Retin-A, the brand name for the generic drug tretinoin, is a topical anti-acne medication dispensed in gel, cream or liquid form, in concentrations ranging from 0.025 to 0.1 percent. Retin-A 0.05 percent is a medium-strength formulation only available in cream form. According to dermatologist Andrea L. Zaenglein, professor of dermatology at the Pennsylvania State School of Medicine, Retin-A is a potent skin irritant, so it's important to use all forms of Retin-A as directed. Unlike the gel and liquid preparations, Retin-A 0.05 percent cream is subject to "piling" or over-application, which increases the risk of irritation.
Each night before bed, wash your hands and the affected area with mild, fragrance-free, unmedicated soap and water using a non-abrasive cloth.
Pat dry and wait 20 to 30 minutes.
Dispense a small amount of Retin-A 0.05 cream onto your clean fingertips. Ask your pharmacist or doctor how much you should use.
Pat Retin-A 0.05 percent cream lightly onto the affected area. Do not reapply to areas you have already covered.
In the morning, repeat steps 1 and 2.
Apply sunscreen formulated for sensitive skin to the affected area. Sunscreen serves as a moisturizer and provides sun protection, since people who use Retin-A are more sensitive to sun.
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If you cannot wait 20 to 30 minutes to allow your skin to dry completely, use a hair dryer set to cold or cool jet for a few minutes. If your hair dryer does not have this setting, do not use the hot or warm settings because these actually increase your risk of irritation.
While you are using Retin-A, avoid topical products that contain alcohol, menthol, spices, lime, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur or resorcinol. Especially during the first few weeks or months of treatment with Retin-A, these products may increase your risk of irritation.