Experts say that tretinoin is one of the most effective prescription acne medications available. It unclogs pores and prevents dead skin cells from building up and clogging hair follicles. It also reduces inflammation and redness associated with acne.
However, many people are frustrated with acne treatments that don’t work or have side effects that make them uncomfortable. They might give up on tretinoin after trying it for only 2-3 weeks.
How Tretinoin Works
Tretinoin is an effective acne medication that improves the skin over the long term. Research and thousands of before-and-after albums posted on communities like Reddit confirm that it encourages cell turnover to treat breakouts, fade discoloration, and diminish scarring.
It sloughs off dead skin cells that build up in the pores and lead to comedones (pimples) and helps reduce bacteria that cause them. It also makes it easier for new, unblemished skin to grow and replace old, damaged skin.
When you first start using tretinoin, your acne may actually get worse before it gets better — a process known as purging. The dryness, flaking and increased breakouts usually go away within two to four weeks as your skin acclimates to the medication.
Apply a small amount of the cream or gel to clean, dry skin each night before bed. A pea-sized amount is typically sufficient for the entire face. Follow with a gentle, non-comedogenic moisturizer.
How to Use Tretinoin
A dermatologist or other skin care professional can help you figure out which form and strength of tretinoin will work best for your specific anti-acne, anti-wrinkle or other treatment goals. Once you’ve found a dosage that works for you, it’s important to follow the directions for use exactly.
Tretinoin needs to be used regularly to get the most benefit from it. A long-term treatment plan can help control acne breakouts and keep them from coming back, and also make fine lines and wrinkles that develop with aging appear lighter and less visible.
Apply tretinoin to clean, dry skin once a day, usually right before bedtime. You may need to wait a few weeks or months before seeing any results from the medication, as it can take some time for the skin to “dial in.” Be sure to wash your hands well before and after applying this medicine, and avoid getting it into the eyes, nose, mouth or other sensitive areas of the face.
Side Effects of Tretinoin
For almost a half century, tretinoin has been prescribed as an effective treatment for acne. While tretinoin does cause side effects, they are usually minor and resolve quickly with regular use. It’s important to start with a low concentration cream and gradually increase your dosage as your skin becomes accustomed to the medication.
Your dermatologist will provide specific instructions on how to apply tretinoin and how often. They may also recommend other topical treatments that enhance the effectiveness of tretinoin. Avoid using fragranced lotions, peels, astringents or alcohol-based skin cleansers while on tretinoin, as they can cause severe skin irritation.
You should also let your dermatologist know if you have any allergies or are taking any other medications, including over-the-counter drugs and vitamins. It’s especially important to let them know if you are trying to become pregnant or are breastfeeding, as it’s not known whether tretinoin passes through breast milk. They will also advise you on sun exposure, as tretinoin can make your skin sensitive and cause sunburn.
Tretinoin is a topical medication sold only with a prescription. It can be a great acne treatment for patients who haven’t had success with over-the-counter medications and optimal skin care.
It unclogs pores, reducing the accumulation of dead skin cells that cause comedones to form and attract bacteria that lead to worse acne. It also helps minimize pitted, textured scars by kick-starting collagen formation and remodeling.
However, it can be too harsh for some people with sensitive, reactive skin and can actually make their acne worse. It’s important to follow your doctor’s directions and avoid overusing the medication.
Use tretinoin only on clean, healthy skin that is free of cuts or scrapes and sunburn. Do not use it on open wounds, as tretinoin can actually increase your chances of infection. You should also avoid using other topical acne treatments while you’re using tretinoin, as they may interact and result in severe skin irritation. Specifically, it’s recommended that you avoid products that contain salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and ingredients like alcohol, lime, or spices. Tretinoin for Acne