FAQs: Understanding Retin-A, Tretinoin and Retinols
Should I use a retinoid, tretinoin, Retin-A or retinol? Is there any difference?
Deciding to use a prescription retinoid or a non-prescription retinoid depends on your skin care goals. We've outlined key points to help you choose the best products for your unique skin care needs.
Tretinoin and retinol are both retinoids. Retinoids are natural derivatives of Vitamin A.
Tretinoin and its brand name, Retin A, are prescription retinoids. Retinol can be purchased without a prescription.
Tretinoin and Retin A are more potent than retinol.
Results from tretinoin such as younger looker skin and curative effects on acne occur in about half as much time than retinol.
Retinol may not be effective in anti-aging or treating acne in some skin types. It may be too weak.
Solid research backs Tretinoin/Retin A’s ability to minimize and slow the signs of aging, stimulate collagen and elastin production, repair sun damage (photodamage) and fade hyper-pigmentation. Additionally, tretinoin is FDA approved to treat acne vulgaris.
Retinol is usually included in products such as anti-wrinkle formulas, moisturizers, and skin-repairing serums with the goal of preventing, slowing and reversing the signs of aging.
What are the different strengths of prescription tretinoin?
Tretinoin is available in .025% strength, .05% and .100% concentration.
What percent (potency) of tretinoin should I use?
025% and .05% tretinoin can be starting points for tretinoin use. If you have sensitive skin, .025% might be a good first step for you. However, if you choose .05% tretinoin and experience strong side effects, reducing the frequency to 2-3 days a week can help. As your skin adjusts, you may decide to apply the topical retinoid more frequently and eventually use tretinoin nightly if you are happy with the results. The most potent strength of tretinoin .100% is very popular among people who are ready to jump to the next level. Tretinoin .100% often becomes a key product in skin care regimens for life.
How do I use tretinoin?
Instructions on applying tretinoin are specific. Do not rub tretinoin into your face. Apply tretinoin gently to the face using a pea size amount to create a thin layer on the skin. Smooth the tretinoin over the skin gently until it is no longer visible. To help ensure even application, you may place a dot of the cream on each quadrant of your face and then spread the cream over your entire face. Apply tretinoin at night and always with thoroughly clean hands. Wash your face before applying tretinoin and wait at least 20 minutes to ensure that your face is dry before applying the tretinoin medication. Always wash your hands after applying Retin-A/tretinoin to avoid accidentally getting it in your eyes, mouth or touching other people with it on your hands.
Why does my face have to be dry before I apply tretinoin or Retin-A?
Tretinoin/Retin A is potent and easily absorbed by the skin. Wet skin will increase the absorption rate of tretinoin into the skin, which can cause irritation. Wait at least 20 minutes after washing your face before applying tretinoin.
Can I use tretinoin under my eyes?
Tretinoin can be used under the eyes. However, be careful not to get it in the eyes. Also, always use a pea size amount of tretinoin for the entire face. Smooth it into the face. Avoid rubbing Retin-A into your skin. Be especially gentle with the thin skin around the eyes.