Tretinoin gel (more commonly called retinol, and used interchangeably here) is making waves in the skincare industry. While many topical application creams claim a one-size-fits-all approach to improving the appearance of skin, retinol is truly a wonder product. In addition to reducing acne outbreaks, retinol has been shown to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and other minute signs of aging.
What Exactly Is Tretinoin Gel?
Tretinoin is a form of vitamin A capable of incurring drastic changes the skin’s overall appearance and texture. This is due to the ability of retinol to stimulate skin’s regenerating properties, encouraging cell growth and renewal. Although it is demonstrably safe to use, the power harnessed in tretinoin serums frequently stimulates sun sensitivity, resulting in a domino effect of either improving skin (through a lack of sun exposure), or causing greater damage (if proper precautions are not taken).
Why Is Tretinoin Superior to Other Ingredients?
To begin, this ingredient is derived from a vitamin. Rather than putting an entirely synthetic product on your face, tretinoin products provide a natural solution to skincare woes. Vitamin A occurs naturally in many foods, including sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy vegetables (think: kale), fish, and liver—all hailed for their high nutrition content. This is due, in large part, to the high quantities of vitamin A present in each.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that it must be consumed with fat in order to be absorbed and used optimally. Fortunately, transdermal (read: topical) application allows the vitamin to be absorbed more quickly, and more effectively, providing an incredible batch of nutrients to your skin. Skin renewal and regeneration is promised by vitamin A, and is often accompanied by peeling or brief periods of redness. Within 12 weeks of use, however, most tretinoin users see results ranging from cleared acne to significant wrinkle reduction.
Is This Ingredient Suitable for All Skin Types?
Yes! Vitamin A may be used for all skin types and colors, as it is a naturally-occuring substance found in numerous types of food. Just as most food products are safe for consumption by the general public, vitamin A is typically safe to apply topically.
It should be noted that tretinoin has the ability to reduce age spots and even skin tone. If your skin is prone to freckles or melasma, continuous use could results in the clearing of your freckles. Although this is not problematic for many, some men and women proudly wear their freckles, and may want to avoid a product known for reducing their appearance.
Are There Any Dangers Associated with Retinol use?
As with any new product, retinol use carries with it the possibility of an allergic reaction. Although these reactions are not common, it should be noted that any excessive irritation (burning, scabbing, rash, etc) is cause for concern. If you apply a gel and experience any of the symptoms listed, consult your doctor or dermatologist, and remove the cream as quickly as possible using warm water and (only if necessary), a mild cleanser. Follow up with a trusted moisturizer (coconut oil moisturizes beautifully without a long list of chemical ingredients), and cease continued use.
As mentioned briefly above, tretinoin use does increase sun sensitivity. If you have selected a product with this ingredient, it is imperative to apply sunscreen (at least SPF 15 is recommended) and avoid sun exposure as much as possible. Failure to take precautions could results in additional sun damage, including discoloration, burning, and wrinkling.
Finally, some vitamin A creams are known to cause flaking and peeling. This is generally not cause for concern, as many of these creams employ peeling to peel away the first layer of skin to reveal more youthful, brighter skin. If, however, peeling is accompanied by pain or inflammation, follow the protocol listed above, and perhaps try again using a smaller amount of product, and on a smaller area.
What Are the Most Popular Vitamin A Products?
Vitamin A products run the gamut, from simple drugstore creams, to powerful prescription serums. The three most popular products have been identified below, beginning with the least expensive, and ending with the most expensive.
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Night Cream
Neutrogena’s retinol product targets wrinkles, rather than targeting acne or dark spots, and is intended for use as a night cream. This means that the cream is applied in the evening, and works most of its magic as you sleep. The cream is intended for normal to dry skin, and is fragrance-free, making it an excellent choice for both the budget-minded—a bottle is only $15—and individuals with sensitive skin.
Users are largely pleased with this product, and cite is as the source of lessened wrinkle appearance (typically only a light, gradual change rather than a drastic one), as well as reduced hyperpigmentation and more luminous skin overall.
SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5
This is a popular retinol product, available over the counter and coming in midway price-wise (typically around $75). Like Neutrogena’s Night Cream, this serum is fragrance-free. This formula targets wrinkles, fine lines, and skin performance, reducing the appearance of wrinkles while fighting acne and other unsightly skin blemishes (including age spots).
SkinMedica users typically express happiness with this serum, as it provides a high-strength level of retinol, and delivers powerful results quickly—without the use of a prescription or doctor’s appointment. Sensitive-skinned users were quick to note that only a small amount should be used per sitting, as copious use might results in redness and irritation.
Renova Tretinoin Cream
Renova’s cream is a prescription-grade product, typically prescribed for men and women suffering from acne, as well as severe fine lines and wrinkles. Due to its prescription strength, users must follow a careful regimen (applying only in the amount prescribed, and for the duration prescribed), including regular sunscreen application and sun avoidance whenever possible. Indeed, the cream is so strong that it should not be applied to skin until 30 minutes have passed following a cleansing, as application to entirely oil-free skin may be harmful or problematic. The price will depend with Renova—upon prescription strength, region, and insurance costs.
Renova patients are typically pleased with the strength of Renova, seeing results in only a matter of weeks. In addition to the intended results—reduced acne and wrinkles—many users see a change in the luminosity of skin and in pore size.
Is This Gel Right for Me?
Tretinoin gel has strength levels and price points of all levels. It can be used to treat acne, reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots, and create a smooth, even texture on skin. For this reason, it truly is a one-size-fits-all cosmetic ingredient.