Retin-A (Tretinoin) skin preparations are a family of drugs all similar to Vitamin A. In general, tretinoin gels are stronger than creams because the medicine penetrates better when in a gel form.
The cream is used to treat acne and aged, sun damaged skin and works best when used in combination with alpha hydroxyacid preparations. If used over a period of years, tretinoin will continue to reverse aging of the skin and can continue improving the skin’s appearance even ten years after starting treatment.
A study in the Archives of Dermatology, May 1996, showed that 0.1% tretinoin significantly improved the appearance of early stretch marks, especially those that are new or enlarging.
How does Retin-A help?
Retin-A unplugs acne follicles and brings acne pimples (comedones) to the surface. This is why tretinoin makes acne look worse in the first few weeks of treatment. The compound will reverse some of the changes of photoaging and causes lightening of brown sun spots as well as leads to the disappearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Are there any side effects?
Tretinoin makes the skin more sensitive to sun light, i.e. it is much easier to get a burn. It also causes dryness, redness, tenderness, and swelling of the skin. These side effects lessen with time.
Are there alternatives to Retin-A?
There are some natural products that can be as effective as Retin-A withoit the potential side effects. They are worth looking into for more moderate cases of sun damage and acne. But for sever cases the prescription medication is probably your best bet.
Retin-A safety and usage information
Tretinoin is very safe when used as directed. Several studies show tretinoin is safe to use during pregnancy, however you should only use it during pregnancy if this is OK with your obstetrician.
Do not smoke while applying tretinoin, the gel form is flammable.
You should wash your face twice a day with a mild non-soap cleanser such as Cetaphil lotion available at your local pharmacy. Pat skin dry with a towel. Let your face dry for 10-15 minutes before applying tretinoin. Apply one pea size drop to the face each night before bed; do not get the medication into your eyes. One pea size drop should be enough to cover the entire face.
Apply a moisturizer containing a sunscreen of 15 or higher to the skin each morning or an alpha hydroxyacid preparation. This will help counteract the dryness and scaling. Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
If the skin becomes too red and dry, decrease the application of Retin-A to every other night or even every third night. If you plan to have hair removed by waxing, especially of the upper lip, stop the tretinoin 3-4 weeks prior to the treatment. Otherwise, you may be left with a sore area which could heal with a brown spot.