Tretinoin cream is formulated for external or topical use only, so never apply it in the oral cavity. It should also not be used on broken skin such as cuts and scrapes.
Tretinoin cream, the generic form of Retina-A, is a prescription treatment, primarily for acne vulgaris, better known as acne. It is essentially retinoic acid, a form of vitamin A, that is found to be effective in clearing acne. The active ingredient is tretinoin itself, which is one of the many retinoids. The cream is available in different strengths (such as 0.1% and 0.05%) but the commonly prescribed strength of tretinoin cream is 0.025%. The number indicates the concentration of tretinoin in the cream. This means every gram of the cream has 0.025% or 0.25 mg of tretinoin.
Apart from acne, tretinoin cream can also be used to reduce wrinkles on the face. Applying the cream regularly can make the skin look better, younger, and smoother. Its anti-aging formula can certainly help take years off your skin. Sun-damaged skin (resulting from chronic UV exposure) that is typically marked by pigmented spots can also be treated with this tretinoin cream. Its off-label use is extended to treating skin problems like actinic keratosis, ichthyosis, melasma, keloids, and keratosis follicularis.
Mechanism of Action
Application of tretinoin cream promotes renewal of healthy skin cells, in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. The vitamin A derivative essentially has a positive impact on the growth of skin cells that replace old skin cells. The new skin cells formed help heal pimples as well as prevents formation of new pimples and blackheads. The synthesis of healthy cells also helps in getting rid of acne scars and other blemishes located on the outer skin.
In the initial weeks, treatment with tretinoin cream can be slightly uncomfortable. For instance, the cream may sting or cause a burning sensation at the application site. This is one of the most common side effects, particularly among first-time users. However, this uncomfortable feeling does not last long and soon recedes.
The application site may also become unusually red and even inflamed. Itchiness and dryness at the site of application is also often reported. Sensitivity to sunlight is another side effect that may occur after application. So, you may have to minimize sun exposure during treatment. Some may actually notice exacerbation of acne symptoms. However, this should not deter from using the cream daily, as these side effects last for a short duration only. But in case these side effects do not subside, immediately contact your health care provider. You may be advised to reduce the frequency of use to mitigate the side effects.
For maximum effectiveness, the cream should be used as directed by your health care provider.
- One of the keys to maximize its benefits is to wash the face with a mild cleanser or soap before application. This is because our face is often full of dirt and oil, which needs to be removed before applying the cream. Of course, before starting this skincare regimen, make sure your hands are also clean.
- After washing your face, use a clean towel to dry the affected skin. Wait for about 15-30 minutes before beginning your skincare routine with tretinoin. This is because using it on moist skin can actually peel the skin visibly and further aggravate the problem. So, do not be in a hurry to apply the cream after you pat dry your face.
- The cream is applied just before retiring to bed. Experts often advice to avoid its application during the day because when exposed to UV rays, the active ingredient tretinoin may breakdown, which is a cause for concern.
- Take pea-size portion of the cream on your fingertips and spread it evenly on the facial skin. Make sure you use it in right amounts, as excessive application can irritate the skin.
Keep in mind that tretinoin cream is not a magic wand that will cure your acne immediately. When used as directed, one may notice substantial improvement in 8 to 12 weeks time. Keep in mind that the improvement is gradual, so do not discontinue its usage just because you didn’t notice your acne fading away in the first few weeks.
Remember, when used correctly, tretinoin cream can certainly work for the purpose it has been formulated for. However, since it is a prescription-strength topical medication, make sure you consult a dermatologist before using it.