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Tretinoin – Can it slow down aging?

This topical vitamin A-based drug called Tretinoin has been the most studied anti-aging compound & is highly tested on its efficacy & all the studies have consistently reported that tretinoin cream was very effective in improving premature aging & photoaging symptoms like wrinkles, hyperpigmentation & acne condition. The studies indicated that this topical retinoid was safe & well-tolerated in people.

Tretinoin background

Topical Tretinoin, which is also known by the names Retin-A & Retinoic acid has been around in the market since the 1970s as an acne treatment but gradually researchers discovered that it also fades the lesions, discoloration of the skin, helps boost collagen production which helps slow down skin aging symptoms like forehead wrinkles, fine lines & sagging skin. However, it easily takes around 8-12 weeks for significant improvements.

Back to the question,

Is Tretinoin really anti-aging?

The answer is yes, this topical cream is really anti-aging. Studies, research & results have proven tretinoin’s efficacy every time in treating photodamaged skin with consistent usage & boosting the skin cell turnover process at a double speed which results in fresh skin cells & young soft skin.

More Tretinoin details

Tretinoin family tree diagram

Tretinoin family tree- Retinoid is the head topical Vitamin A with 7 kinds

  • Tretinoin is the gold-standard topical Retinoid, this ingredient has the longest history of skin benefits. It is 20 times more effective than Retinol & is one of the best retinoids.
  • Tretinoin treats age spots, wrinkles, severe acne & photo-damaged skin & gives a youthful appearance. It is also said to be amazing in treating dark spots, melasma & hyperpigmentation.
  • You only get it by prescription from a board-certified dermatologist because it is very strong & needs to be used carefully.
  • It’s the only Retinoid that is FDA-approved for photoaging
  • Recommended Percentage – 0.01-0.1%

How do you keep track of all these Retinoids? I’ll break them simply into 3 classes for buying purposes: Prescription, Over the counter & Cosmetic

Tretinoin divided into a class for buying purposes

3 Classes of Retinoids

How does Tretinoin work on your skin?

  • With aging, our cells don’t regenerate as quickly as they did when we were young.
  • Tretinoin affects our gene expression, regulating all age-related issues by eliminating dead dark cells & allowing fresh, young skin cells to come up to the surface making the skin texture smooth.
  • Tretinoin cream goes deep into the layers of the skin, increases skin cell production & exfoliates it from within the deep layers. It also clears up acne because it cleans up the pores & eliminates bacterial growth.

How to apply Tretinoin cream correctly to avoid any side effects?

  • Wash your face with a gentle fragrance- & alcohol-free cleanser
  • Pat the skin dry completely
  • Apply Vaseline on the outer corner of your eyes & mouth to be extra safe
  • Now, apply a pea-sized amount of Tretinoin for the full face.
  • Gently rub it all over the face & neck
  • Extra step* You can add a few drops of Hyaluronic acid in your moisturizer as the final step. Hyaluronic acid will comp for any dryness if caused by tretinoin (Just moisturizer is also good)
  • Don’t forget to apply sun protection the next day.

Safe ways to use Tretinoin cream in your skincare routine- for beginners

  • To be extra safe, use a ‘sandwich method’ when applying Tretinoin cream. First, a layer of moisturizer then tretinoin, end with again a layer of moisturizer.
  • Always use just a pea-sized amount of tretinoin to avoid side effects like over-peeled or crocodile-tight skin.
  • Don’t apply it on damp skin.
  • Start by using it only two times a week, and gradually increase the number of times when the skin gets used to it.
  • Start with the lower-strength tretinoin creams. 0.01% concentration is good for beginners.
  • To compensate for any dryness, never forget to layer it with a non-comedogenic moisturizer with niacinamide/ceramides/hyaluronic acid in it.
  • Take pictures of your face every week from the first week only, it will be very motivating when you see it getting better & better.
  • Cut all other actives like AHA’s & BHA’s from your skincare routine. Tretinoin itself is enough for you when you’re in the beginner phase.
  • Apply only at nighttime.
  • Don’t step outside without sunscreen in the daytime. Tretinoin increases your skin’s sensitivity. Sun exposure & UV radiation makes the skin more vulnerable.

FYI: You might get mild burns or purging as side effects when you start using topical tretinoin cream. Hence, you should know all the tips on your fingers to heal the backfires!

How to handle Tretinoin side effects, reactions, or purging?

Tretinoin purge

Tretinoin purge

  • Take cold showers or ice your face (wrapped in a thin cloth). Avoid hot showers at any cost.
  • Use gentle cleansers. Avoid using cosmetic products with fragrances.
  • Stop using any other exfoliants, acids, AHAs, BHAs, peroxides, salicylic acid, or chemical peels until you are completely healed.
  • Use Thermal spring water to calm the skin (Try from La Roche Posay)
  • Don’t use any exfoliating fancy gadgets to wash your face, simply hands.
  • Give a lot of moisture & hydration to the skin for it to feel better. Apply moisturizers loaded with ceramides (Helps in skin barrier), Hyaluronic acid & Niacinamide.
  • Now, seal the skin with a light layer of Vaseline. It locks in all the goodies we’ve given & heals the skin faster.
  • Cica Balms, Shea butter, Glycerin & Aloe vera, are great soothing & calming agents for the skin.
  • Apply sunblock before stepping outside. Remember your skin is already in a vulnerable state. UV rays at this point can make it worse.
  • Product suggestion- Try Avene- Cicalfate + restorative protective cream

All the reactions & side effects are temporary, so don’t freak out, and mild burns/reactions will heal with these above-mentioned suggestions

Don’t use Tretinoin in these conditions

  • If you have any open wounds or cuts
  • If you have skin conditions like rosacea or eczema
  • If you are pregnant, trying for pregnancy, or nursing.

Does Tretinoin storage or packaging matter?

Yes. A lot. Tretinoin should be kept & stored away from sunlight or heat. Perhaps your bathroom cabinets are good for storage. Tretinoin cream should always be in packaging where it is least exposed to air, hence, buy the tube forms & ditch the jars form completely.

Tube form packaging suggestion for Tretinoin

Tube packaging

When to STOP using Tretinoin?

When you get allergic reactions or side effects like,

  • A rash or hives
  • Blisters
  • Watery eyes
  • Burning sensation
  • Red itchy skin

Symptoms of the allergic reactions are temporary & are mostly not very severe, in extremely rare cases a person may experience anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that requires emergency medical attention. Call 911

A few good skincare brand names for Retinoids?

6. Obagi


The anti-aging tretinoin is obviously a great scientific search for any of your skin concerns, just don’t use it too close to your eyes, nose & mouth & follow all the tips I mentioned above to take the maximum benefit out of this ingredient. Lastly, it will easily take a few weeks for optimal results to be seen. So, be patient with the purge & drying phase; the younger cells are just underneath that.

Love ~ Beauty Stroll

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By Aayushi S
By Aayushi S
Aayushi is a New York based freelance writer and a content strategist. She is a computer science graduate, a health and skincare fanatic and is also the founder of “Beauty Stroll “. She aims to make science-backed skincare easy to understand for her readers.

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