What is tretinoin and how does it work?
Tretinoin is a type of retinoid that is available only by prescription. Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A. Tretinoin was the first retinoid to be used, with the brand name Retin-A. It was used as a treatment for acne in the 1970s. Researchers later found that it can also fade actinic keratosis and hyperpigmentation spots. Tretinoin is the most potent and widely used therapy for photoaging because of its ability to prevent degradation of the skin. It works by neutralizing the free radicals in your skin and blocking the release of inflammatory mediators. It also increases the production of procollagen in your skin.
Tretinoin is the most potent and widely used therapy for photoaging because of its ability to prevent degradation of the skin.
Collagen is vital for the maintenance of strong and younger-looking skin. Your body’s production of elastin and collagen reduces as you get older. Furthermore, as you age, your body starts breaking down the elastin, collagen, and fat in your skin. This can contribute to sagging and thin skin, wrinkles, and fine lines. Apart from preserving the stores of collagen, tretinoin can also promote the production of new collagen along with blood capillaries in your skin.
Benefits of using tretinoin for your skin
By promoting the production of collagen, tretinoin can help fill in or reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It can also prevent the formation of new ones. It has other great benefits for your skin as well:
- It smooths rough skin, improving the texture.
- It improves your skin’s hydration.
- It improves skin tone and color.
- It can reduce the appearance of age spots and hyperpigmentation.
You can use tretinoin cream to treat dark spots, rough skin, or fine wrinkles on your face that can occur due to exposure to the sun. Tretinoin can lighten your skin, replacing older cells with younger, newer ones.
How to use Retin-A for your skin
You should always perform a patch test on your skin before adding tretinoin to your beauty routine. You can do a patch test as follows:
- Put a small amount of the skincare/cosmetic product on the back of your forearm.
- Apply a bandage on the area and wait for about 24 hours.
- If any inflammation or irritation occurs after applying the product, don’t use it. If you don’t develop any symptoms after 24 hours, you can safely apply the product on larger areas of your body or face.
Once the tretinoin product has cleared the patch test, start applying it to your wrinkles every other night. Apply only a very small amount — about the size of a pea — after cleaning the area with a gentle cleanser and toning it. After applying a tretinoin product to the area, apply a moisturizer.
After using it for one or two weeks, you can apply it every night. You should only use tretinoin cream at night because it can increase the sensitivity of your skin to sunlight. If you apply it during the day, make sure to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more to reduce the risk of adverse effects.
When to expect results
You have to use tretinoin regularly for at least six months to see any results. For the best anti-aging results, you may have to use it for up to a year. Furthermore, you have to use it continuously to maintain its benefits.
The side effects of tretinoin
Some of the most common side effects of tretinoin are:
- Mild burning, itching, scaling, redness, or stinging
- Slight peeling or chapping
- Lightening or darkening of the normal color of your skin
- Lightening of the treated areas of darker skin
- Unusual warmth and/or dryness
These adverse effects may get better as your body adjusts to the tretinoin. If the side effects persist, stop using it.
You should visit a physician immediately if you develop any of the below-mentioned side effects:
- Severe burning, peeling, redness, dryness, or stinging
- Pain or irritation at the site of application
Don’t use tretinoin along with other products containing alcohol, spices, lime, sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, resorcinol, or creams/lotions with a strong drying effect. The combination may cause severe irritation of your skin. Using tretinoin with certain medicines such as antibiotics including ciprofloxacin and tetracycline, sulfa drugs, and diuretics may also increase the sensitivity of your skin to light. Avoid staying in the sun for long, or wear sunscreen with SPF 50 or more.
Other types of retinoids
Apart from tretinoin, other types of retinoids include the following:
- Retinyl palmitate is an over-the-counter retinoid. This type of retinoid might be great for you if you have excessively dry or sensitive skin and few wrinkles.
- Retinaldehyde is an over-the-counter retinoid that is somewhat stronger than retinyl palmitate.
- Retinol is one of the strongest over-the-counter retinoids.
- Tazarotene is the strongest retinoid and only available by prescription from a doctor.
Tretinoin is one of the most effective and popular anti-aging products and is available by prescription. There are several other types of over-the-counter retinoids that you can use to improve or prevent wrinkles and fine lines. Be patient when using them, as they can take about six months to show any results. If there is no improvement after several months, you can see a dermatologist. They may advise prescription retinoids such as tretinoin that can help you achieve flawless skin.