How Does Tretinoin Cream Work?

GPs and dermatologists prescribe topical tretinoin cream to patients who want to improve blemishes and limit discolouration caused by sun damage. It takes weeks and sometimes months to show results, but when used correctly it’s considered safe for long-term use. Tretinoin is only available with a prescription and should only be bought from a reputable GP or dermatologist.

A retinoid, such as tretinoin, works by speeding up the way your skin cells turn over and grow. It also alters the amount of oil produced by the cells (Zasada, 2019). It is a powerful drug that is only available with a prescription. It penetrates the layers of skin and changes cell behavior, such as what job they should do or how quickly they should die. This translates to more even skin pigmentation and a reduction in fine lines and dark spots that can occur with age or sun damage (Yoham, 2020).

It minimises pores and decreases the size of blemishes and blackheads. It also reduces the inflammation that causes acne, and helps control the amount of oil produced by the skin’s sebaceous glands (Leyden, 2017). In addition to its anti-inflammatory and anti-acne effects, it decreases hyperpigmentation caused by blemishes or sun damage, resulting in less redness and brown spots on the face (Zasada, 2019).

When applied regularly, tretinoin slows down the aging process by reducing the number of wrinkles, fine lines, and dark patches on the face (Yoham, 2020). Unlike other treatments for wrinkles, which only fill in the fine lines, tretinoin actually changes the collagen and elastin structure of your skin so that the lines gradually fade over time (Zasada, 2019).

A study of people who used 0.05% tretinoin once daily for six months found that they decreased the appearance of liver spots and other areas of uneven skin color, also known as discoloration (Yoham, 2020). The tretinoin helped to even out the skin tone by limiting the production of melanin in certain parts of the body.

Before using tretinoin, wash your hands and cleanse the area to be treated. After washing, apply the medication as directed on the label or in the patient information leaflet. It is recommended to use a small amount once a day at bedtime (Zasada, 2019). You may notice skin dryness, burning, or itching after you start using the medication. If these side-effects do not go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They may suggest using a moisturizer or decreasing the frequency of your application, changing the strength of tretinoin, or discontinuing treatment altogether. Avoid contact with eyes, mouth, or angles of the nose while you are applying the medication. It is also not recommended to apply tretinoin to areas of the face that are sunburned, swollen, or irritated.

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