Tretinoin For Acne – What You Need to Know

Tretinoin is a powerful medication that can help reduce acne pimples and speed up the healing process. It’s typically prescribed by dermatologists.

This popular medication can cause dryness and irritation, especially for people with sensitive skin or rosacea. Luckily, there are gentler OTC retinoids available. The key to seeing results is consistent application.

How Tretinoin Works

Tretinoin is one of the most widely used prescription skin treatments for acne and anti-aging. It increases skin cell turnover, resurfaces skin cells and unclogs pores. It’s also comedolytic, meaning it reduces the build-up of sebum. It’s been shown to help diminish fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration.

It’s also safe for long-term use. However, it’s important to monitor your skin and adjust your skincare routine as needed. Some skin products may interact with tretinoin, causing it to work differently or not at all.

Generally, you’ll begin to see results within 2 to 3 weeks of using tretinoin. However, it can take up to 12 weeks for the medication to reach the deep layers of your skin. This is why it’s crucial to apply tretinoin consistently. It can be difficult to cope with the tretinoin purge, but the key is patience. It’ll soon be worth it once you see the improved results.

Side Effects

Tretinoin is available as a topical gel, cream or solution and has a very good safety record. However, it is not recommended for use by people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, are taking oral medications to treat acne (especially those that are teratogenic, meaning they can cause birth defects) or have sensitive skin.

It is also important to avoid using any other topical skin treatments, especially those with exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, while on tretinoin. The combination of these ingredients can be irritating to the skin and cause a burning sensation when they come into contact with the tretinoin.

The most common side effects from tretinoin are skin peeling and dryness, which should go away with time or after you stop using it. It is also possible that your skin will change color, becoming lighter or darker, but this usually goes back to normal with time as well. If you experience severe itching or hives, stop using the medication and seek medical attention immediately.


The strength of tretinoin prescribed by your dermatologist can vary. Some formulations are stronger than others, but each can have positive effects over time.

Tretinoin helps acne by promoting skin cell turnover. This cuts down on the buildup of dead skin cells that can mix with sebum and clog pores. It also helps reduce the activity of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which can be inflammatory.

Before using tretinoin, wash your face twice a day with mild, non-medicated soap and pat it dry. Don’t use abrasive cleansers or scrub your skin to reduce the risk of irritation. It’s important to use oil-free makeup and sun protection while you’re using tretinoin. Also, avoid hair removal treatments such as plucking, waxing or electrolysis while you’re applying tretinoin to prevent irritation. It may take up to 8-12 weeks before you see results from your tretinoin treatment. If you don’t see improvement, talk to your dermatologist. They can recommend other medications to help treat your acne or wrinkles.


While the comedolytic end benefits of tretinoin are well-known, it also has broad immunomodulating properties that can disrupt the inflammatory cascade and proinflammatory factors associated with acne (Yoham, 2020).

Apply a thin layer of tretinoin at night as part of your skincare routine. The amount of product required varies depending on skin type, but most people require only about a pea-sized dab for the entire face.

Before applying tretinoin, make sure your face is completely clean by washing with a mild soap or facial cleanser and patting dry with a clean towel. This will reduce the risk of irritation.

Avoid using other topical treatments or medications on the area you are treating with tretinoin, as these may cause skin irritation or worsen side effects. This includes exfoliants, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and products that contain sulfur. Your dermatologist can advise you on what skin products are compatible with tretinoin. Tretinoin for Acne

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