Your skin will need quite a lot of time to adjust and get used to any dose of Tretinoin, especially a higher one.
- Use an emollient and rich moisturiser over the top of your Tretinoin treatment, to offset the drying effects of vitamin A. Remember to look for creams that are non-comedogenic (don’t block pores). Your skin will be sensitised slightly because of the vitamin A and if your lipid barrier (the protective barrier on top of your skin) is compromised because it is dehydrated and dry, your skin won’t be able to protect itself and it could become hyper-sensitive (red, irritated and sore!). If you’re on a budget, try Cetaphil Daily Advance Ultra Hydrating Lotion. You don’t need anything fancy because the Tretinoin is working it’s magic! No ‘anti-ageing super cream’ will beat the power of Tretinoin.
- Because your skin will be a little sensitised, do not get burnt out in the sun and use an SPF daily!
I hope my skin update and the tips above help you on your journey Beauties 🙂 If I can be of any help, please let me know and I will do my best to answer any questions you may have! The above experiences are just my thoughts and experiences. Your skin may react differently to Tretinoin and it is imperative you see your doctor if you are very worried about how your skin is reacting to the treatment. Have a read of my ‘first post’ in this series, ‘My Thoughts on Epiduo and Differin’ if you haven’t yet 🙂 It might give you some more context to my acne-busting journey. I will keep you updated, should be routine change in a few months time.
Until next time,