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Obagi tretinoin (generic Retin-A) clears acne, boosts collagen, erases fine lines

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FAQs: Benefits of Tretinoin and Available Strengths

Q: Shoud I use a retinoid, tretinoin, Retin-A or retinol? Is there any difference?

A: Deciding to use a prescription retinoid or a non-prescription retinoid depends on your skin care goals. The following clarification and explanation of the similarities and differences between tretinoin, Retin-A, and retinol will help you make an informed buying decision.

  • Tretinoin and retinol are both retinoids. Retinoids are natural derivatives of Vitamin A. 
  • Tretinoin and its brand name, Retin A, are prescription retinoids. Retinol can be purchased without a prescription. 
  • Tretinoin and Retin A are more potent than retinol. 
  • Results from tretinoin such as younger looker skin and curative effects on acne occur in about half as much time than retinol. 
  • Retinol may not be effective in anti-aging or treating acne in some skin types. It may be too weak. 
  • Solid research backs Tretinoin/Retin A’s ability to minimize and slow the signs of aging, stimulate collagen and elastin production, repair sun damage (photodamage) and fade hyper-pigmentation. Additionally, tretinoin is FDA approved to treat acne vulgaris. 
  • Retinol is usually included in products such as anti-wrinkle formulas, moisturizers and skin repairing serums with the goal of preventing, slowing and reversing the signs of aging. 

Q: What are the different strengths of tretinoin available?

A: Tretinoin is available in .025% strength, .05% and .100% concentration. 

Q: Which strength of tretinoin should I use?

A: .025% and .05% tretinoin are usually the starting points for tretinoin use. If you have sensitive skin, .025% could be a good first step for you. However, if you choose .05% tretinoin and experience strong side effects, reducing the frequency to 2-3 days a week can help. As your skin adjusts, you may decide to apply the topical retinoid more frequently and eventually use tretinoin nightly if you are happy with the results. The most potent strength of tretinoin .100% is very popular for people who are ready to jump to the next level. Tretinoin .100% often becomes a key product in skin care regiments for life. 

Q: Do you rub in tretinoin? Why does it say to use only a pea size amount?

A: Instructions on applying tretinoin are specific. Do not rub tretinoin into your face. Apply tretinoin gently to the face using a pea size amount to create a thin layer on the skin. Smooth the tretinoin over the skin gently until it is no longer visible. To help ensure even application, you may place a dot of the cream on each quadrant of your face and then spread the cream over your entire face. Apply tretinoin at night and always with thoroughly clean hands. Wash your face before applying tretinoin and wait at least 20 minutes to ensure that your face is dry before applying the tretinoin medication. Always wash your hands after applying Retin-A/tretinoin to avoid accidentally getting it in your eyes, mouth or touching other people with it on your hands. 

Q: Why does my face have to be dry before I apply Retin-A?

A: Tretinon/Retin A is very potent and easily absorbed by the skin. Wet skin will increase the absorption rate of tretinoin into the skin, which can cause irritation. 

Q: Can I use tretinoin under my eyes?

A: Tretinoin can be used under the eyes. However, be careful not to get it in the eyes. Also, always use a pea size amount of tretinoin for the entire face. Smooth it into the face. Avoid rubbing Retin-A into your skin. Be especially gentle with the thin skin around the eyes.