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The Missing Ingredient in Aging Skin: What Derms Want You to Know

Skincare: where beauty meets science, and the pursuit of radiant, healthy skin seems to feel like an art form. Rarely, are there products that will work for everybody out there, but there seems to be one compound dermatologists have long hailed as one of the most powerful ingredients for changing skin.

Today we’re going to dive deeper into tretinoin, why derms adore it, and some tips for using it in your skincare regimen.

What is Tretinoin?

Tretinoin, also known as Altreno, Atralin, Avita, and Retin-A, is a type of prescription retinoid that’s essentially a synthetic version of vitamin A, which is crucial to preventing DNA damage caused by free radicals. It’s a topical medication, serum, or cream that’s been used for decades to treat acne-prone skin. Yet, its anti-aging properties have only gained prominence in recent years.

One of the main reasons why dermatologists rave about tretinoin being a great option for anti-aging skin care is its fantastic ability to stimulate cellular regeneration. As we age, our skin’s natural cell turnover process slows down, leading to dull and lackluster-looking skin texture. Tretinoin helps kick-start this regeneration process, allowing new, fresh cells to rise to the surface. AKA bouncy youthful skin!

How does tretinoin work?

When applied topically, a cream with tretinoin as an active ingredient increases cell turnover and accelerates the skin’s natural exfoliation process. In simple terms, it helps to rejuvenate your skin from the inside out. The serum helps dead skin cells shed more quickly, revealing fresh, new skin underneath.

In addition to increasing cell turnover, tretinoin also simultaneously stimulates collagen production. You might know collagen as the protein that provides structure and elasticity to the skin. But as we age, our collagen levels naturally decrease, leading to sagging and wrinkles. By using tretinoin, you can help promote the production of new collagen, to gain firmer and more supple skin. When applied consistently, tretinoin use is a game changer in the anti-aging skincare world.

Benefits of Tretinoin for Anti-Aging

Now that we know what tretinoin is and how it works, let’s explore the full benefits it brings to aging skin. According to Cynthia Bailey, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Sebastopol, California, using tretinoin consistently in your skincare routine can:

  • Reduce, reverse, and prevent wrinkles
  • Lighten and prevent age spots
  • Build collagen
  • Thicken and increase skin’s strength
  • Help fight crepey skin
  • Provide a youthful and radiant complexion

Even though the benefits of tretinoin seem promising, it’s worth noting that it’s not a quick fix for aging skin. If you really want to see results, it requires consistent and long-term use to see these significant results.

Tretinoin Precautions

While tretinoin is a powerful anti-aging ingredient, it’s not suitable for everyone or every situation. It’s always best to consult with a dermatologist before incorporating tretinoin into your skincare routine. They will be able to assess your skin type, look at what products you’re already using and determine the appropriate frequency of use to avoid any potential negative side effects. Let’s take a look at some considerations when using tretinoin.

According to Bailey, there are some things you must keep in mind while using tretinoin:

  • Do not use tretinoin if you are pregnant
  • You should not wax tretinoin-treated skin
  • Never layer tretinoin with benzoyl peroxide
  • Before getting a chemical peel, microdermabrasion, laser, or light treatment, tell your skincare technician you use tretinoin – this could interfere with these treatments
  • Because tretinoin is a major exfoliant, it’s important to wear protective sunscreen on your treated skin. If not, you could experience painful sunburns and ultimately, worsened skin conditions. 
  • A little irritation is normal at first, but if the treated skin becomes extra sensitive, stop use and speak with your dermatologist

How to Add Tretinoin To Your Skincare Routine

Even with its transformative powers, tretinoin has undesirable side effects, so it’s important to use it carefully. Let’s discuss how you can incorporate it into your anti-aging routine with some tips from Bailey’s dermatology blog.

  1. Apply tretinoin at night. The reason? Retinoids like tretinoin lose their effectiveness when exposed to light. This is why tretinoin should only be used during your nighttime skincare routine.
  2. Apply to dry skin. Tretinoin has been known to cause skin irritation if you apply it to skin that isn’t fully dried. Making sure your skin is completely dried before use is a critical step.
  3. After applying any other products, wait at least 15 or 30 minutes before tretinoin. Tretinoin should be the last thing you apply to your skin at night. Even more so, waiting the appropriate time in between your other skincare products to make sure your face is ready for tretinoin is vital in its effectiveness.
  4. Only use a pearl-sized amount. Tretinoin is a powerful ingredient. The great news? A little will go a long way. Your skin and wallet will thank you!

First and foremost–start slow. It’s important to give your skin time to adjust to the exfoliating effects of tretinoin. In the early stages of treatment, some individuals may experience skin irritation, dryness, and peeling. In most cases, these side effects subside as the skin adjusts to the medication, usually within two to three months of taking the medication. This is why it’s critical to start with a low amount of tretinoin and gradually increase it as tolerated to minimize any potential discomfort.

Get The Most Out Of Your Skin

If your skin looks dull, oily, dry, or just plain blah, your dermatologist can help you determine if tretinoin, or any retinol, might be your missing ingredient. 

Remember, consistency is key when it comes to tretinoin. It may take several weeks or months to see noticeable improvements, but trust us, the wait will be worth it. Stick with it, and you’ll be rewarded with smoother, firmer, and more youthful-looking skin.

Tretinoin FAQ

How long does it take for tretinoin to work? 

Most people will start to notice improvements in wrinkles and fine lines between three to six months of regular use.

How should I store tretinoin?

Tretinoin should be stored in a fully closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep in an area where it won’t freeze or overheat.

Is it safe to use tretinoin every night?

While yes, it’s safe for most people to use tretinoin every night, it’s recommended to start slowly before adding it to your daily regimen. Bailey recommends using it twice a week, or every third night, for the first couple of months. Although, if you notice increased sensitivity or worsening redness, talk to your dermatologist about continuing use or switching products.