How to Use Tretinoin (Retin-A)

Using Retin-A Topical Treatment for Acne

Taking care of her skin
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Tretinoin (brand names Retin-A, Avita, Renova) is a derivative of vitamin A and is the treatment of choice for comedonal acne as well as whiteheads and blackheads. It works by increasing skin cell turnover which promotes the extrusion of the plugged material in the follicle. It also prevents the formation of new comedones. Tretinoin is also the only topical medication that has been proven to improve the appearance of wrinkles.

How Retin-A Works

The effect of increased skin cell turnover can be irritation and flaking. For this reason, many people stop using Retin-A after a couple of days to weeks, then think that it didn't work. It is important to realize that Retin-A is very effective for whiteheads and blackheads, but it may take 6-9 weeks to see a noticeable difference. It takes at least 6 months to see a noticeable difference in wrinkles. The best benefit is seen if Retin-A is used for at least a year.

How to Use Retin-A

Here are some guidelines for using Retin-A that may make sure you experience its full benefit:

  • Apply Retin-A in a thin layer at night. A small amount goes a long way.
  • In the morning, wash your face with a mild facial scrub or rough wash cloth. This will help reduce the noticeable flaking.
  • After washing, apply a good water-based moisturizer. Yes, guys, this applies to you too. The moisturizer will make the drying effect of the medicine more tolerable.
  • If flaking occurs during the day, use a washcloth to remove it and apply more moisturizer, or just apply moisturizer.
  • Try using a moisturizer that also contains a sunscreen. If not, apply sunscreen anytime you are in the sun even for a short amount of time. Tretinoin makes you more susceptible to sunburn.
  • When you first start using Retin-A, apply it every other night or every 3rd night. The flaking and irritation side effects are usually the worst in the first 2 weeks of application. As your skin adjusts to the medicine, you can apply it more frequently.
  • If you notice an increase in the irritation or flaking, it's okay to take a break for a couple of days. Just don't stop completely without consulting your health care provider!

The Side Effects of Retin-A 

If you have sensitive skin, common side effects of Retin-A include red, swollen, blistered, or crusted skin; burning, warmth, stinging, tingling, itching, dryness, peeling, or irritation where the medicine is applied; or changes in skin color (darker or lighter). If you experience any of these side effects, discontinue use as Retin-A should not be used on broken skin.

Also, do not use on sunburned skin. Wait for your skin to recover completely from the burn before using. In addition, Retin-A may interact with other topical medications, especially those containing sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid. To prevent dangerous interactions, make sure to tell your doctor all medications, topical and oral, that you use.

There is also some risk in using Retin-A during pregnancy; therefore, it should only be used during pregnancy if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

In the same vein, caution should be exercised when Using Retin-A during breastfeeding.

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