Our patients often ask us, "What is Retin A?" They have heard of it, perhaps read about its benefits in magazines, tried it as teenagers, or seen over-the-counter formulations in the drug store. However, Retin A remains a mystery to many people. Its a great medication for both fighting acne AND fighting wrinkles, so here is what you need to know to understand that answer to the question, what is Retin A?
Retin A is just one example of a medication from the group of medications called topical retinoids. It is perhaps the most famous, but certainly not the only retinoid available. Other commonly used retinoids are Tazorac, Differin, Atralin, Retin-A Micro, Ziana, and tretinoin (the generic form).
All retinoids work by a similar mechanism of regulating skin cell turnover, therefore preventing the buildup of bacteria-attracting debris in the skin's pores.
Retinoids are anti-aging because, while they stimulate skin cell turnover to prevent acne, they also speed up the turnover of collagen and elastin-building cells. This leads to healthier collagen and smoother skin, with prevention of future fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, retinoids can help to even out uneven pigmentation by the same mechanism - speeding up turnover of unwanted pigmented cells.
Retin A and other retinoids have a bad reputation for being too drying; when used properly, this is not the case. Most retinoids should be used in the evening. Apply only a pea-size amount for the entire face and moisturizer immediately after applying. If you feel that your skin is dry or sensitive, start by using the retinoid only 3 times a week, and increase to nightly as tolerated.
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