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Facts About Retinol Face Cream

author image Nicole Etolen
Based in East Stroudsburg, Pa., Nicole Etolen is a freelance writer, blogger, and former Certified Nursing Assistant. She has been professionally writing since 1995, with articles appearing in "Lehigh Valley Bridal Magazine," "A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press" and numerous independent publications. Nicole is also the owner and sole author of Pretty Opinionated, a successful lifestyle blog for busy moms of school-age children, as well as a staff writer for several other parenting sites.
Facts About Retinol Face Cream
Retinol face cream may reduce the effects of aging. Photo Credit face to face image by Melanie von Snarly from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

Retinol face cream is used to reduce wrinkles and treat mild to moderate acne. Preliminary studies also indicate its usefulness in treating thin skin in the elderly. The vitamin-A compound works by unclogging pores and neutralizing the free radicals that cause wrinkles. The cream is widely available over the counter, but prescription-strength derivatives may be required for more severe skin problems.


The most common use of retinol face cream is for the treatment of acne. Noticeable results can occur within a few weeks, but can take six weeks or longer in some cases, according to the New Zealand Dermatological Society. Both over-the-counter and prescription retinol creams may reduce the appearance of fine line and wrinkles. Long-term use of prescription-strength retinol cream may reverse damage related to over-exposure to the sun.


Over-the-counter retinol skin creams are available in drug stores, department stores and mass-market retailers under many brand names and in a wide variety of prices. Prescription retinol creams, or retinoids, are typically made of synthetic vitamin A, with the exception of tretinoin, the first prescription retinol developed for skin use, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Tretinoin is sold under several brand names, including Retin-A and Retisol-A.


Avoid retinol face cream if you are allergic to vitamin A. Retinol creams can cause skin irritation, redness, peeling and increased sun sensitivity. Prescription retinol can cause loss of pigmentation in some areas of the face. Side effects usually reverse when retinol cream is discontinued. In rare cases, excessive amounts of retinol can have a toxic effect, which can lead to itchiness, eye damage and liver failure, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Tips For Use

The New Zealand Dermatological Society recommends using retinol cream every other night until you become used to it, especially if you have sensitive skin. Use a gentle cleanser and apply retinol cream to dry skin at least 30 minutes after washing to avoid stinging. Use the least amount required to spread across the affected areas and avoid getting the cream in your eyes and mouth.

Scientific Studies

"Topical Vitamin A Versus Vehicle Cream in the Treatment of Aged Skin," a study sponsored by the University of Michigan in 2006, concluded that retinol is effective at treating thin skin in the elderly with fewer potential side effects and skin irritation than the prescription-strength retinoids. Another study, "Improvement of Naturally Aged Skin with Vitamin A (Retinol)," published in the May 2007 issue of "Archives of Dermatology" concluded that retinol reduces fine winkles, improves appearance and helps skin withstand injury.

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