How to Use Tretinoin Cream


Tretinoin cream can be used to treat acne and reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles, enlarged pores, and dark spots. It works by clearing out pores and keeping them clear, and by encouraging faster skin cell turnover rate. If you want to use tretinoin cream for acne or wrinkles, ask a dermatologist what concentration would be best for your skin. Stick to a routine, applying cream 2-3 times a week before bedtime at first and then ramping up to daily use. Keep in mind that your skin is likely to get redder and flakier within the first 2-6 weeks of using tretinoin before it gets better and it can take 8-24 weeks to see results.

Part 1
Applying the Cream

Applying the Cream on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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For most tretinoin creams you'll need a prescription, with only Differin available over the counter. However, it's still a good idea to talk to a dermatologist about the effects, risks, and benefits of tretinoin cream if you want to use it over the counter.[1] Tell your doctor if you think you might be allergic to tretinoin cream. Also tell your doctor if you have a fish allergy, as Altreno can cause a reaction. Mention if you have other skin conditions like eczema, keratosis, or skin cancer. Also mention if you are pregnant. You can also buy weaker retinoids over the counter.

Applying the Cream on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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Tretinoin cream is available in concentrations from 0.01% to 0.1%. Start with a concentration on the weaker side (0.01% or 0.025%) to see how your skin reacts over the course of several weeks.[2] If your skin reacts well, you can ask your doctor for a stronger concentration. One study suggests that there is no significant difference between lower and higher concentrations, except more irritation from higher concentrations. You will most likely see results from using a low concentration tretinoin cream. Start with a low concentration and gradually increase it if needed.

Applying the Cream on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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Before applying the cream, your face should be cleansed. Use a gentle cleanser without alcohol. Avoid exfoliating your skin.[3] You can use other acne treatments while using tretinoin, such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide cleansers and toners. There is debate about whether you should apply moisturizer before or after tretinoin cream. Try both and go with whatever feels best.

Applying the Cream on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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Ideally, give your skin at least 20-30 minutes after washing and moisturizing to dry. If your skin is damp, it will absorb more of the cream and become irritated.[4]

Applying the Cream on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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Be careful not to use more than a pea-sized amount, as too large of a dose will be extremely irritating on your skin. Use your fingertips to spread the cream in a thin layer over your whole face.[5]Be careful not to get any cream in your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or anywhere that is sunburned.

Applying the Cream on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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Although daily application is recommended for the strongest results, it can be beneficial to let your skin adjust to this medication by starting off applying it every other day before bedtime only. The less you irritate your skin, the more effective tretinoin cream will be, so it's best to let your skin adjust gradually.[6]If your skin has a bad reaction to tretinoin, or tretinoin in combination with another product, reduce your usage to once every 3 days or stop using it entirely for a week.

Applying the Cream on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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After applying the cream, rinse off any residual. This will make sure that the cream doesn't irritate the skin on your fingers or get anywhere else on your body.[7]

Applying the Cream on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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After 1-2 weeks of using tretinoin, 85% of people experience irritating side effects. You can minimize these by applying moisturizer and sunscreen throughout the day.[8]Although side effects can be irritating, they aren't dangerous.

Part 2
Adjusting Your Skincare and Makeup Routine

Adjusting Your Skincare and Makeup Routine on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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While acne cleansers are fine to use, it's important not to mix tretinoin with other topical acne medications, as this can cause a bad reaction with breakouts and pain. You should also avoid skincare products that contain alcohol, spices, lime, or menthol in them, as these can irritate your skin while you're using tretinoin.[9]Also, stay away from products that you know are drying or irritating for your skin.

Adjusting Your Skincare and Makeup Routine on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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Your skin will be more susceptible to sun damage while you are using tretinoin cream. Use a generous amount of cream sunscreen to double up on moisturizer while protecting your skin from sun damage. Make sure to cover all the skin on your face, neck, and ears with a layer of sunscreen.[10]Use at least SPF 15.

Adjusting Your Skincare and Makeup Routine on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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Being outside can feel very uncomfortable on dry, peeling skin, especially in the first few weeks. After your skin has adjusted, make sure you still avoid prolonged exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun.[11] Wearing hats and protective clothing can also help shield your skin. During the first 2-3 weeks, skin is especially sensitive. Stay mostly inside to protect your skin as much as possible.

Adjusting Your Skincare and Makeup Routine on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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The chemicals in hair removal and perm solutions do not mix well with tretinoin. They will react and could potentially cause painful breakouts or rashes. It's best to avoid them completely while using tretinoin cream.[12]You should also avoid waxing your face to minimize irritation.

Adjusting Your Skincare and Makeup Routine on How to Use Tretinoin Cream

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Makeup that covers all of the skin on your face can make irritation worse and cause breakouts. Instead, try using concealer on specific spots you want to cover. You can try using foundation again after your skin has completely adjusted to tretinoin cream.[13]Immediately stop using any makeup that causes a bad reaction.