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Tretinoin 101

Unlike its ubiquitous counterpart Retin-A, tretinoin is not very well known among those with interest in skin care — and for an understandable reason. Tretinoin is Retin-A, or to be precise, Retin-A is the branded version of the generic medication tretinoin.

Like Retin-A, Tretinoin is a retinoid and it has skin care applications for acne, wrinkles, dark spots, and saggy skin. However, while Retin-A is a branded prescription medication, tretinoin is a prescription ingredient that is prepared in solutions and sold in these preparations.

Tretinoin: What Makes It Different

Tretinoin, like Retin-A, is a prescription medication that belongs in the class of retinoids. Tretinoin is actually retinoic acid, not to be confused with retinol or other retinoids. Retinoic acid is the compound that affects skin growth. Everyone’s skin theoretically converts retinol and other retinoids into retinoic acid, but the rate of this conversion varies by person and is usually not enough to create noticeable effects on skin symptoms like acne and wrinkles.

Tretinoin, being retinoic acid, is prescribed in preparations of .025% to .1% creams and is able to cause noticeable improvement in the look of fine lines, wrinkles, acne, and dark spots.

How does Tretinoin Work?

Tretinoin has two major properties that make it great for treating a variety of skin ailments. It is comedolytic — which means that it prevents pores from becoming clogged. This is really helpful in those who have acne formed by clogged pores (such as blackheads). Next, it increases the rate of skin cell turnover. This property allows it to increase the speed at which new skin cells make it from the bottom layers of your skin to the surface.

What Can I Expect?

Like Retin-A, tretinoin is effective on acne, wrinkles, dark spots, and sagging skin. However, since it works by exfoliating and then encouraging the growth of new skin, it takes up to a period of 12 weeks for you to see noticeable results and better skin.

If you are using tretinoin for acne, you may notice that your skin worsens before it gets better. People report mild burning, peeling, dryness, and flaking. However, that is a result of tretinoin’s mechanism of action and means that it is working. If you notice a severe reaction or are in pain, see a doctor immediately.

As with all prescription treatments, you should monitor your skin closely and make sure that you are seeing improvements. If you think that the changes in your skin are minor, then consult with a clinician about what options you have. If you find that your skin becomes irritated, you may be able to lower your dose. Regardless, to get the best results, track your own skin against your skin goals and consult regularly with your care provider.

For people who are expected to need to use Retin-A long term, it is a good idea to speak to a clinician and work out a skincare plan that covers nutrition, sunscreen usage, and a look into any underlying issues that may be the cause of pertinent skin conditions so that you can have a holistic plan that covers all the bases that create beautiful, healthy skin.

Side Effects

As with any medication, those who begin using tretinoin may see side effects. For tretinoin, these side effects should be mild and restricted to the area of application. Some side effects include drying and peeling at the application site, increased photosensitivity, and burning or itching upon application.

Severe side effects include but are not limited to blistering, crusting, or severe burning of the skin. If you experience any of these, you should discontinue use immediately and contact a clinician.

Tretinoin is very effective as a treatment for acne, wrinkles, sagging skin, and dark spots. However, there are some people who should avoid using it.

People who have documented allergies to Vitamin A or any retinoids, women who are pregnant, and those with eczema should inform a doctor of their conditions before beginning Tretinoin. People who have been using or are using other retinoids or products that contain sulfur (such as salicylic acid) should inform a doctor about all products that they are using and should generally allow for some time between changing treatment plans.

Before starting treatment with tretinoin, it is advised that you thoroughly and completely discuss current medications and your medical history with a trained professional.

If you’re struggling with acne, wrinkles, dark spots, or saggy skin, there are prescription skin care options available to you. With Alpha, you can speak to a clinician, be examined, and receive your treatment quickly and conveniently from your own home. Our clinicians are experts in building custom treatment plans and are happy to walk you through any questions or concerns.

While not for everyone, Tretinoin offers a powerful treatment option for those who suffer from acne, wrinkles, saggy skin, and dark spots. If you are concerned about the possibility of negative side effects or drying, you can be assured that with Alpha, you are always available to consult a professional without the weeks or months long wait at a physical physician’s practice.



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