What is Retin-A?
Retin-A (tretinoin) is a form of vitamin A that helps the skin renew itself.
The Retin-A and Avita brands of tretinoin are used to treat acne. The Renova brand of tretinoin is used to reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles and mottled skin discoloration, and to make rough facial skin feel smoother.
Retin-A: Tips & Proper Use
When using Retin-A avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial UV rays (sunlamps or tanning beds). Retin-A can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and sunburn may result. Use a sunscreen (minimum SPF 15) and wear protective clothing if you must be out in the sun. Avoid getting Retin-A in your eyes, mouth, and nose, or on your lips. If it does get into any of these areas, wash with water. Do not use Retin-A on sunburned, windburned, dry, chapped, irritated, or broken skin. Also avoid using this medication in wounds or on areas of eczema. Wait until these conditions have healed before using Retin-A.
Retin-A Skin Treatments
Use this medication for as many days as it has been prescribed for you even if you think it is not working. It may take weeks or months of use before you notice improvement in your skin. If you are using Retin-A to treat acne, your condition may get slightly worse for a short time when you first start using the medication. Call your doctor if skin irritation becomes severe or if your acne does not improve within 8 to 12 weeks.
- Use Retin-A exactly as your doctor has prescribed it for you. Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not use this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
- Do not take by mouth. Retin-A is for use only on the skin. Do not use this medicine on open wounds or on sunburned, windburned, dry, chapped, or irritated skin.
- Using more medicine or applying it more often than prescribed will not make it work any faster, and may increase side effects.
- Wash your hands before and after applying Retin-A. Then, wash your skin with a mild soap and dry gently. Wait 20 to 30 minutes before applying medication; it is important for skin to be completely dry in order to minimize possible irritation.
- Do not wash the treated area for at least 1 hour after applying Retin-A. Avoid the use of other skin products on the treated area for at least 1 hour following application of Retin-A.
- Keep the medication away from the corners of the nose, mouth, eyes and open wounds.
- Applying an excessive amount of Retin-A gel may result in “pilling” of the medication. If this occurs, use a thinner layer of gel with the next application.
- Retin-A should be used as part of a complete skin care program that includes avoiding sunlight and using an effective sunscreen and protective clothing.
- Use this medication for the full prescribed length of time, even if you think it is not working.
- It may take up to several weeks before you notice improvement in your skin. Keep using the medication as directed and tell your doctor if your symptoms do not improve. When using Retin-A to treat acne, your condition may get slightly worse for a short time when you first start using the medication.
Dr. Larry Jaeger is the medical director of Advanced Dermatology of New York and specializes in the area of Medical, Cosmetic and Surgical Dermatology.