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Friday, April 8, 2011

Retin A: What Does It Do and Is It For You?

What Is Retin A?

Originally created to treat acne, its a form of Vitamin A. It is formulated as a  topical gel/cream that is used in many anti-aging skin care products. Retin A penetrates beneath the skin's surface to increase cell turnover and build collagen and is also used to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. As with anything else, results may vary from person to person and may not be the answer for everyone. It acts similar to a Glycolic Peel in the way that it exfoliates and sheds your dead skin.

What Are The Different Types of Retin A?

Retin A is available in different strengths and are formulated to do different things. You may be prescribed something like the .025% strength if you have sensitive skin. The .1% is the strongest and would most likely cause too much irritation if one has sensitive skin that is not equipped to handle that. The strength of the Retin A will determine the effectiveness.

Where Do You Get It?

There are many over-the-counter products that include Retin A but if you want a stronger and more concentrated product, this is available by prescription from your Dermatologist.

What Will It Do For You?

Retin A can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, control oil production and acne issues, smooth rough skin, exfoliate, and improve discoloration or hyperpigmentation. Essentially, Retin A speeds up the exfoliation process and produces newer and plumper skin cells. The result will be a more hydrated and fresh appearance.

The Side Effects:

The use of Retin A will make your skin more sensitive to the sun's harmful rays (this includes tanning beds). It will most likely dry your skin out and cause redness and peeling. This is the exfoliation and skin purging process. Your skin may experience a period of time where it looks worse before it looks better. It is important to keep using it and keep giving it a chance to work. If your skin does experience severe irritation and discomfort, stop using it until you've spoken with your doctor. If Retin A just doesn't agree with you, there are alternative measures that can be taken.

When Do You See Results?

It may take weeks or even months to see the results that you are hoping for. This is why it is recommended that you stick with the routine and wait it out until you see an improvement. This whole skin renewing process is not permanent. You need to keep it up to maintain results. Unfortunately, the drying and peeling does not take months to appear. This is pretty much immediate and visible within 24 hours.

How Do You Use Retin A?

My Dermatologist told me to use it 5x per week at night but again, only do what you can handle and strive for at least 2x per week. And be consistent. I have read a lot of mixed opinions on whether to moisturize along with the Retin A application. My feeling is that its important to moisturize because of how dry your skin will become when using Retin A. However, I would moisturize first and let it soak in and then use Retin A as your final step. You may risk rubbing the Retin A off of your face if you apply moisturizer after it. It is especially important to use a good moisturizer during the day because your skin will be dry. And please wear at least an SPF 30.  Remember, your skin will be more sensitive to the outdoor elements because of the Retin A.
You may also use Retin A on your neck area.

Who Should Use Retin A?

I would recommend that if you are considering using this product, to make an appointment with your Dermatologist and find out as much as you can before making the decision. Also, ask for a lot of samples of a low-strength Retin A so that you can build up your tolerance to a stronger version. My doctor gave me tons of samples and a prescription for a much higher strength to be filled later. She advised me to use my samples of .04% first at the lower strength so that I have some tolerance built up for the good stuff (the .1%)

Who Shouldn't Use Retin A?

Anyone pregnant, nursing, or planning to be pregnant. It is a Category C which means that it is basically a mystery as to whether or not its use will hurt an unborn baby. Please consult your doctor to see when would be a good time to start using something like this.
Also, those with chapped, windburn, or broken skin should not start a Retin A regime until skin has healed. Those with Eczema should also avoid using this product. Consult your doctor if these are your issues and you are interested in Retin A.


Without insurance and depending on what kind of Retin A you get, it can be anywhere from $50-$200. On the other hand, some doctor's will submit the prescription as a medical need if you are having acne issues. My doctor told me that most insurance companies will not cover it that way because if you are over 30 they do not believe you can have acne issues. Its worth a try, she said. And for the record, I don't have any more than a few breakouts but I guess this was good enough for her to submit it as a medical necessity. The necessity part isn't a lie though.

Other Non-Surgical Procedures to Fight Wrinkles:

Skin Care Routines
Frequent and deep exfoliation
Retenoids or Vitamin C serum
IPL-Photo facial
Soft tissue fillers-Hyaluronic

Personally, I think Retin A is the cheapest of the potent options. It can take some time and ugliness to get to the finish line but the price isn't too bad for what you get. If you are looking for a speedier option where cost is not a concern, Botox may be for you. Be careful and don't go overboard. Just because you have Botox doesn't mean you need to LOOK like you have had Botox.

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