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What is Tretinoin cream?

Retin-A, also known by its generic name Tretinoin cream is a synthetic, first-generation all-trans-retinoic acid. It's also part of a group of synthetic and naturally occurring compounds derived from vitamin A, collectively known as retinoids. Tretinoin cream was patented in 1957 and first introduced onto the dermatology scene in 1962 when topical Tretinoin cream became a breakthrough skin care treatment.

What is Tretinoin cream Used For?

Topical Tretinoin cream was initially used as a topical treatment for acne in the 1970s, but researchers soon discovered that it had other benefits for other skin concerns, such as fading of age spots, evening out pigmentation, increase collagen production, as well as speeding up the turnover of skin cells to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines around the mouth. Due to the effectiveness of Tretinoin cream’s anti-ageing properties, it has been widely adopted as an anti-ageing treatment. Tretinoin cream and Retin-a shouldn't be confused with retinol. Retinol is less potent and less effective as an anti-ageing treatment compared to Tretinoin cream and Retin-a.

1. Anti-ageing Treatment

The topical application of Tretinoin cream has long been one of the most used and studied retinoids for anti-ageing treatment. According to research, topical Tretinoin cream has the following benefits:

  • The appearance of fine lines and fine wrinkles will disappear with this cream

  • The appearance of deep lines and deep wrinkles will be reduced with this cream

  • Improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin (photoageing) by reducing the signs of ageing

  • It improves the skin texture

  • The appearance of dark spots can be reduced

  • The skin's collagen production will be increased

  • Your skin's complexion will be clearer and healthier

  • The size of the pores in the skin will be reduced


Photoaging is premature skin ageing resulting from prolonged exposure to the sun's radiation (sunlight). There are several signs of photoaging, including fine and coarse wrinkles, changes in skin pigmentation, and a reduction in the skin's elasticity. Topical retinoids are used to improve the elasticity and appearance of the skin as well as increase collagen production in the skin, thereby reducing wrinkles, age spots, and skin damage caused by the sun (photodamaged skin). There have been extensive studies on topical Tretinoin cream as a treatment for photoaging. People of all skin types can benefit from using Tretinoin cream to prevent or reverse mild to severe signs of photoaging.

How does Tretinoin cream work for Anti-Ageing?

Tretinoin cream helps increase the rate at which the skin cells turnover. When we grow older, the rate at which our skin cells renew and replace older skin cells slows down. A slowdown in the renewal of skin cells is one of the leading causes of the signs of ageing appearing on the skin. During the renewal process of skin cells, Tretinoin cream acts as an accelerator to speed up the process. The result is that your skin will appear brighter and more youthful as the older, damaged skin cells are replaced more often by the younger, undamaged skin cells. The production of collagen will increase over time, and fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots will often fade or disappear over time.

How Quickly will you See Anti-ageing Benefits?

For Tretinoin cream to have the most benefit, it must be used consistently. It is important not to use more than the recommended amount or to use it more frequently. This will not make your skin improve any faster, and you will increase your chances of experiencing skin irritation as a result.

There is usually a noticeable improvement in the skin's appearance after a few weeks of using topical Tretinoin cream, your skin will appear noticeably clearer and smoother. After three to six months of regular topical use Tretinoin cream, you will begin to notice a significant improvement in wrinkles and the best results will appear within six to twelve months.

2. Acne Treatment

With the regular use of Tretinoin cream, you will get rid of existing acne (inflammatory acne as well as non-inflammatory acne) and reduce the number and severity of acne breakouts in the future. In numerous studies, topical retinoids are effective in treating acne vulgaris. Several studies have shown that Tretinoin cream is effective in the following:

  • Reducing the inflammation associated with acne

  • Preventing pores from getting clogged, thus reducing the formation of acne

  • Getting rid of dead skin cells by exfoliating them, and therefore reducing acne

How Does Tretinoin Treat Acne?

Acne is one of the most common causes of spots on the skin. Most people who suffer from acne are between 12 and 25, but older and younger people may also suffer from acne. Small sebaceous glands lie just below your skin's surface and produce an oil that keeps your skin supple and smooth by producing sebum. It is through the tiny pores on the surface of your skin that sebum can be able to get to the surface. Acne occurs when some of these pores become blocked with dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil, which causes spots, blackheads, and whiteheads (comedones) to appear.

Applying Tretinoin to the affected areas of your skin with acne will help unblock the pores and treat the black and whiteheads that have formed on your skin. In addition, Tretinoin also reduces the amount of inflammation on the face.

How Quickly Will You See Your Acne and Skin Health Improve?

If you want to get the most benefit out of Tretinoin, then you should use it consistently. Use the product in the recommended amount, don't exceed the recommended frequency, or use a larger amount. If you do this, your acne will not improve any faster, and you will also have a greater chance of experiencing skin irritation.

When you start using Tretinoin, your acne may appear worse for the first few weeks because tretinoin works on the pimples that are forming below the surface of your skin. The effects of Tretinoin on acne may begin to be seen in as little as two to three weeks, although it can take up to six weeks to experience the full benefits.

Types of Tretinoin: Cream, Gel, and Micro Gel

There are 3 types of topical Tretinoin. Cream, Gel, and Micro Gel. They all work equally effectively but are suitable for different skin types.

  • Tretinoin Cream: Also, known as Retin-a cream is suitable for dry, normal/combination skin types. The topical cream color is white.

  • Tretinoin Gel: This is suitable for oily skin types. The topical gel colour is translucent yellow.

  • Tretinoin Micro Gel: The difference between Tretinoin Micro Gel and Tretinoin Gel is that the latter contains tiny beads that release Tretinoin slowly and are absorbed by the skin over time. Microbeads have the advantage of slowing the absorption of Tretinoin by the skin compared to standard creams and gels. Because of this, it is suitable for people with sensitive skin as it is less prone to causing irritation.

How to Use Tretinoin cream for Anti-ageing

It is recommended that you should only apply Tretinoin cream at night. This is because retinoids can break down when exposed to sunlight. Therefore, if it's applied during daylight hours, it will be less effective compared to being applied at night.

  • It is important to apply Tretinoin cream to clean skin. You should therefore remove all makeup and wash your face thoroughly with mild soap or cleanser and ensure it's dry completely before applying Tretinoin cream.

  • You only need a pea-sized amount; a little goes a long way with Tretinoin cream. Apply a thin layer evenly over your face with your fingertips and let it absorb (do not apply to your lips). You should rinse your eyes thoroughly if you get it in your eyes.

  • Before continuing your nightly face routine (e.g., moisturiser, eye serum, etc. ), wait 20-30 minutes for it to fully absorb into your skin. While using Tretinoin cream, you should avoid harsh facial exfoliants to prevent skin irritation (e.g. salicylic acid).

If you are a new user of Tretinoin cream, you should start applying it once every other night or every third night when you first begin using it. You may experience some dead skin flaking and irritation during the first two weeks after starting to use Tretinoin cream, but this is usually because your skin needs some time to adjust to it.

It is important to remember that a small amount of Tretinoin cream goes a long way. You will not be able to achieve better or quicker results by using more.

Taking a break from using Tretinoin cream for a couple of days is okay if you notice an increase in the amount of irritation or dead skin flaking on your skin. Some people give up on Tretinoin cream after a few days or weeks because they believe it is not working for them. All their skin needed a little time to become accustomed to topical Tretinoin cream.

You should be aware that Tretinoin cream makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight than usual. It is advisable to apply a sun protection cream if you are going to be outside in the sun on a bright day or even if it is cloudy. Sunbeds should not be used at any time.

Avoid using products on your skin that are too drying or abrasive, such as some cosmetics, soaps, or skin cleansers that may cause your skin to dry out or cause irritation. In addition, you should refrain from using electrolysis, waxing, and chemical depilatories to remove your hair in the areas treated with Tretinoin cream.

Who shouldn't use Tretinoin cream?

It is important to take the following precautions when using Tretinoin cream to avoid any unwanted side effects:

  • If you are going to use Tretinoin cream, you should minimise the exposure to sunlight, including sunlamps, during the use of the product. People with sunburn should not use Tretinoin cream until they fully recover from it.

  • Individuals exposed to a lot of sun because of their job or those with intrinsic skin sensitivity to the sun are advised to exercise particular caution when it comes to sun exposure. Whenever the possibility of exposure cannot be avoided, it is recommended to apply sunscreen products and wear protective clothing over the Tretinoin cream treated areas.

  • It is also possible that Tretinoin cream users may experience irritation from extreme weather conditions, such as extreme wind or cold.

  • It is important to keep Tretinoin cream away from the eyes, the mouth, and the nose creases as it may cause irritation.

  • It has been reported that Tretinoin cream can cause severe skin irritation in people prone to eczema and shouldn't be used on people whose skin is already prone to eczema.

  • Tretinoin cream should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Tretinoin Side Effects

The use of Tretinoin is safe, but you may experience some mild skin reactions initially during the period when your skin adapts to the cream or gel. For example, you may initially experience skin redness, warmth, dryness (alleviated by moisturising your skin), irritation, or peeling of dead skin as a result of the treatment. It is important to remember that if you experience any of the skin reactions listed above, they will soon stop after your skin has adapted to Tretinoin.

Tips to minimise the likelihood of side effects:

  • To minimise side effects, you can use Tretinoin every other night for a few weeks until your skin starts to get used to the cream or gel, which can take up to a few weeks. It is very important to remember that you must only use a thin amount of Tretinoin at night (more is not better!)

  • In the rare case of extremely dry skin, dead skin peeling, and redness, if you do not want to tolerate it any longer, try applying your moisturiser first, then wait twenty minutes before applying your topical Tretinoin.

  • If you notice that your skin is highly irritated after the first few days of treatment, take a few days off and do not use Tretinoin on your skin until it settles down. After a few days, when you are ready to start using tretinoin again, apply the cream or gel as described above, but wash it off after 60 minutes. Gradually increase the time you have Tretinoin on your skin until you can keep it on overnight.

  • It is important to remember that these side effects are most likely to occur during the beginning few weeks of treatment and are entirely normal.

If you are using Tretinoin for the first time, it is recommended that you start with its lowest strength, which is 0.025%. By doing this, the likelihood of possible side effects occurring will be minimised. As soon as your skin has adapted to the strength, you can choose to use a stronger strength if you wish. Additionally, it is recommended that you only use it once or twice a week for the first few times you use it. You can use it more frequently after your skin has adapted to it, such as using it every second night, then every night, if you wish to use it this often.

To avoid or minimise the side effects, it would be beneficial to use a moisturiser regularly. In addition, it is also important to use sunscreen on your face every day (30 SPF or higher).

Storage instructions

You should store your product in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat.


Tretinoin cream (Retin-a) and gels are stronger and more effective than retinol. The anti-ageing properties of Tretinoin are safe and effective and have been used to treat acne and anti-ageing issues such as wrinkles and dark spots due to sun damage. It has also been shown to improve the skin's appearance, texture, and elasticity, increase collagen production, and reduce wrinkles and dark spots.

It may cause a little irritation to the skin initially, but your skin will adapt within a few applications, and you will no longer experience any side effects. In the first few weeks you will notice your skin is smoother and brighter; over time, your skin will be healthier and look younger.