Since the introduction of retinoids, they have been increasingly used for many skin disease and conditions. Recently they have gained popularity for their anti-aging and younger looking properties. Commonly used retinoid, tretinoin (Retin-A) has been shown to reverse the aging process due to sun damage. Tretinoin (Retin-A) and other retinoids are now considered as gold standard for the treatment of anti-aging relates issues like reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and dark/brown spots. When commonly used in combination with hydroquinone, Retin-A give pretty good results for dark spots, melasma and other pigmentary disorders.

Many people just give up retinoid few weeks after they start using because they can’t stand the irritation or other temporary side effects that can be seen during initial few weeks. However, if you use retinoids in a right way, you can minimize most, if not all, of these side effects and get a younger looking skin. If you follow these tips, Retin-A can be easily accepted by your skin without any irritation or side effects so you don’t have to suffer too long to look good.

1. Start Low and slow

If you are using Retin-A for the first time, you may want to start low and slow. Start with the low dose every 2 days for 1-2 weeks then slowly increasing to every alternate day for few weeks, then to everyday. When your skin adapts low dose well, then only you go one step higher dose. Most people just apply excess retinoid hoping for a magic result and wake up to lots of irritation and side effects. Starting with the low dose gives your skin time to adjust to the product, minimizing irritation and other side effects associated with retinoids. It doesn’t matter if you are using cream or gels; all it matters is start low and slow.

2. Use only a pea-sized amount

When starting off with the retinoids, the less the better. Using excess product will not do any magic. Just imagine that you are using a face cream that costs million dollars, be greedy when you apply. Squeeze the retinoid about a pea size in amount and apply sparingly on the entire face or as desired. Gently massage into the skin, and never apply to your eyelids or lip. You may however use below the eye for dark circles and under eye wrinkles. Retin-A can be applied to neck, hands and legs too, just be sure to apply sunscreen to avoid possible side effects.

3. Only during nights

Retinoids can make your skin sensitive to UV radiation, so it’s best to use before bed. Be sure to wash your face and dry before applying a pea-sized retinoid on your face. If you want to minimize the irritation, remember; no more than one application per day. Never use retinoids during day.

4. Sun avoidance and broad-spectrum sunscreen

Strict sun avoidance and broad-spectrum sunscreen is must. Try to avoid sun, if it’s not possible try to avoid mid-day sun 11 am-3pm. Always apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or more wherever you are, doesn’t matter in the sun or shadow. If you don’t follow strict sun avoidance you skin may undergo changes that can be very ugly and permanent.

5. Avoid mixing other creams for few weeks

If you are using other topical creams or medications make sure they don’t interact each other. Also, AHAs and BHAs make retinoid more potent and more likely to irritate. Make sure to avoid AHAs and BHAs for few weeks, unless otherwise directed by your dermatologist. Later if your skin can tolerate those you may use it to increase the efficacy of retinoids. Remember; always go slow and one at a time if you are adding any new product to your skin care regimen.

How to use Retin-A

How to use Retin-A

6. Wait before you apply retinoids

When we wash our face, we rub and disturb natural skin barrier, so immediate application of retinoids may cause more skin irritation. It’s good to wait at-least 10-15 minutes before you apply retinoid, so the skin gets time to recover and ready to accept tretinoin or other retinoids.

7. Add good moisturizers if needed

As Retin-A can make your skin very dry, you may apply good moisturizers to compensate it. After you apply Retin-A, wait 20-30 minutes then you apply moisturizers. However, if you are experiencing irritation, you may mix retinoids with moisturizers to further reduce its strength. You may either use moisturizers before, after or together to reduce its strength which will be easily tolerable.

8. Take a break

If you think you can’t tolerate and your face is very red and flaky, take a break for a week or so. Then resume application slow and low at alternate nights, gradually increasing to daily basis. This will avoid any discomfort and side effects and help your skin adjust to retinoid.

9. Be patient

You should understand that retinoids takes time to work. If you are treating acne, it might not take that long to see the result, but if you are treating for pigmentation disorders like melasma or fine line and wrinkle, you should wait at-least 2-3 months to see the result. The effectiveness may vary according to individual skin. So it takes a lot of patience, some people get good results within few weeks while others may have to wait months. On average satisfactory results can be obtained within 6 months of therapy.