The Effects of Retin-A on the Skin

Skin care
A teen lays down at a dermatologist's office getting treatment. (Image: minemero/iStock/Getty Images)

Whether you're looking to repair sun damage, fight acne or get rid of those pesky crow's feet around your eyes, you may be considering a skin-care regimen that involves Retin-A. The brand name of the vitamin-A derivative retinol, Retin-A is available by prescription to improve the overall texture and look of your skin. Before you begin treating your skin with Retin-A, speak with your dermatologist about how to best apply it. As this topical formula can have some adverse effects, many doctors recommend working up to regular use to allow your skin to properly adjust.

Treating Acne and Problem Skin

Retin-A causes your skin cells to rejuvenate quickly, making dead skin cells less likely to clog your pores. When you have clear pores, there is less of a chance for acne-causing bacteria to build up and cause breakouts. Since Retin-A treats your skin on a molecular level, rather than just spot-treating surface damage, it has the long-term effect of improving the overall texture of your skin. The rapid skin-cell turnover has the added benefit of fading dark spots and freckles.

Inflammation and Redness

During the first several weeks of using Retin-A regularly, you may experience dryness, redness or irritation of your skin. Depending on the severity of the reaction, this could be accompanied by a mild burning sensation after applying Retin-A or when you wash your face. These side effects typically disappear after approximately two months of using Retin-A. To ease the discomfort, moisturize your skin daily with a soothing lotion designed for sensitive skin.

Skin Sensitivity

A potential side effect of prolonged Retin-A use is skin sensitivity. Your skin may be particularly vulnerable to sun exposure while using Retin-A, which can result in mild to severe sunburns. Take care to use an SPF of 30 or higher daily, particularly when spending time outdoors or near windows. Further protect yourself by wearing sunglasses, hats and clothing that covers your skin when you'll be in the sun for long stretches of time.

Anti-Aging Benefits

Because Retin-A boosts collagen production in your skin, it has the effect of making skin appear tighter and firmer. Collagen gives your skin its elasticity, so an increase in collagen production results in plumper skin and a diminished appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The overall effect of the increase in collagen production is rejuvenated, younger-looking skin.

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