- A Hollywood Dermatologist Shares Her Anti-Aging Advice
- Do retinoids really reduce wrinkles?
- Retinol, retinoids and prescription Retin-A: What’s the difference?
- A brief history of Retin-A
- The time to use retinoids is now
- Where to start
- How to Use Tretinoin for Wrinkles and Skin Aging
- How Tretinoin Treats Wrinkles and Signs of Aging
- How to Use Tretinoin Cream for Anti-Aging
- Choosing the Right Strength Tretinoin Cream
- Dealing With Tretinoin Side Effects
- When Should You Expect Results?
Don’t panic if you’ve started to notice fine lines and tiny brown spots on your face. Jessica Wu, MD, a Los Angeles dermatologist and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at USC medical school, is here to share her secrets on the dos and don’ts involved in fighting the signs of aging. Just don’t blame us when the bartender asks for your ID at your next happy hour!
Everyday Health: At what age should you start to use anti-aging products?
Dr. Jessica Wu: If you want to prevent or at least delay the signs of aging, it’s never too early to start — even babies and children should wear sunscreen! In your twenties, especially if you’ve spent your childhood and teens in the sun, you can simply use sunscreen every day (even on cloudy days and in winter), or a moisturizer with SPF. By the thirties, most of us have started to see fine lines and wrinkles, so that’s a good time to start using products with anti-aging ingredients.
EH: What are the most effective anti-aging ingredients that you should look for in skin care products?
JW: Retinoids and retinols. They help stimulate cell turnover and collagen production to make skin thicker and healthier. Over-the-counter products that contain ingredients such as retinol and retinyl palmitate are a good first step. Or ask your doctor whether prescription-strength retinoids might be right for you — tretinoin (Renova, Retin-A) or tazarotene (Tazorac).
RELATED: The Skin Care Secret We All Can Use
Antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, superoxide dismutase, coffeeberry, and coenzyme Q10, also help protect collagen and elastic tissue in your skin.
Finally, look for botanical skin-brightening ingredients — because uneven pigmentation makes your skin look older. Soy, green tea extracts, and vitamin C (which is also an antioxidant) are all good choices.
EH: Why does your skin get thinner and sag as you age?
JW: There are a few reasons: heredity; the environment, including sun and pollution, which break down collagen; hormones, because as estrogen levels drop, the skin becomes thinner; and gravity, which, over time, causes skin to droop.
EH: Can any signs of aging be reversed?
JW: You can minimize the appearance of brown spots and patches and fine lines, and you can smooth out rough texture.
EH: Is there one ingredient that can address both wrinkles and pigmentation?
JW: There are a few: retinoids, vitamin C, soy, and coffeeberry.
EH: What’s the best way to fight acne and wrinkles at the same time?
JW: Use an exfoliating product that contains salicylic acid (if you have oily skin) or glycolic acid (if you have dry skin). The acids help unclog pores and lift off the top layers of dead, sun-damaged skin at the same time. Also, avoid dairy and sugar, which are both inflammatory, meaning that they’ll aggravate acne breakouts and break down collagen.
EH: What makeup tricks can minimize fine lines and wrinkles?
JW: The best approach is to use moisturizing makeup and apply it with a light hand. These additional tips may help:
- Apply a foundation primer to fill in fine lines and help makeup go on more smoothly.
- Use liquids rather than powders, which can settle into lines.
- Outline lips with a pencil to help prevent lipstick from “bleeding” into the lines around your mouth.
EH: What are some common mistakes women make with regard to makeup that can actually age them?
JW: Often women apply makeup that’s too drying or heavy, especially under the eyes; heavy concealers and foundation can settle into wrinkles. Women should avoid using makeup that’s too dark; instead lighten up, especially under the eyes. The worst mistake, though, is to not use sunscreen — if you’re going to be outside during the day, always put it on.
EH: Should you change your makeup products as you age?
JW: Only if your skin changes — from oily to dry, for instance. Many people find that their skin gets drier as they age, so they need a richer, creamier foundation rather than mattifying makeup. You should also change the products you use if you develop new signs of aging, like brown spots where you didn’t have any before.
Do retinoids really reduce wrinkles?
Topical vitamin A–based drugs called retinoids—the most used and most studied anti-aging compounds— may reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Tretinoin, under the brand name Retin-A, was the first retinoid. It was used as an acne treatment in the 1970s, but researchers later discovered that it also fades actinic keratosis spots, evens pigmentation, and speeds the turnover of superficial skin cells.
Retinoids reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen. They also stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin, which improves skin color. Additional benefits include fading age spots and softening rough patches of skin. However, it takes three to six months of regular use before improvements in wrinkles are apparent—and the best results take six to 12 months.
Because retinoids can cause skin dryness and irritation, doctors often recommend using them only every other day at first and then gradually working up to nightly applications. Wear a sunscreen during the day, because retinoids increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. These drugs must be used continually to maintain their benefits.
Tretinoin (Retin-A, generic), tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), and adapalene (Differin) are prescription retinoids. Adapalene is also available over the counter (in a 0.1% formulation versus the 0.3% prescription version). Other retinoids are undergoing clinical trials.
In addition, several over-the-counter products containing retinoids, such as retinol, are available. Because they’re not as strong (and thus less irritating), they are not as effective in reducing wrinkles as tretinoin; but they do improve the appearance of photo-aged skin. Tretinoin can be used with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) for additional skin-smoothing effects.
To learn more about ways to care for your skin, buy Skin Care and Repair, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Helmut Gevert at www.sxc.hu
Tazorac is a prescription-only medication that was initially developed to treat acne. However, users reported a great side effect: Not only was their acne decreasing, but Tazorac was smoothing out their fine lines and wrinkles as well. A study published in “Journal Watch Dermatology” found that the active ingredient in Tazorac, Tazarotene, significantly improved the appearance of wrinkles and hyperpigmentation in as little as two weeks. Tazorac is easy to use, but there are some serious warnings you should heed before using this medication.
Visit your doctor or dermatologist to discuss your use of Tazorac. The medication is only available in the United States with a prescription.
Cleanse your face with warm water and a gentle cleanser. Gently dry your face with a hand towel. Do not use medicated cleansers or alcohol-based toners while you use Tazorac.
Apply a thin layer of moisturizer to your face and neck. This will protect your skin from any irritation that Tazorac may cause. The type of moisturizer you use is up to you, but do not use a moisturizer that contains other anti-aging medications such as alpha-hydroxy or salicylic acids.
Dispense a pea-sized drop of Tazorac onto your fingertips and gently pat the medication onto the areas of your face affected by wrinkles. Do not apply the medicine to your entire face.
Apply Tazorac only once per day before you go to bed. Do not apply more than a pea-sized drop or you will greatly increase your risk of side effects and irritation.
In the morning, wash your face with the same gentle cleanser you used in Step 2. Dry your face and apply a moisturizer with sunscreen to your entire face and neck. Tazorac has a tendency to make skin more sensitive to the sun, so always apply at least SPF 15 when you plan on being outdoors.
Continue to use Tazorac daily until your doctor says to stop. Most users reported seeing smoother skin in as little as two weeks, but you may have to use it more or less depending on the severity of your wrinkles. Your doctor will tell you how long to continue treatment.
Do not use Tazorac if you are pregnant. The active ingredient, Tazarotene, has been shown by the FDA to cause birth defects. Your doctor will require you to take a pregnancy test before prescribing Tazorac and you must use some form of birth control while using this product.
Your skin may tingle or feel warm when you apply Tazorac; that is normal. If you develop more severe side effects, such as swelling or burning, stop using the medication and talk to your doctor.
FRIDAY, Nov. 22, 2002 (HealthDayNews) — A prescription acne cream appears to moderately reduce sun damage in older people, says new research.
Tazarotene cream, known by the brand name Tazorac, is in the same Vitamin A family as Retin-A, another acne drug considered to be a potent wrinkle reliever. While federal officials have already approved the drug for use by people with sun damage, the study’s authors say their research, which was funded by the makers of the cream, offers more proof of its value.
“The cream was better than moisturizer alone in improving fine wrinkling and mottled pigmentation of the skin, in combination with protecting skin from the sun,” says study co-author Dr. Tania J. Phillips, a professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Sun damage to skin begins at the first exposure to sunlight and accumulates over a lifetime, says Dr. Richard G. Glogau, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California at San Francisco. Ultraviolet light penetrates the skin and damages its internal structure by wreaking havoc on the DNA of cells, he explains.
“The initial changes are a loss of ‘glow,’ change in pigmentation — freckles, splotchiness, brown or muddy tones — and damage to elastic and collagen fibers resulting in wrinkles and fine lines,” he adds.
In its worst forms, sun damage can lead to skin cancer. More commonly, it simply makes people look old and leathery.
In the study funded by the pharmaceutical company Allergan, which makes tazarotene cream, researchers recruited 563 people with sun damage and told all of them to apply a cream to their face each day for six months. While the subjects didn’t know it, half of them received a 0.1 percent tazarotene cream, while the others used a non-medicated cream.
All of the people in the study had to have mottled discoloration of the skin and fine wrinkling to be enrolled, Phillips says. Researchers also looked at age spots, yellowish leathery skin, white spots, large pores, skin roughness, dilated blood vessels and precancerous spots.
A total of 511 patients finished the study; their average age was 56 and almost all were women. Compared to those who received the placebo cream, those who used the tazarotene cream looked better at the end of treatment, the researchers say.
Among other things, the tazarotene users had less wrinkling, mottled pigmentation and skin roughness. Most of the patients continued using the tazarotene cream for another 28 weeks, and researchers reported that their faces continued to improve.
However, 20 of the 283 patients initially treated with tazarotene cream had to stop because of side effects. Among other things, the drug can cause peeling, redness, burning and dryness, Phillips says.
The study, which appears in the November issue of the Archives of Dermatology, didn’t compare tazarotene cream to other drugs. However, Phillips says the findings suggest that it works about as well as other medications in the Vitamin A family. Those drugs appear to work by boosting production of a component of skin known as collagen, she explains.
Glogau says tazarotene cream may be a good alternative to Retin-A (known by the brand name Renova) because it may work more quickly and be less irritating. However, he adds, “the endpoints are still the same.”
What To Do
To find the daily level for ultraviolet rays in your city, check The Interactive Weather Information Network. To see how knowledgeable you are about sun damage and its connection to skin cancer, take this test from the American Academy of Dermatology.
Skincare trends come and go, but retinoids are among the few products proven to give you better- and younger-looking skin. They remain the gold standard for anti-aging, and according to the three dermatologists I spoke to (as well as the American Academy of Dermatology), basically anyone can and should use one.
“Every non-pregnant person should use sunblock and sun protection during the day and apply retinol or retinoids at night,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sandy Johnson.
Retinol, retinoids and prescription Retin-A: What’s the difference?
All are derivatives of Vitamin A. “Retinol is an over-the-counter form of Retin-A, and Retin-A is a prescription item. Retinoid is an overarching term used to describe all of all of these products,” including various retinol derivatives, says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, an Omaha-based dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon and RealSelf contributor.
Retinoids come in various strengths and formulations. Nearly all, he said, significantly improve skin. As far as who can use what, that often depends on access, says Schlessinger. “Many patients don’t have access to Retin-A or Accutane” because they can’t see a dermatologist, he says. “What is available to them is an over-the-counter retinol.”
Retinoids promote cell turnover. Essentially, they exfoliate and build collagen (the stuff that keeps your skin firm). By exfoliating, they clear clogged pores and reduce the appearance of fine lines, according to the AAD. They also prevent wrinkles from forming; some studies have shown retinoids can even prevent skin cancer. Pretty amazing, right?
“Retinol/Retin-A and other retinoids are the best creams to prevent skin cancer and aging changes to the skin,” Johnson says.
A brief history of Retin-A
Tretinoin, the generic form of Retin-A, was originally patented as an acne treatment by dermatologist Albert M. Kligman in 1967. When Kligman’s older patients noticed that the drug also improved their pigmentation and wrinkles, it took on new life as an anti-aging product.
“This was the first designer drug for cosmetic treatments,” Schlessinger says. “, there was nothing on the market that truly made a difference fine lines, wrinkles or pigmentation.” Klingman received a new patent for the drug as a wrinkle treatment in 1986. He is also considered the first dermatologist to make the connection between sun exposure and wrinkles.
Since then, dermatologists and skincare brands have issued derivatives that are effective but without the typical side effects of irritation and flakiness. “There’s been a huge push to make products more consumer-friendly. Even with prescription formulations, there has been a dramatic improvement of side-effect profiles,” Schlessinger says.
The time to use retinoids is now
Dermatologists agree that for adults, it’s never too early to start using retinoids. Johnson says her two children starting using topical retinoids at 12 years old. Adds Schlessinger: “I tend to think that almost anyone over teenage years is probably a good candidate. The amazing thing is we have an entire generation of people that has been raised on retinoids. Anybody who is a teenager starting in about ‘90s and has acne issues has probably been on retinoid of some sort. It’s not a foreign concept.” (Accutane is a prescription form of Vitamin A.)
If you have no skin problems but want to begin an anti-aging routine, dermatologist Michele Green says “it’s best to start in your early 20s.” Whereas formulations may have been too harsh for some skin types before, there is a wide range of products available now to suit just about any skin type, Schlessinger says. “There are products focused on the eye area, or on the décolletage.”
If you have sensitive skin or rosacea, there’s a chance retinoids aren’t for you. (Pregnant women should also not use retinoids.) If you don’t know where to start and seeing a dermatologist is possible, he or she can help you come up with a skincare routine.
Where to start
When you’re ready to give retinoids a shot, remember that there’s usually an adjustment period, Schlessinger says. Retinoids can cause flakiness, dryness and irritation. These signs are normal for first-time users, especially for those using prescription retinol.
To minimize any side effects, dermatologists recommend a gentle cleanser and avoiding products with alcohol. Use only a pea-sized amount, or the recommended amount prescribed by your doctor or on the label. If your skin is overly red or irritated, cut back. If you’re using other acids (salicylic, glycolic, hyaluronic), you may want to put those products on hold and reintroduce them slowly after your skin has adjusted to the retinoid. And finally, because retinoids make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure, always wear sunscreen even if you’re only outdoors on your way to work.
Know that just because a product at Sephora is marketed as a retinol does not guarantee that it will give you the kind of results you get from prescription Retin-A. Johnson suggests doing your research. “Not all retinols are created equal. You should use one that is physician-grade. The FDA monitors prescription retinoids like Retin-A (tretinoin), adapalene (which will be available over-the-counter very soon) and Tazorac (tazarotene),” all of which are proven to show results.
Worried about what this stuff might to do your face in 20 or 30 years? Fret not. “We now have close to 30 years of experience and studies of Retin-A, and other than normal side effects, there have been no long-term negative effects,” Schlessinger says.
For proof, just turn to Melissa55, who vlogs on YouTube about skincare (and looks like she’s in her early 40s). “I started using Retin-A when I was around 33. I am now 61, so I’ve used it about 28 years,” she says. “There is nothing on the market (in my opinion) that works as well.”
If you can’t see a dermatologist for a prescription retinoid, there are many over-the-counter options. The specific retinoid you choose, as Schlessinger says, will come down to what’s available to you, but here are his recommendations:
- If you’re in your early- to mid-20s and you’re just getting started on this whole “skincare routine” thing: “Obagi360 Retinol 1.0 is a great retinol for younger patients starting to incorporate retinol into their routine. This retinol is suitable for most skin types because its time-release formula causes minimal, if any, irritation.”
- If you’re a skincare junkie and expect to see results right away: “NeoStrata Skin Active Retinol + NAG Complex helps minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, large pores, dark spots and sagging skin with time-released microencapsulated retinol. This treatment contains NeoGlucosamine to build collagen and improve the skin’s surrounding support matrix. NeoGlucosamine also helps to enhance the volumizing and firming effects of retinol for improved anti-aging benefits.”
- If you suffer from acne: “PCA SKIN Intensive Clarity Treatment is specially formulated for acne-prone skin to clear breakouts and increase cell turnover, revealing clear and healthy skin. Retinol also helps to lighten hyperpigmentation issues due to sun exposure, acne inflammation and other stressors.”
- If you have sensitive skin: “Avene RetrinAL+ 0.05 is an excellent option for those with sensitive complexions. This serum contains retinaldehyde, which smooths the appearance of wrinkles and brightens skin. The formula contains soothing Avene Thermal Spring Water, which calms skin irritation and inflammation. It’s also available in a 0.1 concentration.”
- If you’re in your late- to early-30s with no major skin issues (lucky): “I like SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5 and SkinMedica Retinol Complex 1.0 for their superior anti-aging benefits. In addition to retinol, these serums contain bisabolol to minimize inflammation and antioxidants to protect skin.”
- If you want more than just anti-aging benefits: Peter Lamas Supreme Radiance Complexion Booster features a potent blend of retinol to smooth wrinkles and salicylic acid to prevent blemishes and improve uneven skin texture. This formula is also infused with light-reflecting minerals to give skin a radiant and youthful glow.
Collage by Emily Zirimis; photo via SSPL/Getty Images.
How to Use Tretinoin for Wrinkles and Skin Aging
Have you started to notice wrinkles developing on your face? From crow’s feet to frown lines, and forehead wrinkles, facial wrinkles can develop in a variety of locations.
Most people begin to develop wrinkles in their mid to late 20s, with wrinkles becoming more obvious in the 30s and 40s. Although everyone is different, it’s normal to notice some level of wrinkle development as you get older.
Wrinkles develop for a range of reasons. As you age, your skin starts to get thinner and dryer, making it easier for creases to form. Skin cell turnover — the process by which new skin makes its way to the surface of the epidermis — also slows down.
Add sun exposure, stress, a gradual reduction in collagen production and other factors into the picture and over time, wrinkles start to form with age in both men and women.
Luckily, there are a variety of options for reducing the depth and visibility of facial wrinkles. One of the most effective anti-aging and wrinkle prevention treatments on the market is tretinoin — a safe and powerful topical skin medication.
In this guide, we’ll explain how tretinoin works as an anti-aging medication. We’ll also share how you can use tretinoin to reverse the effects of aging, slow down the development of wrinkles and improve the appearance, health and quality of your skin.
How Tretinoin Treats Wrinkles and Signs of Aging
Contrary to popular belief, wrinkles don’t develop overnight. Instead, most people only start to notice wrinkles after they begin to become deeper, more pronounced and obvious — a process that can often take years.
During your 20s and 30s, your skin starts to become thinner, dryer and less elastic. The amount of collagen produced by your skin declines and the skin cell turnover process becomes slower, meaning that your body replaces old skin with new skin at a less frequent pace.
Tretinoin, a topical retinoid, works by speeding up the skin cell turnover process, allowing your body to replace older skin cells on the surface of the skin with newer, fresh skin cells that form on the lower levels of the epidermis.
You can almost think of tretinoin as acting like a fast-forward button for your skin cell turnover cycle. Instead of sticking around, the superficial layer of your skin that’s exposed to sunlight, wind and pollution is cycled off more efficiently, giving you fresher, less weathered skin.
The end result is a significant improvement in the appearance of your skin, a reduction in visible wrinkles and even an decrease in acne.
Unlike other skin creams, most of which you can buy over the counter, tretinoin is a prescription medicine that you’ll need to talk to your doctor about. It’s also far more effective than the creams and washes you can buy in most skincare stores, with a mountain of scientific data to back it up.
In one study, researchers found that 12 weeks of treatment with tretinoin resulted in “significant improvements in fine wrinkling around the eyes, crease lines around the mouth and cheeks, wrinkling on the dorsum of the hands and yellow discoloration.”
In another study, researchers noted that tretinoin caused a “statistically significant improvement in photoaging” in 14 out of 15 participants when compared to a non-therapeutic vehicle cream.
In short, tretinoin works by speeding up the rate at which your body replaces skin cells, giving your skin a fresher, more youthful appearance. It’s also highly effective, with numerous studies dating back to the late 80s to back up its value as an anti-aging treatment.
How to Use Tretinoin Cream for Anti-Aging
Beyond its effectiveness, one of the biggest advantages of tretinoin is that it’s extremely easy to use.
Tretinoin is sold as a topical cream, gel or solution. To use it, all you need to do is apply a small amount of the cream to your face, typically in the evening. Below, we’ve covered all of the steps required to apply tretinoin cream to your face:
- Before applying tretinoin, wash your face using warm water. You can also use a small amount of mild, non-irritating soap. Avoid using harsh facial cleansers, acne prevention face washes or other potentially irritating products before applying tretinoin.
- Make sure all of the soap has been washed away, then blot your face dry using a towel.
- Squeeze a small amount of tretinoin (roughly the size of a pea) out of the tube and onto your finger. Rub the tretinoin onto your forehead, cheeks, chin and other areas in which you notice wrinkles.
Avoid applying tretinoin directly to you lips, nostrils and areas close to your lips, as these parts of the face can potentially become irritated. If you have liquid tretinoin solution, use a cotton pad for more precise application.
- Once you’ve applied the tretinoin to your face, gently rub it into your skin. Make sure you apply the tretinoin cream or gel evenly to all areas of your face. Your skin will absorb the tretinoin cream or gel after a few minutes.
There’s no need to use an overly large amount of tretinoin — doing so can increase your risk of experiencing skin irritation or peeling. Stick to a pea-sized amount of cream or gel for optimal results and minimal irritation.
- Once you’re rubbed the cream or gel into your skin, set a timer for 20 minutes to allow your skin to fully absorb the tretinoin. Avoid touching your face or applying other topical skincare products until the timer is up.
- After 20 minutes, you can apply moisturizer if necessary. Moisturizer can help prevent the dryness and flaky skin that some people experience during the first few months of topical tretinoin use.
When you’re using tretinoin, it’s also important to make several small changes to your lifestyle and skin care routine:
- Avoid excessive sun exposure. Tretinoin can increase your skin’s sensitivity to direct sunlight. To protect yourself from sunburn, use SPF 30+ sunscreen and avoid spending too much time in sunny, unprotected areas.
- Stay hydrated. Although tretinoin isn’t an oral medication, it’s still important to keep yourself hydrated while you’re using tretinoin. Drinking plenty of water helps your skin stay moist and clear, helping tretinoin do its work as an anti-aging medication.
- Be consistent. It can take several months before the effects of tretinoin become visible, meaning you’ll need to be patient during the first few months. Stick with tretinoin and be consistent — over the long term, you’ll start to notice results.
- Familiarize yourself with tretinoin’s side effects. Tretinoin is a safe, highly effective medication, but it still has several potential side effects. Our list of tretinoin side effects tells you what to expect from the medication, as well as solutions for common issues.
Choosing the Right Strength Tretinoin Cream
Tretinoin comes in a range of different concentrations, from creams and gels with .01%, .025% and .05% tretinoin content to stronger products with .1% tretinoin.
Like with most medications, the strength of the tretinoin cream you use can have an impact on the quality of your results. Most studies of tretinoin for anti-aging purposes show that the best results usually come from moderate strength tretinoin creams, such as .05% tretinoin cream.
In a 1991 study, people given.05% tretinoin cream experienced a reduction in fine wrinkling, mottled hyperpigmentation, skin roughness and laxity, as well as an “overall improvement in photodamaged skin” over the course of 24 weeks.
In the same study, people given a cream with a weaker .01% tretinoin content didn’t experience the same benefits, suggesting that the amount of tretinoin can have a major effect on results. It’s also worth noting that lower strength tretinoin creams usually produce fewer side effects.
For the most part, dermatologists tend to prescribe a .05% tretinoin cream for patients, which provides a good balance between optimal results and a tolerable level of dryness, peeling and other side effects.
Our guide to the optimal concentration of tretinoin cream goes into more detail on which type of tretinoin cream is the “best.” In general, the best approach is to work with your doctor over the course of several months to find a cream that provides optimal results for you.
Dealing With Tretinoin Side Effects
On the whole, tretinoin is an extremely safe medication. It’s topical, meaning it doesn’t need to pass through the liver like other skincare medications such as isotretinoin (Accutane). It’s also easy to stop using, with a short half-life and none of the withdrawal effects of topical steroids.
However, like all medications, tretinoin does have some side effects when used for anti-aging and wrinkle prevention. Of these, the most common are skin dryness, irritation, peeling and an increased level of sensitivity to sunlight.
Tretinoin also has several less common side effects, such as a low risk of causing rapid onset dermatitis conditions such as blisters and vesicles. However, these effects are very rare — for most people, tretinoin is unlikely to cause more than minor dryness and skin irritation.
You can learn more about tretinoin’s side effects in our guide to the common and uncommon side effects of the medication. As with all medications, it’s important to be aware of and ready for any potential side effects from tretinoin before you start using it for anti-aging purposes.
When Should You Expect Results?
While the anti-aging and wrinkle reduction benefits of tretinoin are real, they’re not an overnight effect. On average, it takes anywhere from eight to 24 weeks to see a noticeable improvement from tretinoin cream.
Most studies of topical tretinoin for anti-aging show a reduction in wrinkles after approximately three months, with the shortest study (which used a fairly mild .025% tretinoin cream) resulting in a “statistically significant improvement” in wrinkles and pigmentation after 84 days.
Other studies show significant improvements in “fine wrinkling around the eyes, crease lines around the mouth and cheeks, wrinkling on the dorsum of the hands and yellow discoloration” after 12 weeks of consistent tretinoin use.
It’s important to be aware that tretinoin can often make your skin look worse before it gets better, especially if you experience a “purge” after starting treatment. The most effective approach is to be patient and give tretinoin the time it needs to start working.
Our guide to how long it takes to see results from tretinoin for anti-aging goes into more detail about the time required for tretinoin to work, with links to other studies documenting the results from long-term tretinoin treatment.
As always, patience is key. Take a consistent, disciplined approach to using tretinoin and in two to six months, you should notice a significant improvement in the appearance of your skin, with lighter wrinkles, better smoothness and fewer signs of aging.