Retin-A is a brand name for tretinoin, a prescription-strength retinoid. Many over-the-counter drugstore products contain retinol, but retinoids such as Retin-A are more powerful than these. The medication wards off acne by speeding up cell turnover and unclogging your skin's pores. Available in cream, gel and liquid form, its anti-aging properties may also help ease fine lines and fix discoloration. Retin-A may sound like a miracle medicine, but the treatment can seriously dry out your skin. To avoid irritation, smooth on some moisturizer after applying Retin-A -- but pay attention to timing in your skincare routine.
Wash your face at night with lukewarm water and a mild soap or cleanser. Blot your skin dry with a towel. Wait at least 20 to 30 minutes for your face to dry completely, because irritation can develop if you apply Retin-A to damp skin.
Squeeze a pea-sized amount of Retin-A onto your fingertip or onto a cotton swab. Dab your forehead, chin and cheeks with the Retin-A.
Smooth the Retin-A evenly over your skin. Work quickly if your Retin-A is in gel form, because the alcohol-based medication evaporates quickly. Continue blending the product into the skin until it's no longer visible. If you can still see the product after blending, you may have used too much. Blot your skin with a dry cloth to remove the excess.
Allow your skin to absorb the Retin-A for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour before applying moisturizer or another product.
Smooth a dab of non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturizer over your face once the Retin-A has fully dried. Avoid using any moisturizer or product that contains alcohol, which can further dry out the skin.
Things You'll Need
Mild soap or cleanser
Cotton swabs, optional
Retin-A can make your skin sensitive to the sun and increase your risk of sunburn. If you must apply it during the day, put on an SPF 30 sunscreen after your moisturizer before going outdoors.
You should see results after six to 12 weeks of Retin-A treatment.
Purchase moisturizers that contain lower-strength forms of retinol at drugstores.
Other brand names of tretinoin include Avita, Tretin X, Renova and Atralin.
Follow your doctor's instructions for best results with Retin-A. Do not start and stop treatment without a doctor's approval.
- Beauty Editor: Dry Run
- RxList: Retin-A
- The University of Mississippi Medical Center: Retinoid Instructions (Retin-A, Differin, and Tazorac) (PDF)
- The New York Times: The Thing About Retin-A: It Works
- Williams Center Plastic Surgery Specialists: Tretinoin (Retin-A)
- Oprah.com: Retinol Cream: Your Skin's New Best Friend
- Buckingham Center for Facial Plastic Surgery: Retin-A and Hydroquinone Instructions
- Pennsylvania Center for the Book: Avoiding Aging with Retin A
- Medline Plus: Tretinoin Topical