What is tretinoin?
Topical tretinoin is a generic form of the acne medication Retin-A. In most countries, purchasing topical tretinoin requires a prescription.
Typically, topical tretinoin is both a short-term solution and long-term treatment option for clearing up active breakouts. It’s used for hard-to-clear acne blemishes on your skin.
Tretinoin is effective for many people, but it’s not for everyone. Keep reading to find out what you should know before trying tretinoin for your acne.
Benefits of using tretinoin for acne
Tretinoin is a retinoid, meaning it’s a form of vitamin A. Retinoids stimulate cell turnover on your skin. Dead skin cells are cleared off your skin more quickly as new skin cells rise to the surface.
Quicker cell turnover opens your pores, releasing trapped bacteria or irritants that are causing your acne.
Retinoids like tretinoin also help your skin to regulate its natural oil (sebum) production, which can prevent future breakouts. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which clear up active acne pustules.
Tretinoin for wrinkles
Tretinoin has been studied extensively for its impact on the visible signs of aging.
Tretinoin cream has demonstrated both short-term and long-term effects on the appearance of wrinkles. That’s why tretinoin is a popular ingredient in many OTC face and eye creams.
Tretinoin for acne scars
Tretinoin can also be used to decrease the appearance of acne scarring. Since tretinoin speeds up cell turnover on your skin, it can encourage new cell growth at the site of scarring.
Tretinoin in several forms has been tested successfully as an effective way to treat acne scars. Tretinoin is also sometimes used to prep skin for chemical peel treatments that target scarring.
Tretinoin side effects
Using tretinoin for acne can cause side effects. Not everyone will experience all of the side effects, and some may be more severe than others. Possible side effects include:
burning or itching skin
peeling or redness on your skin
unusual dryness of your skin
skin that feels warm to the touch
skin that turns a lighter color at the site of application
It can take up to 12 weeks to see results from using tretinoin. If your skin seems irritated by using it, check with a doctor to see if symptoms are within the range of what’s normal for OTC tretinoin.
Tretinoin isn’t recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
When you’re using tretinoin, be extra careful about your exposure to the sun. Like all retinoids, tretinoin can thin your skin, making it more prone to sun damage and sunburn.
Make sure you wear a sunscreen whenever you’re going outside, and consider additional preventative measures like wearing a hat with a brim.
If you feel like you’re having an allergic reaction or experiencing serious side effects from tretinoin, discontinue use and seek medical attention immediately.