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Tretinoin Vs. Retin-A

author image Jessica Bruso
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.
Tretinoin Vs. Retin-A
Tretinoin is sometimes used to treat wrinkles. Photo Credit horrified expression image by leafy from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

People, especially women, like to have nice, smooth, blemish-free skin. There are a number of treatments that you can use to improve the look of your skin, including Retin-A. Retin-A is a brand name for a drug called tretinoin. Tretinoin is a commonly used prescription medication for the treatment of acne, wrinkles and dark spots.


Because tretinoin helps to increase the turnover of skin cells, it is helpful in controlling acne. According to MedLine Plus, it doesn't actually cure the acne, it only helps to get the affected skin to peel and to remove the clogs that are causing the acne. This turnover of skin is also what makes it helpful in the treatment of dark spots and small wrinkles since the older, damaged skin is replaced with healthier new skin, the Mayo Clinic says.


Retin-A comes in three different formats: a cream, a gel and a liquid. It is available in different strengths, depending on the format that is used. Retin-A should only be used topically, and only in the manner directed. Using more of the product than is recommended does not improve the results, and may lead to side effects, according to Daily Med.

Side Effects

The possible side effects of tretinoin include lightening or darkening of the skin, redness, peeling, or drying of the skin and burning or stinging sensations. These usually go away once treatment has stopped, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It might also seem as if your acne has actually gotten worse. However, this is because the problems under your skin are showing up, and after two to six weeks you should see a real improvement, according to Daily Med.


It is very important to stay out of the sun and to wear sunscreen should you have to be in the sun, if you are using Retin-A or other tretinoin products. This treatment makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, and could lead to greater chances of getting skin cancer tumors, according to Daily Med, if you do not take care to limit sun exposure.

If you are pregnant or nursing, you shouldn't use Retin-A. Studies with rats showed high dosages could harm the fetus, according to Daily Med.

Expert Insight

According to MedLine Plus, it is important that you wash with a gentle cleanser and apply this medication according to directions on clean skin. You don't want to use it with any other topical medications, and you shouldn't apply anything else on top of the area where you use the medication. If you miss a dose, you should just skip it, rather than doubling the next dose.

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