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How to Properly Apply Retin-A Cream for Wrinkles

By Carmen L. Diaz ; Updated April 30, 2018

There are scads of things that happen as you age. Some you have control over, while others, not so much. But there are two things most women over 40 will attest to: you get smarter and you get wrinkles. While the "getting smarter" part is certainly a plus, gaining a few wrinkles each year is not. The good news is, there are several prescription and OTC products that target wrinkles and fine lines.

One product that's been used for ages is Retin-A cream. Originally formulated to treat acne, Retin-A is now considered by many to be the best remedy for the removal of wrinkles and signs of aging skin. Retin-A is a brand name for retinoids, which is a topical vitamin-A based drug. Retinoids work on wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen.

Over time, Retin-A can also improve skin color by stimulating the production of new blood vessels in the skin. But don't expect it to work overnight. It can typically take three to six months (and often up to 12 months) of regular use to see any signs of improvement.

You can purchase products with retinoids in several OTC formulas, but if you want Retin-A you will need to get a prescription from your doctor or dermatologist. If you already have Retin-A cream, but you're wondering how to apply it correctly, here are a few steps to get you started.

Wash Your Face

Retin-A should always be applied at night, so before you go to bed, wash your face with a gentle cleanser using warm water and a soft washcloth. Wait for 20 to 30 minutes after washing your face to allow your skin's pH to return to normal.

Use a Small Amount of Retin-A

Squeeze a dab of Retin-A on your index finger (think pea size). Since retinoids can dry out your skin and cause irritation, it's a good idea to ease into a Retin-A routine.

Start with a small amount to make sure your skin does not have a reaction. Some experts recommend starting with the most gentle prescription strength you can fill. Use this amount for a few days to see how your skin reacts before increasing. Always use the recommended dosage your doctor prescribes.

Apply Retin-A to Your Skin

Gently apply the cream to your face by dabbing and gently rubbing to cover your complexion. For applying around your eyes, dab, and pat to cover the undereye area. Do not apply directly on your eyelids. Make sure to wash your hands after you finish applying the Retin-A cream.

Repeat the Process

Repeat the application every other night in the beginning and adjust the frequency depending on your skin's tolerance and needs. If you find that every other night is too much, you may want to cut back to two times per week until your skin gets used to the prescription strength.

Retinoids increase the skin's sensitivity to sunlight, so make sure to wear a strong sunscreen during the day. Also, Tretinoin can cause birth defects. Do not use Retin-A if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant.

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