Your skin is a complex system of structures and tissues that keeps your other organs safe from the external environment.
It’s also a core part of how you appear to the people around you.
Although things like wrinkles, sunspots, and other signs of aging rarely involve any serious medical complications, you may not like the look on your skin. You might have already tried a few skincare products or over-the-counter treatments with varying degrees of success. But for the most part, your skin will continue to look older as you continue to grow older.
However, if you are eager to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on your skin, there is a prescription-strength cream that may be able to help you.
Tretinoin, also known as retinoic acid, is a form of synthetic vitamin A. You may have seen it sold under brand names such as:
Tretinoin is similar to, but not exactly the same as, another skincare product called retinol. Retinol is a natural form of vitamin A that is available over the counter, while tretinoin is a stronger, synthesized form of vitamin A that a doctor must prescribe.
Tretinoin has long been used primarily for treating acne, but recent research has demonstrated that it may also be helpful for reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sun-damaged skin.
How Tretinoin Works
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many different systems throughout your body, including vision, reproductive health, and immune function.
It also supports your skin health by stimulating the production of elastin and collagen (proteins that give your skin elasticity and structure) and regulating the recycling of skin cells.
Most people get plenty of vitamin A simply by eating meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
Tretinoin creams are applied topically as a way to boost elastin and collagen production—production tends to slow down as you get older, leading to duller and more wrinkly skin.
Tretinoin may also speed up the life cycle of skin cells. This causes older skin cells to die off and be removed, allowing newer skin cells (with healthier amounts of elastin and collagen) to take their place.
Is Tretinoin Safe?
Tretinoin is a strong medicine that requires a prescription from your doctor.
Although it is generally safe for most people, it may cause irritation, especially for people with sensitive skin.
Not enough clinical research has been done yet to conclusively determine if tretinoin is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, so tretinoin may not be advised for people in those situations.
If you experience any irritation, rashes, swelling, or other side effects after applying tretinoin (or any new skincare product), wash it off immediately, discontinue use, and alert your doctor.
But overall, tretinoin is proving to be a safe and effective treatment option for people who want to improve the appearance of their skin.