If you’re struggling with acne or want to reduce the appearance of fine lines and dark spots due to sun damage, your dermatologist may recommend prescription-strength tretinoin gel. Also known as retinoic acid and sold under several brand names, including Retin-A, this gold-standard skin care treatment helps clear acne and fade dark spots and uneven skin texture. But you’ll need to be patient — it can take months for tretinoin to really start working. Before you start treatment, learn more about what this medication does and how it works.
Why Your Doctor Might Prescribe It
Like other retinoids, tretinoin (which is an acid form of vitamin A) targets the epidermis and boosts cell turnover. It also reduces the size of your pores and helps keep oil production under control. The result is less blemishes, less congestion, and smoother, more even-looking skin. It’s most commonly used to treat acne, but it can also help reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles and brighten sun damage-related dark spots.
Tretinoin doesn’t erase deep wrinkles, but it does stimulate collagen production over time. That’s why many doctors believe it’s an effective anti-aging medication. It can also help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation (dark spots) and enlarged pores caused by excessive sun exposure.
If your dermatologist prescribes tretinoin for you, it will come in the form of a cream or gel. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions exactly to prevent too much irritation and other side effects. Before you apply it, wash your hands and the affected skin area thoroughly with a mild, bland soap (not medicated or abrasive) and pat it dry. Then wait 20 to 30 minutes for your face to dry completely before applying the medication. Use your fingertips to apply a thin layer of the cream or gel. Avoid squeezing or scratching at your skin, and be careful not to get it in your eyes or mouth or on any open wounds. Some tretinoin products, such as Altreno lotion, contain fish proteins and should be avoided if you’re allergic to seafood.
Use tretinoin once a day, usually at bedtime. Avoid exposing your skin to the sun or using other types of tanning beds while you’re taking it. You may be more sensitive to the sun when you’re using this medication.
What to Expect
When you first start using tretinoin, your skin may be a little irritated and flaky. This is because the product speeds up the lifecycle of skin cells and makes them die more quickly, so newer, healthier cells can replace them. This can cause the outer layers of your skin to peel, which is why it’s important to moisturize afterward.
It can take up to a month before you begin to see results from tretinoin, and it can be a couple of years before you’re able to see a real improvement in your fine lines and discoloration. It’s crucial to stick with the regimen and talk to your dermatologist if you’re having trouble. tretinoin gel