What is Retin-A?

Retin-A is a topical cream that is used to reduce wrinkles, remove fine lines and improve the skin’s condition and appearance. The active ingredient in Retin-A is Tretinoin. This is an acid form of Vitamin A.

Retin-A was developed to treat acne and Tretinoin is still commonly used as a form of acne treatment. In fact Tretinoin was the first retinoid developed for this type of topical use. But its capabilities extend far beyond the treatment of acne and Tretinoin is now the best studied retinoid in relation to the treatment of photoaging.

But Retin-A can also be successfully used on the back of the hands.

How does Retin-A work?

As yet, the action of Retin-A’s active ingredient Tretinoin remains largely unknown. However, what is known is that when applied to the skin, Retin-A acts to improve general blood supply to the skin which in fact increases the turnover of dead skin cells. This gives more youthful looking skin.

With regard to the treatment of acne current evidence suggests that when applied topically, Tretinoin decreases blackhead formation and also stimulates an increased turnover of the follicle cells that push out blackheads.

How effective is Retin-A?

The effectiveness of Tretinoin (Retin-A) has been well researched, particularly with regard to the photoaging of the skin. Overwhelming clinical results and histological evidence indicates that topical retinoids such as Retin-A can reverse to an extent certain structural changes induced by excessive sun exposure. As it was noted the use of Tretinoin has demonstrated “beneficial clinical and histological effects”.

According to the ACD(Australasian College of Dermatologists) creams such as Retin-A are especially useful for the ‘milder’ changes of aging including fine lines, wrinkles and roughness. They may also improve minor colour changes. If Retin-A (tretinoin) is Used for a period of just 6 weeks, the results can be quite astonishing – fine lines completely gone, severe wrinkles greatly reduced with the skin has regaining a youthful glow.

The use of topical Tretinoin is not just limited to fighting the visible signs of aging and for treating acne prone skin.
Retin-A (tretinoin) can be used to:

* Treat the appearance of stretch marks by increasing the production of collagen in the skin
* Speed up the rate of skin repair after cosmetic surgery

Tretinoin (RetinA) also appears in some hair loss treatments and, although not in its topical form as with Retin-A
Tretinoin is used as a treatment for at least one form of cancer – acute promyelocytic leukemia (or APML).

Recent research has also suggested that Tretinoin (again not in its topical form) may also be useful in treatment of the lung condition emphysema.

Retin-A (tretinoin) Dosage

Retin-A is available in three different strengths:

* The 0,025% cream is for general skin improvement
* The 0,05% cream is designed for reducing wrinkles and fine lines
* The 0,1% cream, is the strongest strength available and is designed for acne and blackhead removal

If you have never used Retin-A before, it is strongly recommend that you start with the lowest strength cream and if necessary, work your way up slowly.

RETIN-A Gel, Cream or Liquid should be applied once a day, before retiring, to the skin where acne lesions appear, using enough to cover the entire affected area lightly.
Retin-A Liquid: The liquid may be applied using a fingertip or cotton swab. If cotton is employed, care should be taken not to oversaturate it to the extent that the liquid would run into areas where treatment is not intended.

Gel: Excessive application results in “pilling” of the gel, which minimizes the likelihood of over application by the patient.

Application may cause a transitory feeling of warmth or slight stinging. In cases where it has been necessary to temporarily stop therapy or to reduce the frequency of application of Tretinoin, therapy may be resumed or frequency of application increased when you become able to tolerate the treatment.

In the begining of Retin-A therapy, an apparent exacerbation of inflammatory lesions may occur. This is due to the action of the tretinoin on deep, previously unseen lesions and, without any doubt, should not be considered a reason to discontinue therapy.

Note, that visible therapeutic results should be noticed after 2 to 3 weeks but more than 6 weeks of therapy may be required before definite beneficial effects are seen.

Once the acne lesions have responded satisfactorily to Retin-A therapy, it may be possible to maintain the improvement with less frequent applications, or other dosage forms.

Retin-A side effects.

As with all medications whether taken internally or applied topically, Retin-A may cause some unwanted side effects. However, most people can tolerate Retin-A well. It is very usual for Retin-A to cause a little skin reddening at first. This is just due to the improvements in the skin’s blood supply.

More sensitive individuals may also experience scaling, itching, and burning.

In all cases a slow increase in the frequency and amount of Retin-A is best, as this allows for your skin to adequately adjust to the treatment. The advice of your pharmacist should be followed.

Retin-A increases skin sensitivity. This means that the risk of developing extreme sunburn is increased and extra care should be taken to prevent over exposure of treated skin to ultraviolet light. The use of high protection sunscreen and protective clothing, as well as avoiding major exposure to sunlight during the middle of the day should be adopted.

Retin-A may also cause a thinning of your skin. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that patients who are using Retin-A should not use waxing to remove hair from treated areas. This is because when hair removal wax is pulled off, the wax takes with it the top layer of epithelium (skin). A red, inflamed, sore mark will be left behind which will remain for up to a week. You should consult with your dermatologist to ascertain the most appropriate methods of hair removal to employ both during and after Retin-A use. You may be advised to wait anything from a few days to a few weeks after stopping Retin-A use before using wax again.


You have to know that Retin-A must not come into contact with the eyes. Rinse eyes immediately with cold water if accidentally placed there.

Do not apply Retin-A to skin suffering from psoriasis, eczema, or if you are suffering from a form of skin cancer, unless advised to do so by your health care provider.

Tretinoin is a teratogen i.e. it is an agent that can cause birth defects. Although the risks of the topical application of Tretinoin (as in Retin-A) to the unborn child appear to be limited, women who are or may be pregnant, or who are seeking to become pregnant, are warned against using it.

Reported by a consumer/non-health professional from US on 2010-11-01

Patient was 51 year old female/60 kg

Reactions: Erythema, Pain, Mild Headache, Swelling, Speech Disorder, Hyperplasia, Skin Discolouration.

The skin of certain sensitive individuals may become excessively red, edematous, blistered, or crusted while usind Retin-A. If these effects occur, Tretinoin should either be discontinued until the integrity of the skin is restored, or the dose of RetinA should be adjusted to a lower level. True allergy to topical tretinoin is very rarely encountered. Temporary hyper or hypopigmentation has been reported with repeated application of RETIN-A. Some patients have been reported to have heightened susceptibility to sunlight while using Retin-A.

Retin-A Interections.

Concomitant topical medication, medicated or abrasive soaps and cleansers, soaps and cosmetics that have a strong drying effect, and products with high concentrations of astringents, alcohol, spices or lime should be used with caution because of possible interaction with tretinoin. Particular caution should be exercised in using preparations containing sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid with RETIN-A. It also is smart to “rest” a patient’s skin until the effects of such preparations subside before use of Retin-A (Tretinoin) is begun.

Overdosage of Retin-A (Tretinoin)

If Retin-A is applied excessively, no more rapid or better results will be obtained and marked redness, peeling, or discomfort may occur. Oral ingestion of Tretinoin may lead to the same side effects as those associated with excessive oral intake of Vitamin A. Don’t overuse Retin-A.

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