Fighting Adult Acne With Tretinoin (Generic Retin-A)

Updated January 2019

Avoiding tretinoin because you fear the sun? Well, you're in luck. Timing is everything. The sunless winter is an opportunity to introduce your skin to the #1 acne-fighting Rx skincare product, tretinoin (generic Retin A).

Because tretinoin has incredible exfoliating and skin-regenerating power, new skin will crop up quickly. Be good to it! Sunscreen is always mandatory, but tretinoin requires strict vigilance to protect delicate, fresh skin from the sun. Try tretinoin in the winter when the sun is at bay. Again, no skipping on the sunblock.

If you're not new to tretinoin, winter could be a good time to step it up from tretinoin .025% or .05% to powerful tretinoin .1%. Ask your doctor what's best for you. 

Ok, so you've decided to stand up to your acne. Here's what you need to know:

First, try not to get upset. Most people think acne is isolated to teenagers but it's not. Adult acne is common and can show up suddenly. Typical causes of adult acne:

  • hormonal changes such as pregnancy or menopause
  • stress
  • change in diet
  • discontinuing or starting birth control
  • menstruation

The good news is that there are many routes you can take to treat your acne and clear your skin.

Tretinoin cream has been on the market for over 30 years and has mounds of evidence proving its effectiveness. It is one of the top-recommended prescription topicals by dermatologists on the market. You also have alternative steps you can take to get acne under control. 

Find out why you have acne

One of the first steps in clearing your skin is identifying what’s causing the acne breakout. Besides the possible triggers mentioned above, you may also have a genetic predisposition to adult acne if close relatives suffer from it. Some other likely culprits are your hair and skin products as well as side effects to medications or an undiagnosed medical condition. Adult acne is more commonly seen in women than in men and can be severe.

If one of these things is causing your acne, here’s what you can do...

  • Lower your stress. Some of the best ways to help lower your stress are through exercise, quality sleep, meditation, and spending time with people who make you happy.
  • Balance your hormones. You can’t always control your hormones but there are things you can do to help balance them such as, eating healthy, avoiding caffeine, exercising, getting more sleep, and improving your gut health.
  • Confirm your skin and hair products are non- comedogenic. Some other terms to look for are, non-acnegenic, oil-free, and won’t clog pores.
  • Consult with your doctor if any medications you are taking have a side effect of acne.
  • Consult with your doctor if you are concerned you may have an undiagnosed medical condition that may be causing your adult acne.
  • Discuss with your dermatologist if you have a genetic predisposition to acne. You should follow the above recommendations to avoid breakouts and you must be diligent with a good skincare regimen that is effective for acne prone skin.
  • POP birth control pills can be effective in treating acne

So, you've tried everything to clear your adult acne and it's still there...now what?

Try prescription topical tretinoin (generic Retin-A). This product is nearly guaranteed to clear your acne and reduce post-acne scars, also known as hyperpigmentation, with minimal side effects if used correctly. It's an effective adult acne treatment by shrinking enlarged pores and improving cell turnover within the pores to prevent them from clogging and becoming whiteheads or blackheads. It's possible acne may temporarily worsen until you see improvements, but stick with it and you'll notice a difference in as little as 4 to 6 weeks, versus up to 12 weeks from most over-the-counter products.

Actually, no worries. You may be able to keep using your favorite moisturizer and just switch to a gentler cleanser.

How to moisturize skin when using tretinoin

Try Obagi Nu-Derm Gentle Cleanser. To step up moisturizing take advantage of your skin's overnight renewal process with Obagi Hydrate Luxe or Obagi Medical Gentle Rejuvenation Advanced Night Cream. Adding a Vitamin C serum can help also. Vitamin C calms irritated skin, speeds up healing and help retain moisture. Remember to apply the serum before moisturizer.

Once your acne has cleared and you want to fade any scars left behind, prescription strength hydroquinone will be your next top go-to product. Hydroquinone 4% is the top skin bleaching product available with a prescription.

Vitamin C is also a skin brightener and works great in conjunction with hydroquinone. Obagi has an entire skin care system dedicated to lightening acne scars, sun damage and other types of hyperpigmentation. The Obagi-C Rx System includes everything you need to work in conjunction with the acne-clearing power of tretinoin. Tretinoin preps the skin for the hydroquinone to get to work and continue exfoliation and also lighten skin. Vitamin C also lightens skin in a more gentle way than hydroquinone and also offers some protection from the sun. However, a big warning. Always wear sunblock when using tretinoin or hydroquinone. The good news is that Obagi Complete Skin Care systems like the Obagi Nu-Derm System and the Obagi-C Rx System also contain broad-spectrum sunblock.

You also have the option of purchasing each item in the kit separately. Obagi C-Rx C-Clarifying Serum contains Vitamin C and prescription-strength hydroquinone. Obagi Nu-Derm Sunfader includes prescription-strength hydroquinone with SPF 30.  Then, as if that wasn't enough! You have the option of sunblock with Vitamin C. Obagi Professional-C Suncare is an OTC product. 

With the right products, healthy habits, and tretinoin cream in your arsenal, you can say goodbye to your adult acne!

To learn more about how Rx-only Tretinoin, Rx-only Hydroquinone and Vitamin C work together, read our blog on what we're calling the Skin Care Power Trio: Tretinoin, Hydroquinone and Vitamin C.

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