Retinol is a natural form of vitamin A that’s been used to treat acne for almost 50 years. Tretinoin is a stronger version that’s only available with a doctor’s prescription.
It is believed to prevent pimples by increasing the turnover of skin cells and inhibiting the production of proinflammatory substances like matrix metalloproteinases.
Almost a half century ago, researchers discovered that retinol is effective in treating acne. It is one of a family of medications called retinoids, which also includes Vitamin A. Retinol and other retinoids help keep pores clear by increasing skin cell turnover, which helps prevent clogged hair follicles.
Often, clogged hair follicles lead to cystic acne, large inflamed bumps that can appear on any part of the face or body. To treat cystic acne, doctors often combine tretinoin with antibiotics. The tretinoin opens up the clogged follicles, which allows the antibiotics to enter and kill bacteria that cause breakouts.
In addition to its anti-acne benefits, tretinoin is also a powerful tool for reducing fine lines and wrinkles. But, it is important to use the medication correctly to get these benefits. Doctors recommend applying tretinoin once a day at bedtime, using just enough to lightly cover the entire face. This way, the drug can absorb during sleep and not interact with sunlight.
It’s important that your skin be free of dirt and oil before applying tretinoin, as this can increase your chances for irritation. You should also avoid sun or tanning beds while taking tretinoin, and use a sunscreen as part of your daily skincare routine when you’re using it.
Some people might experience burning or itching when they’re first using tretinoin, which usually goes away with time. They may also notice their skin becoming drier or flaking and the color changing lighter or darker, but this is usually normal and should go back to its usual appearance with time.
Your healthcare provider will determine how to best use tretinoin for acne based on your specific needs, such as the severity of your acne and your skin type and sensitivity. They’ll advise you whether to apply it every night, or if your skin can tolerate it better, to start with every other night and work up to daily application (Zasada, 2019). This will help reduce your breakouts, improve your complexion, and decrease hyperpigmentation from acne scarring.
The strength of tretinoin that your healthcare provider prescribes for you will depend on the severity of your acne and your skin type. It can range from 0.025 percent to 0.1%. It is very important that you follow your doctor’s orders exactly to get the best results from this medication.
Tretinoin has comedolytic (unclogging) properties that slough off dead skin cells that mix with sebum and clog hair follicles, leading to papules, pustules or nodular acne (Karp, 2020). It also unblocks pores and helps minimize the appearance of pitted scars from previous acne lesions.
Before applying tretinoin, wash your face with a mild soap and warm water. Wait 20 to 30 minutes until the skin is completely dry. Apply a pea-sized amount of the medication to your skin using the tips of your fingers. Be careful not to get it in your eyes or mouth. Use moisturizers if needed. This medication makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so avoid sun exposure or wear a hat and protective clothing when outdoors.
Tretinoin helps clear acne and prevent breakouts by treating the root cause. It also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and sun damage. It may take several weeks to see results from tretinoin.
It speeds up the epidermal turnover process, which means dead skin cells are shed faster and replaced with new, healthy ones. It also decreases the amount of sebum produced by your oil glands.
When using tretinoin, it’s important to avoid other skin treatments, like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which can irritate the skin. It’s also a good idea to avoid sun exposure, as it can increase the risk of burning and other serious side effects.
You should also talk to your dermatologist before using tretinoin if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, have a history of eczema, sunburns, or sensitive skin. It’s also a good choice for patients with rosacea, as it doesn’t worsen the symptoms. Use only the amount prescribed by your dermatologist. Tretinoin for Acne