Devanshi Garg Sareen

My Tretinoin Before and After

Devanshi Garg Sareen talks about her tretinoin results

It’s very likely you’ve either read about retinol benefits online from skincare enthusiasts, have watched as retinol based products began covering the shelves in beauty stores, or have even tried it out yourself. I first decided to give retinol a chance when I was struggling with my skin in my 20s. After hearing all the hype this one ingredient was receiving, I was intrigued. Based on a Sephora sales associate’s recommendation, I ended up trying a retinol product for the first time but quickly experienced dreaded retinol side effects such as rosacea, irritated skin, burning, and flaky patches.This led me to put my retinol use and journey on hold.

For the next 5-6 years (which included 2 pregnancies) I continued to stay clear from retinol based products (as you cannot use retinol while pregnant or breastfeeding) and even forgot about it. Fast forward to today, I am 38 and have been using Motif products for the past 2 years. Now my skin is much healthier, less sensitive in general, and I’ve decided to start up my retinoid journey again—but with tretinoin prescribed by my dermatologist at the lowest percentage 0.01%

What is tretinoin?

Tretinoin is a retinoid, which is a class of compounds that include natural and synthetic forms of Vitamin A such as retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. Tretinoin is also referred to as Retin-A, and was developed to be used topically as an acne treatment before it was used more widely as an anti-aging treatment. It functions by binding to retinoic acid receptors to promote skin cell turnover, meaning it speeds up your body's production of new skin cells for plumper and brighter skin. Often hailed as the “gold standard of retinoids,” tretinoin is the most potent retinoid that is typically available through prescription. With tretinoin use, irritation is likely especially during the initial 4 - 6 weeks (skin may appear red, dry and flaky). BUT after a few weeks of consistent use, careful application and patience, the skin should usually adjust and these concerns will subside.

Why I decided to go back to retinoids

I’ve been taking better care of my skin compared to my early 20’s — using Motif products has made my skin healthier, more resilient and I have also learned how to keep my rosacea at bay. While Motif is a powerhouse of science-backed anti-aging ingredients, there is also an entire body of scientific data backing retinoids and tretinoin. I turn 40 next year and have not ventured out to try botox, neuromodulators, or fillers yet, so I wanted to supercharge my skincare routine. A part of me also wanted to see if my skin could tolerate it.

How it's been going: My tretinoin before and after 

Soon after I made the switch back, I too started noticing the “purging” period—that notorious tretinoin purge where your skin basically has to get worse to get better.

When using tretinoin, the treatment works to speed up the turnover of dead skin cells which in turn helps to reveal the healthy cells underneath. Since the dead cells are removed at a quicker pace than normal, redness and skin irritation or the ‘purge’ can occur as your skin adjusts to the treatment. For me, my skin did flake, but less than when I first tried it. And it has been worth it. I’ve seen an overall reduction in these tiny lines that only I can see on my forehead, my skin is super even (it’s corrected some minor hyperpigmentation that I can see) and my skin is just simply glowing.

During my journey, I’ve seen that although transitioning back to tretinoin use can be scary when you hear about the gnarly side effects like the retinol purging phase, dry skin, etc., when your skin is in a healthy state already, it makes the transition a lot easier. Being able to tolerate retinoid side effects makes it more likely for you to see the payoff too.

My skincare routine to manage tretinoin purge

These are the products I was using before and during my tretinoin journey and I think they really helped the process be more effortless than I ever thought it could. Just remember: 

A successful retinoid progression is about taking baby steps, consistency, and high-quality supportive skincare

Abundance Cleanser

The first step of the routine—use twice daily in the morning and at nighttime. This was a game changer for me. It kept my skin moisturized while also gently exfoliating dead skin cells or the flakey skin that you can get from retinoid use (which helps the rest of your products penetrate better).

Power Serum

My second step, also to be used in the AM and PM. This serum is a fantastic retinol alternative (containing bakuchiol as a main ingredient) if you have sensitive skin  that can’t tolerate how powerful retinoids can be. If you do already use a retinoid, like myself, it has a deeply hydrating formulation that soothes the skin and can be used in conjunction. If you plan to use retinoids down the line and want to build up more resilient, healthy skin that can better tolerate retinol side effects, the Power Serum is a great place to start.

Gentle skincare routine for retinoids and tretinoin


Twice daily, all the time. A whole layer. When on retinoids, it is very important to follow serum with a moisturizer to lock in hydration and to balance the purging effects which is most often the flaking of the skin. I have gone through tubs of Motif’s moisturizer (which has not been released yet), but until then I would recommend a good, fragrance-free alternative.


My final must-do for any day, even if I won’t have too much sun exposure. SPF is essential for preventing premature aging and adding an important layer of protection to the skin’s barrier. Being on retinoids makes your skin super sensitive to the sun and skipping this step can cause more damage. If you’re not ready to commit to SPF, you’re not ready for retinoids. It’s that simple.

Tips to manage tretinoin purge

  • Your skin is going to sting and burn no matter what you put on it so only use products that are fragrance-free and free of irritants and other harsh ingredients such as alcohol and essential oils.
  • Start slow and steady. Skincare is all about consistency. Do not start with more than 0.01% and do not use more than once every 4 - 5 days. You will still see results. I promise.


Whether you've already started retinoids or are thinking of embarking on your retinoid journey, I can't stress enough the importance of having a consistent skincare routine that is building up your skin barrier so you have resilient, healthy skin to better manage the tretinoin purge. While my journey back to retinoid use took time, Motif products certainly made the transition easier and I'm so glad that I'm able to enjoy all the science-backed results that tretinoin has to offer. 

Abundance Plumping Phyto Ceramide Cleanser next to hydrating orchid ingredients in bathroom sink

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A Gentle Face Cleanser That Works in Sync With Your Skin

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