How to Use Tretinoin (Retin-A)

Tretinoin, Retin-A, Retinol, ROC, Vitamin A! So confusing! What is it and what does it do? My doctor gave it to me but I never used it or don’t know how to use it. My skin is too sensitive for it!

These are all things I’ve heard before. Retin-A is for everyone! Except babies, puppies, fish, and anyone who is under the age of 16 really… I personally love Tretinoin (Retin-A). Amazing! What I don’t like is how dermatologist or your primary care physician will write the prescription for you, you fill it, and have no clue what to do besides the basic info on that little white piece of paper with letters too small to read. Here is a quick run down.

Tretinoin is also known as Retin-A, Renova, Tazorac, Adapalene, Avage, Retin-A micro etc.
They are all derivatives of Vitamin A. They work to increase cell turnover which in return clears up acne, softens fine lines, wrinkles and reduces discoloration on the skin. Basically as you age, your skin slows down and retin-a gives it a big kick in the booty. I always try to have my clients imagine a brick wall with bricklayers at the bottom. When you are younger, those bricklayers are hot! Big, buff hunky looking guys working hard laying bricks down and taking care of your wall (skin) Insert Hugh Jackman, Liam Hemsworth or anyone else you fancy here.   Then, as you age, they get older and older until they are weak old men (think Woody Allen-esque) who take a nap most of the day. That is why Retin-A, peels, laser therapies work!   They give those bricklayers a big kick and they go back into a frenzy of fixing your brick wall. By the way, if you have been to our pintrest board, you will understand why I use a brick wall as an example. We have an obsession with brick walls!  To view, click here!

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It has been used for over 40 years as a prescription acne treatment and a gold standard for dermatologists.

Yes, it can make your skin flaky or sensitive, but that is where I come in! Tweak it! If your skin is becoming raw and you hate it, then use it every other night (or every 3rd night) or mix a small amount of the product into your basic moisturizer. Still irritated? Apply a small amount of hydrocortisone to the irritated areas for a few nights, then resume. I promise you the benefits will out weigh the small irritation you might get in the beginning while the product is doing it’s job. Now, I am not saying “use it til your face peels off!” No, no, no. Common sense plays a part. What works for me, might not work for you, I understand that. But again, just a little tweaking and we can all receive the benefits.

Sensitive skin? Ask your doctor for a prescription of Adapalene. It is the gentlest prescription version, but remember, it might take longer to see results. Still too sensitive? La Roche Posay has a great retinol booster, La Rosche-Posay Redermic R 0.1% Pure Retinol. Again, start slow and mix this in with your night time moisturizer. ROC also has the Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle serum that I’ve heard gives nice results. Always, always, always apply a moisturizer post Retin-A.  Most of my clients think that the cream is enough (prescription versions come in a cream base) but as a general rule, I always apply a moisturizer post.   Just to avoid any extra dryness, flaking or irritation.

Things to remember:

1. SPF! Never leave the house without at least SPF 25 +.  I say SPF 25 because most BB creams have a SPF rating of 25 +.  I personally use Boscia Bronzer BB Cream mixed with my moisturizer which gives me a SPF 27.  In the warmer months, I never leave the house without at least (at LEAST!) SPF 30.  Anytime you exfoliate your skin, it will become sensitive to the sun.

2.  FEED ME!  When exfoliating the skin, FEED IT TOO!  Vitamin C, Hyaluronic Acid, Peptides, Green Tea, Vitamin E, you get the idea.  Your skin is hungry! Feed it!  I use Skinceuticals C E Feurlic every morning before my moisturizer.  My clients always here me say “Vitamin C lightens, brightens and tightens!” Yes, I am that cheesy at work.  🙂

3.  Common sense people!  If you are going on a tropical vacation, leave the Retin-A at home! SPF SPF SPF.  When you get home, wait for any inflammation to go away and resume your normal routine.  Just got laser’d or waxed?  Avoid it for a few days up to a week.  Wait a few minutes after washing your face to apply a pea sized amount.

4.  Warnings: If you are using any other exfoliating products (AHA/BHA) in your routine, talk to your Aesthetician or Dermatologist to come up with a plan to avoid any contraindications.  Do not use while pregnant or breastfeeding.  If you are using Benzoyl Peroxide products, use those in the morning and Retin-A at night.

5.  Melasma? Hyperpigmentation?  Use a Hydroquione product or brightening cream (Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Arbutin)  together with the Retin-A to get a faster result.  Mix them together at night and apply.  I always say they are like Brad and Angelina, they are always together!

Now that you have the basics, sit back and relax.  Over the next few weeks of using Tretinoin (or any Vitamin A derivative), your skin will start to clear, brighten and fine lines soften.  Those compliments will be heading your way in no time.

Until next time,  take care of your brick wall 😉

2 thoughts on “How to Use Tretinoin (Retin-A)

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