8 Things to Know About Using Topical Retinoids for Acne

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8 Things to Know About Using Topical Retinoids for Acne

Tretinoin—otherwise known as vitamin A acid is one of the most celebrated skin care ingredients on the planet, and for good reason: it’s suited to pull of a variety of tasks. Much like salicylic acid and glycolic acid, it’s a keratolytic agent—meaning, it works not only to unclog pores, but to help them remain clear, too. As a result, it helps prevent the formation of whiteheads and blackheads. But what else do you need to know about it? Read on to discover 10 things everyone who’s thinking of trying tretinoin should know.

  1. IT TENDS TO BE HARSH. Though highly effective in fighting certain types of acne, tretinoin is known to cause irritation in sensitive skin types. If tretinoin is prescribed to you, it’s always a good idea to follow your physician’s instructions for use to a T—and it can never hurt to perform a patch test on the skin behind your ear to help gauge how you’ll react.
  2. BUT ‘RETINOL’ ISN’T ONE OF THEM. Topical retinoids should not be confused with retinol. Retinol becomes retinoic acid – or Tretinoin – after it is converted by special enzymes.
  3. IT DOES HAVE SOME ASSOCIATED SIDE EFFECTS. Side effects of tretinoin include bone pain, dry skin, fever, hair loss, headaches, sweating, itching, nausea, fatigue and vomiting.
  4. IT’S NOT FOR USE DURING PREGNANCY. Tretinoin may be dangerous to use while pregnant. As is the case with any prescription, skin care product or acne treatment, it’s wise to speak openly and honestly with a medical professional before trying anything new.
  5. DOUBLING DOWN IS NOT ADVISED. If you try tretinoin and see stellar results right away, you might be tempted to up your dosage in some way. Our word of advice is simple—don’t! Do not use more of it, do not use it more often, and do not use it for a longer time than your doctor ordered. Do so, and you’ll risk causing serious irritation to your skin.
  6. WHEN IT COMES TO APPLICATION, CAUTION IS KEY. Yeah, you know that instructions booklet that comes along with the product—the one with pages and pages of tiny fine print? It’s actually not a bad idea to read that—the better you understand the product, the better chances your experience will go as planned. Some important highlights: don’t apply the medicine to wind burned skin, sunburned skin, or on open wounds, and don’t use it in or around your mucus membranes—that’s your eyes, your lips, and your nostrils. (If you accidentally get the medicine in these areas, don’t panic—but do rinse thoroughly with water right away.) Finally? After you apply, wash your hands.
  7. IT CAN BE ESPECIALLY IRRITATING ON WET SKIN. If at all possible, try to wait 20 to 30 minutes after washing your face before you apply tretinoin.
  8. IT’S RECOMMENDED THAT YOU USE IT IN CONJUNCTION WITH SUNSCREEN. Given the nature of tretinoin, it can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun—so it’s very important that you use a daily SPF. To be perfectly honest, though, you should be using a daily SPF no matter what. Thankfully, there are plenty of non-acnegenic, non-comedogenic, and oil-free formulations available today that won’t break you out.
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