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What is tretinoin and what does it do to your skin?

Tretinoin is a synthetic form of vitamin A and is usually used as a medication for acne. It stimulates the production of skin cells and accelerates cell turnover. Thus, it is powerful in removing and preventing blackheads, whiteheads and pimples by effectively unclogging pores and keeping dead skin cells from building up.

It is can, therefore, help to reduce visible signs of wrinkles, freckles and dark spots, while also improve skin texture and the appearance of acne scarring.

Tretinoin products are available in different forms e.g., gel, cream and solution. In most regions, you will need a prescription from your doctor for this medication. Keep in mind that it tends to be a bit irritating to skin, especially at the beginning of use. Consult your health care professional if you have any questions.

What’s the difference between tretinoin and retinol?

In short, tretinoin is a synthetic version of vitamin A, while retinol a natural derivative of vitamin A.

Although both of them work similarly and are commonly used for acne and anti-aging treatment, they are not the same—Tretinoin is a retinoic acid that acts directly on your skin, whereas retinol only gets CONVERTED to retinoic acid when it’s applied to the skin. Without any conversion steps needed, tretinoin is almost 5 times more powerful than retinol, and yet is also more irritating as well.

While you need a prescription for tretinoin, retinol is available over-the-counter.

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How to start?

You can start with using tretinoin once a week for one month, then increase to twice a week for the second month. Add days slowly and steadily according to your skin’s tolerance, and use it as frequently as your skin can tolerate it.

Always apply tretinoin at night as the sun’s UV rays breakdown tretinoin and make it less effective.

Most people stop using it once they notice redness and peeling. The key is not to stop immediately, but to reduce the frequency of usage.

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What are the side effects?

It is possible for tretinoin to cause the following side effects:

1. Redness
2. Tightness
3. Dryness
4. Peeling
5. Scaling
6. Mild burning
7. Stinging sensation

It may take 2-4 weeks for the side effects to subside until your skin acclimates. Check with your doctor immediately if you experience severe irritation, or if the irritation doesn’t improve within a few weeks.

When using tretinoin, avoid contact with eyes, nasal, and mouth. Do not apply it to open wounds or to areas of sunburn.

Since it can thin your skin, making it more prone to sun damage and sunburn, you should also pay extra attention to sun protection.

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Tretinoin: Benefits for skin, usage & side effects
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