Tretinoin - A Superstar Ingredient for Skin

Tretinoin - A Superstar Ingredient for Skin

Posted by Lisa, Skin Consultant on on Sep 2nd 2019

With the word retinoids so commonly used to describe certain skincare products, both over the counter (OTC) and medical grade skincare, it can be confusing. Add to that the many myths out there, along with the experiences your friends and family have shared about retinoids, it may be an ingredient you aren’t sure is right for you. For the topical treatment of hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, and acne, prescription tretinoin can be a game-changer for many people. For those people that are looking for improvement for these concerns, weighing the benefits of adding tretinoin to a customized skincare plan is worth it.

What Is Tretinoin?

To understand and appreciate what tretinoin does for the skin, it helps to start with an explanation of what it is exactly. Tretinoin is a compound derived from Vitamin A, like all retinoids. Vitamin A is an important nutrient for the skin. It helps our skin’s fibroblasts produce more collagen, it is an antioxidant that helps our skin cells turnover more rapidly (think of a youthful skin and how supple and glowing it is – one reason, quick cell turnover!), and it reduces clogging in pores and turns down oil production. As John Kulesza, president and founder of Young Pharmaceuticals, a medical skincare company, describes the function of retinoids this way, “they regulate keratin synthesis, regulate sebaceous gland activity, and proliferation and terminal differentiation of fibroblasts.” Prescription tretinoin is retinoic acid, so it does not need to convert in the skin for the skin to recognize it for what it is, unlike retinols. This means it works faster in the skin than retinols.

Tretinoin Myths

One common misconception is that tretinoin is an exfoliant. This is an understandable mistake to make, as some people do experience peeling when they start out on tretinoin, use too much, or increase the percentage of their medication. What it is doing is regulating the growth and the rate of growth of the cells that stand as the barrier between the outer part of the body and the environment, these are called the epithelial cells. This is a good thing for the well-being of these important skin-defending cells. So why the dryness and peeling with tretinoin? This is called retinization and it is the skin adjusting to the transformative work that tretinoin is doing. It is important to follow the directions for the application of this medicine to make this process more tolerable. Most prescribers recommend a gradual increase on the frequency of use to help the skin acclimate. Steer clear of any exfoliating ingredients while starting out on tretinoin, such as salicylic acid. Also applying it on dry skin can help. “I recommend the patient wait about 20 minutes after cleansing at night before applying their tretinoin to ensure the skin is dry. Moisture can make it more irritating,” explains Mandy, RN at Vanguard Plastic Surgery & Aesthetics.

You may have heard someone say it “thins our skin” about retinoids. The short answer, yes and no. Yes, it is thinning the stratum corneum. This is the skin’s outermost layer, made up of layers of dead skin cells filled with keratin – a protein that acts, in part, to keep skin cells together. Retinoids, like tretinoin, are thickening the basal cell layer. This is the layer deeper in the skin where new skin cells are formed. The result is brighter, more even skin. The outer layers look more luminous and glowing. The skin takes on a more supple look as the skin’s cushion layer is thickened. All good things for more youthful looking skin! This leads to importance of sun protection and sunscreen. These healthy new skin cells should be protected in order to look and act their best. In fact, if you do only one thing to combat the signs of skin aging, your first choice should be SPF of 30 or higher every day, all year.

Is Tretinoin Right for You

You are probably reading this because you are considering adding tretinoin in your efforts to have better skin. It is a prescription so bring it up on your next visit with her dermatologist or primary care provider. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, you will need to wait to add a retinoid to your skincare system. If you have difficulty making it through the retinization period, maybe consider starting with a retinol first. At clara, we have retinol options and the ability to compound tretinoin into two different products. Starting with a complimentary skin consultation could help you determine if this is the direction you want to go with your skin. By using our Visia image capturing software, we can document your baseline and create a visual journey of your progress as your make any changes to your skincare with our clara products. 

One key difference with medical grade skincare and OTC products is the ability to use ingredients and percentages that can transform skin, versus only maintenance and minimal correction found in OTC products. Having the guidance of a skin consultant and the expertise of professionals that work with medical grade products, is an advantage as you work through possible side-effects that come with such effective products. Call clara at 719-579-5555 to schedule your skin consultation at our location on Grand Cordera in Colorado Springs. (Note: Tretinoin can only be purchased after an in-person consultation). Not in the area? We can schedule a phone/video consultation with you too in order to start the conversation about the possibility of adding one of our retinol products.