Tri-luma was a popular combination of tretinoin ( the generic name for Retin-A), hydroquinone to lighten the skin and a medium strength steroid by the name of flucinolone. The tretinoin would hasten skin growth and exfoliation to shed darkened skin; the hydroquinone would decease melanin production and the steroid would avoid redness and swelling from the other two turbo driven ingredients. It worked well for my under eye shadows and was the go to-product for brown patches known as melasma.
It would take at least three weeks to see results for Tri-luma, but when it worked, it WORKED. You had to be complusive about sunscreen using at least a 30SPF during and after Tri-luma since the ingredients increased sun sensitivity to the sun.Then one day Tri-luma seemed to disappear from pharmacy shelves. THere was no FDA recall, no clear statement from the manufacturer. Nothing.
Then I started hearing rumors on the web that specialty pharmacists could compound it individually for their customers who brought in a prescription from their dermatologist. I asked my go-to dermatologist Dr Albert Lefkovits about the idea and he was wonderfully supportive. It turns out that the Tri-luma formula was actually developed by Albert Kligman, considered by many to be the father of cosmetic dermatology.
Dr Lefkovits made a slight change in the Kligman formula substituting a milder steroid called desononide. One of the concerns about Tri-luma was the strong steroid could cause thinning of the skin and lead to the development of rosecea. Using desonide takes down the risk of these problems.
I never had a personally compounded product before and I was excited to pick it up at Caligor pharmacy in NYC near Bloomingdales. The small elegant store had it ready for me. Rahter than a tube, the custom compound was in a small jar. The pharmacist suggested that I keep it in the frig to maintain potency. What a good idea. I had noticed that my $300 tube of Tei-luma soon turned yellow and started to small like rotten eggs.
The strange smell was due to the deterioration of the sulfite preservative and was so aunappealing I stopped using the tube when it was still half full. Refrigeration will stabilize the formula so I’m hoping to be able to use it to the last drop. Oh, and the best part? My own personal Tri-luma like cream was more than $100 less than the brand name product. Let the bleaching games begin.