Tretinoin is a powerful medication that can be used to treat acne and reduce signs of aging. It helps fade hyperpigmentation, sun spots and melasma and stimulates collagen production.
Topical tretinoin can cause skin irritation, dryness and peeling. The tretinoin gel microsphere formulation was developed to minimize these side effects.
What is Tretinoin?
A mainstay in acne treatments and gold standard ingredient for aging skin, tretinoin is a topical medication that targets epidermal turnover. It promotes the growth of new skin cells and helps to clear problematic acne and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Tretinoin is available in gel, cream, or ointment. For those who are new to retinol, we recommend starting with the lowest potency, such as Obagi’s micronized 0.05% or.02% tretinoin gel, which is time released so it impacts the skin more gradually.
Many patients also combine tretinoin with niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that supports skin health and helps lighten dark spots, sun damage, and hyperpigmentation. It’s important to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen and hat when using this powerful combination.
How Does Tretinoin Work?
When you apply tretinoin, it penetrates deep into the skin. It helps to clear the pores of debris and remove dead skin cells that can block them. This allows the new, fresh skin underneath to emerge. It also boosts the production of collagen, which reduces wrinkles and fine lines.
Tretinoin is available in gel microspheres that deliver a higher concentration of the medication to the skin. It is also available in a cream form that contains butylated hydroxytoluene, hydroxypropyl cellulose and alcohol alongside the active ingredient.
When you first start using tretinoin, your skin may irritate or feel dry. This is normal and should fade after a few weeks. Avoid overwashing or excessively scrubbing your face when using tretinoin and be sure to use sunscreen.
How Long Does Tretinoin Last?
Tretinoin gels typically last up to three years past their expiration dates, as long as they are unopened. It’s important to keep them in a cool, dark place and out of direct sunlight, as exposure to light can cause the product to degrade more quickly.
You can start noticing results from using tretinoin after a few weeks, but it usually takes 6 or more weeks to see a significant improvement in sun damage, dark spots and wrinkles. You should also avoid using benzoyl peroxide products while using tretinoin, as they can block its effectiveness.
The expiration date of a tretinoin product is usually printed on the outer packaging or directly on the tube. It’s best to check the exact date and look for a recognizable change in texture, smell or color to determine if it is expired.
Tretinoin Side Effects
Tretinoin is an anti-aging and acne medication and comes in a cream, gel or solution. It is usually prescribed to people 12 years of age or older.
Some of the side effects of tretinoin include dry skin and itching. Applying an oil free, gentle moisturizer before tretinoin can help reduce the dryness and itching. The medication can also cause the surface of the skin to flake or peel. This is normal and usually goes away with continued treatment.
The medication can also make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and can increase the risk of sunburn. Be sure to wear sunscreen daily and avoid tanning. If you become extremely red, swollen or have crusting of the skin while taking this medication tell your doctor immediately. This may be a sign of a serious reaction called retinoic acid-APL (RA) syndrome.
While tretinoin is safe to use, it’s important to follow the instructions exactly to avoid irritation. It’s especially important to not mix tretinoin with fragrant lotions or products, harsh exfoliants or astringents. It’s also a good idea to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily when using tretinoin, especially in the first few weeks of treatment.
You should not take tretinoin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have liver disease, kidney disease or severe skin depression. It’s not clear whether tretinoin passes into breast milk, so you should talk to your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to become pregnant. This medication can cause serious side effects if it gets into your eyes. Store it at room temperature and away from heat (especially the gel, which is flammable). Keep it out of reach from children.