What Can Retin-A do for Your Skin?

It seems that every time you open one of those glossy fashion and beauty magazines, somebody is preaching about the miraculous anti-aging benefits of their “revolutionary” topical treatment, whether it’s a moisturizer, a serum, or a so-called beauty balm. Maybe it’s time to start looking in a different direction. Make an appointment with one of our dermatologists and ask if a prescription for Retin-A might be your best defense against the signs of aging on your skin.

Ironically, when Retin-A first appeared on the skin-care horizon decades ago, its primary purpose was to treat acne. But when acne patients began to notice that Retin-A was smoothing and enhancing the general appearance of their skin, researchers began to take notice and start looking more closely at the anti-aging properties of the drug. “They found that Retin-A could treat and fade age spots, which are actually caused by cumulative sun exposure, as well as significantly improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” explains Emily Johnston, physician assistant at Sanova Dermatology.

What is Retin-A?

Retin-A is a compound derived from vitamin A, and it works on your skin at the deepest level — the cellular level. One of several available prescription doses, available in gel or cream form, are more likely to produce the best results. (Your dermatologist will determine the best strength for you after assessing your skin’s condition.) “It’s available as a generic prescription, tretinoin, or under several brand names such as Renova, Retin-A Micro, or Tazorac,” Johnston shares.

How Retin-A Works

Retin-A won’t give you instant results. It works slowly and significant results typically take weeks to observe. But for many people, it does deliver real results. Here’s how it works …

  • increases cell turnover
  • thickens the layer of skin just below the surface layer
  • stimulates the cells that produce collagen (the fibrous protein that gives skin structure and firmness)
  • increases blood flow to your skin

The result is fewer wrinkles, smoother skin, a lessening of age spots, tighter pores and a (partial) reversal of sun damage. These results all come from prescription-strength Retin-A. Even though some over-the-counter moisturizers contain Vitamin A derivatives, the concentration or strength is not enough to make a real difference in everyone.

Are There Side Effects?

As with any medication, there are some side effects that may dissuade some people from using Retin-A, including

  • It can cause some irritation to your skin, especially in the first few weeks of use. Usually, the irritation stops after that, unless you have especially sensitive skin. Your dermatologist may prescribe a weaker form of Retin-A to see if that helps.
  • It may stir up some acne in the first few weeks as well, which simply means that it’s doing its job. Some people may have a problem with their skin, however, looking worse for a time before it gets better.
  • It makes your skin more sensitive to the effects of the sun, so you’ll have to be especially diligent about using a full-spectrum sunscreen daily, and you may even have to choose one with a higher SPF (sun protection factor).
  • You shouldn’t use Retin-A if you are pregnant or nursing.

“In the end, if you can stick with it through the first several weeks while your skin is getting used to it, you’ll probably find that the results are more than worth the wait,” Johnston reports.

Contact Us

If you’re in the Austin area, please contact us at Sanova Dermatology for an appointment to discuss how Retin-A might help your skin goals and needs.

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