Dermatologist's 5 most important skin care tips for Retin A users. I continually receive questions from readers asking about my tips for using Retin A and other prescription tretinoin products. This is because using tretinoin can be tricky. So, it's time for a roundup of my information on how I use tretinoin in a Complete Skin Care Routine. I created my Complete Facial Skin Care Kit to give tretinoin users everything they need to help their skin tolerate Retin A. You will see below how this kit works to help achieve
success with this great medicine.
Tips for Retin A Users
How Do You Use Retin A Correctly?
My readers and patients know that I'm a big tretinoin fan and retinoid fan; I love the results you get from these powerful anti-acne and anti-aging skin care products. Using tretinoin and other retinoids like non-prescription retinol is tricky though. Tretinoin and retinol don't combine with some other key skin care ingredients, retinoids are light sensitive, and you have to train your skin to get used to tretinoin and retinol. If you are using tretinoin, your skin has to be perfectly dry before applying tretinoin or else it will cause even more irritation.
These three recent questions from different readers show how much confusion surrounds the use of this powerful, skin care medicine:
Reader #1, Lori
(My dermatologist) gave me a prescription of generic Tretinoin .025%. I've been using it for about 6 weeks now. My question is, is it strong enough to minimize these lines or am I wasting my time on this dose?
Reader #2, Jan
Can I use the Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy product with my Retin A. (Retin A at .05% doesn't do anything to my face, so I just bumped up to .1%) Q--So correct me if I'm wrong, but the order to apply these at night would be: 1) Retin A, 2) green tea product, and 3) moisturizer (do I need a moisturizer)?
Q--How much time do you need between applying 1 and 2 and 3 since I also read on your blog you should wait 15-30 minutes after you wash your face for the Retin A? Don't want to be up all night...
Reader #3, Anna
I started using Retin A about a month ago and have had good results as far as the acne goes. I also bought your Anti-aging Antioxidant Skin Care Kit, Advanced Corrective Eye Cream, Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for oil/normal skin, and the Calming Zinc face soap. My question is, what morning and evening routine would you recommend for me to get the best anti-aging results? I want to use the products correctly to get the best bang for my buck, if you know what I mean.
What are the essential tips for correctly using tretinoin in your skin care routine?
Tips for Retin A #1: Tretinoin goes on at night.
It's light sensitive so apply it at night before retiring. Wash it off in the morning then apply your other skin care products.
Tips for Retin A #2: Some ingredients will interfere with tretinoin.
Don't mix vitamin c, benzoyl peroxide, or salicylic acid with tretinoin cream.
(Retin A Micro is less fragile than tretinoin cream, but it's not my favorite product for anti-aging because all the really pivotal anti-aging studies were done on the cream formulation.)
You can combine glycolic acid and tretinoin, but the combination can increase skin irritation so be careful.
You can still use vitamin c, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide in your skin care routine. Apply them in the morning after washing off the tretinoin you applied the night before.When layering products with tretinoin at night, I usually tell my patients to layer other products first. I tell them to then wait 15 minutes, apply tretinoin at the bedside, turn off the light, and go to sleep. It's easiest to keep your tretinoin on your bedside table; that's where mine is. I love combining Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy under tretinoin!
Tips for Retin A #3: Skin has to be totally dry before you apply tretinoin.
Apply compatible products first, one right after the other, and then wait 15 minutes or more before applying tretinoin. This lets the excess surface water evaporate from your skin, and that seems to matter for minimizing tretinoin-induced skin irritation. It means that if you are using products such as Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy and the Daily Moisturizing Face Cream, those products are applied right after washing.
I always recommend that you layer your skin care products from thin to thicker or water-based to more oil-based for the best effectiveness.
Thus, you would apply Green Tea and then Daily Moisturizing Cream. Wait 15 or more minutes, and then apply the tretinoin. Again, I recommend keeping tretinoin on the bedside table and applying it right before going to sleep.
Dermatologist-recommended top products to use before applying Retin A at night:
If you find it inconvenient to wait 15 minutes before applying your Retin A, consider trying a retinol product. Retinol is less irritating than prescription tretinoin yet scientific studies show similar age-fighting benefit. My Retinol Intensive and Ultra-Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Creams are made with the highest allowed amount of pharmaceutically pure and stable retinol (0.5 and 1% respectively). The retinol is combined with the same green tea antioxidants and so you can apply retinol after cleansing your skin and top with Daily Moisturizing Face Cream and you are done! It's what I now do on nights that I can't be bothered to wait the 15 minutes before turning out the light.
Tips for Retin A #4: Tretinoin-treated skin must be sun-protected every day.
Tretinoin makes skin more sun sensitive. If you're going to use it for all the good things you get from tretinoin treatment, then you need to be committed to using broad spectrum sunscreen and a hat when you're in the sun. I'm a big believer in mineral zinc oxide being the best sunscreen ingredient. Click here to see what products I recommend for my patients. My top choice are the invisible high-tech zinc oxide sunscreens in my Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreen Line of products.
Tips for Retin A #5: Work your way up to the highest tretinoin level your skin can tolerate.
Your skin has to be trained to tolerate retinoids such as tretinoin and retinol. And, more is better... meaning you get more benefit from higher strength levels of this powerful family of ingredients. I tell people that using a retinoid is like a weight-training program because you have to start with weights you can lift. And, slowly, over time, you'll lift heavier weights as you gain fitness. It's the same with tretinoin. You start with .025% twice a week and eventually work to 0.1% nightly. With retinol, you start with the 0.5% 5X and work up to the 1% 10X. Retinol is less irritating and easier to use than tretinoin. You can alternate retinol and tretinoin. This is what I now do at the age of 62. I still get the great retinoid results in a much more convenient routine.
The bottom line with skin care for Retin A users:
Create a complete skin care routine that helps your skin tolerate this great medicine. The Skin Care Routine I use is available in my Complete Facial Skin Care Kit, built from compatible products that layer well with Retin A and help fend off Retin A skin irritation.
Author: Dr. Cynthia Bailey M.D. is a Board Certified dermatologist practicing dermatology since 1987. She has done well over 200,000 skin exams during her career and authors the longest running physician written skin health blog in the world.