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Retin-A is a topical prescription medication containing the active ingredient tretinoin, derived from vitamin A. People use Retin-A to treat various skin disorders. Retin-A works as an exfoliating and keratolytic agent, helping to loosen and remove dead cells from the skin surface. It is available in cream, lotion and gel forms.
Retin-A is effective at treating mild and moderate acne, as explained by the Mayo Clinic 1. Because it helps remove dead skin cells, Retin-A can keep pores free of clogs and prevent both blackheads and whiteheads. Clogged pores also can lead to inflammatory acne caused by anaerobic bacteria. The ability of Retin-A to clear pores is beneficial for allowing oxygen to enter pores and eliminate this bacterium.
- Retin-A is effective at treating mild and moderate acne, as explained by the Mayo Clinic 1.
- Because it helps remove dead skin cells, Retin-A can keep pores free of clogs and prevent both blackheads and whiteheads.
Retin-A Vs. Tazorac
In addition to having exfoliating and keratolytic properties, Retin-A helps build collagen fibers in the layer of skin under the surface (dermis), according to DermaDoctor. This makes Retin-A useful for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and it is promoted as an anti-aging product.
Clearing Sun Damage
Retin-A can help repair discolored areas or rough skin on the face caused by ultraviolet light exposure. Retin-A not only removes dead skin cells, but lightens skin and slows the way the body removes skin cells that may have experienced sun damage, according to the Mayo Clinic 1. The Clinic recommends using Retin-A as part of a skin care program that includes protecting skin from sun to avoid further damage.
Alpha Hydroxy Acid Vs. Retin-A
Retin-A has benefits for people with keratosis pilaris, a group of skin conditions involving small bumps, as explained by DermaDoctor 3. This often is characterized by the hair follicles becoming small rough bumps that look like goosebumps or red inflamed bumps. These bumps typically appear on the outer sides and back of the upper arms, but can develop nearly anywhere on the body.
Retin-A also is beneficial for treating verruca plana, commonly known as flat warts, according to the Mayo Clinic 1. This condition involves numerous slightly elevated lesions, which are separate, but occur close together, usually on the face, hands and shins.
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- Mayo Clinic: Tretinoin
- U.S. National Institutes of Health: Tretinoin
- Help for KP: Keratosis Pilaris
- Leyden J, Stein-gold L, Weiss J. Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2017;7(3):293-304. doi:10.1007/s13555-017-0185-2
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Retin-A [labeling]. Updated June 10, 2002.
- Knor T. Flattening of atrophic acne scars by using tretinoin by iontophoresis. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat. 2004;12(2):84-91.
- Davis EC, Callender VD. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: a review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(7):20-31.
- Mukherjee S, Date A, Patravale V, Korting HC, Roeder A, Weindl G. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. 2006;1(4):327-48.
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. RETIN-A MICRO® [labeling]. Revised January 2014.
- Chen K, White TJ, Juzba M, Chang E. Oral isotretinoin: an analysis of its utilization in a managed care organization. J Manag Care Pharm. 2002;8(4):272-7. doi:10.18553/jmcp.2002.8.4.272
- "Tretinoin Topical." MedlinePlus. 03 April 2000. U.S. National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health.
- Kircik LH. "Evaluating tretinoin formulations in the Treatment of Acne." Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 2014 Apr;13(4):466-70.
- Yeh L, Bonati LM, Silverberg NB. "Topical Retinoids for Acne."Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2016 Jun;35(2):50-6.
- Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE, et. al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 74.5 (2016): 945-73.
Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.