Welcome! In this post I will talk about my personal experience with the constant use of Retin-A/Tretinoin for more than 13 years explaining how it changed my skin forever!
I will show you a few images of me at different ages, trying to demonstrate the before and after while using Retin-A as anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, and anti-acne!
Many women are using Tretinoin cream for wrinkles so I wanted to give you a detailed review, opinion and great tips on how to use it correctly to get the most beneficial effects on your skin!
WHAT IS RETIN -A / TRETINOIN CREAM AND WHAT DOES IT DO TO YOUR SKIN?
Retin-A cream (Tretinoin or Retinoic Acid) is a derivative of Vitamin A and is used mainly to treat acne and skin scars for its power to regenerate the most superficial layer of the epidermis and create new collagen.
In normal cosmetics, you won’t find tretinoin but Retinol, its “weaker” derivative: This substance is not what I want to talk about today, as the concentrations of Vitamin A in Retinol are low and have no scientifically proven effect on wrinkles, as opposite to Retin-A/Tretinoin.
I have been using the Retin A cream/gel at the highest concentration (0.1%, not sold in the UK and Europe) since the age of 29, so I have 13 years of daily-evening-continuous use of retinoic acid on my back and I can safely say (also supported by scientific studies dating back to the 1970s) that:
TRETINOIN / RETINOIC ACID (ACTIVE PRINCIPLE OF RETIN-A) IS THE ONLY CREAM WITH PROVEN ANTI-WRINKLE AND ANTI-AGING PROPERTIES ON THE MARKET. WITHOUT A SHADE OF DOUBT. HARVARD UNIVERSITY ALSO AGREES IN THIS ARTICLE.
I haven’t started using Retin-A/ Tretinoin as an anti-wrinkle aid. My dermatologist prescribed it to me to treat very bad cystic acne that has disfigured me for more than a year and I will talk about it in a separate article.
The side effect that I was not aware of is that in addition to treating acne, it literally turned my skin’s biological clock back by years, erasing the wrinkles I had and preventing new ones from forming. The more I used it consistently (for months/years, the anti-wrinkle results don’t show for a long time) the more the result is evident.
By constantly exfoliating the outer layer of my skin, the Retin-A boosts the production of collagen, necessary to keep a healthy youthful appearance 🙂
I also use some complimentary excellent serums and moisturizers to enhance the results of tretinoin and I speak more in depth about what I’m currently using in my article about the best anti- wrinkle cream for skins over 40.
HOW MUCH DOES THE TRETINOIN COSTS AND HOW LONG IT TAKES TO WORK?
Prices vary a lot from country to country. I lived in Mexico for 2 years and for about 20/30 dollars for a 40 gr tube at 0.1% concentration (lasting about a year), I managed to permanently cancel within 3-4 years 2 deep wrinkles on my forehead that I had at 29. In the USA it costs between $ 50 and $ 100 depending on the type of cream prescribed, in Canada, it costs slightly less.
Retin-A is the best-known trade name for tretinoin, but you can search for the cream under different names, the most common:
Isotretinoin cream /gel
WHERE TO BUY THE TRETINOIN ONLINE AND IN PHARMACIES
It is easier to find Retin-A / Tretinoin in online pharmacies in Canada, the US, and Asia, but be careful that they are legitimate and consider the shipping costs.
It is still worth it because one tube lasts for a long time, but the price might go up. If you can’t find it in your area, check the user reviews first and take a look at the forums. This is a strictly controlled cream and is prescribed for acne, so usually is not prescribed if you ask for it as an anti-wrinkle.
When you find your trusted pharmacy, online or not, do not give it up anymore because at least you are sure of the seriousness of the seller.
Don’t despair though, Tretinoin cream can initially be difficult to find online, but a careful search is enough to find who is (honestly) selling the product. If possible ask for the expiration date and order at least 2 tubes.
If you go on a trip to Mexico (or you know someone who is planning to) take advantage of it! Tretinoin there costs much less than in other places, the quality (I have personally tested it) is good and above all, for a surplus of the price (it costs about 20/30 $ depending on the pharmacy) no prescription is needed.
In tourist areas, you can find it in almost all pharmacies at very low prices. I still have mine for almost a year now.
ADVICE ON ONLINE PHARMACIES:
Be very careful and arm yourself with patience. The online pharmacy business is a jungle full of scams! To find a serious pharmacy follow these tips:
- They require a medical prescription: Sometimes for a higher cost, they prepare your prescription from their certified doctor. These are the sites, in my opinion, where even if you spend more you have a greater guarantee.
- Beware of those who don’t ask for a prescription: A serious pharmacy does not ship potentially harmful drugs without a prescription. Having said that, see the next point, some of them sell legitimate products.
For Tretinoin / Retinoic Acid, if you decide to try online, as well as find a safe pharmacy, depending on what state you live in! It would be better in your state/country but it’s not always possible, you also need to know the trade names used elsewhere. Here is a list:
COMMERCIAL NAMES OF TRETINOIN IN THE USA:
- Retin-A /Retin-A Micro
COMMERCIAL NAMES OF TRETINOIN IN THE UK:
- Tretinoin same (the generic version, identical to Retin-A)
- Iso Tretinoin (Slightly different composition from the original molecule but with comparable results, I tested it at 0.1% and personally found it stronger than normal Tretinoin)
COMMERCIAL NAMES FOR TRETINOIN IN CANADA:
- Stieva-A Cream/Forte/Gel/Solution
- Vitamin A Acid
COMMERCIAL NAMES OF TRETINOIN IN SPAIN:
- Retirides (Until recently they were selling it without a prescription in Spain, not sure if they recently changed it or not)
HOW DOES TRETINOIN WORKS TO REDUCE & ERASE WRINKLES?
On the left a more recent photo, at 42, therefore with more years of active use of Tretinoin. Here you can see how my skin is free from both hyperpigmentation, but also from wrinkles.
After 13 years, I have the color of a vampire, but with a little bit of blush/self-tanning lotion I look human again (and I do not give up enjoying the beach with an SPF 50 ++ protection)
Retin-A/ Tretinoin action is simple: it constantly exfoliates the superficial layer of the skin (which is why it is also used for acne because it helps to avoid the formation of blackheads and cysts).
As an anti-wrinkle, it means that by exfoliating the skin daily, they don’t have time to form, and as a bonus, the skin creates a greater amount of collagen which makes it more:
- PINKISH/HEALTHY COMPLEXION
- A LOT MORE SENSITIVE TO THE SUNLIGHT
- MORE DELICATE/VULNERABLE
As you can see, there are also cons to using Retin-A. Firstly, you can forget about tanning (naturally) on your face. It is highly contraindicated to expose yourself to the sun or even to daylight without sunscreen, even if it is cloudy or you are indoors, but close to the windows.
When I say that Retin-A has erased my wrinkles I don’t mean that my face has a mummified look: D Obviously if I get surprised or laugh or get angry, I get the normal expression lines like everyone else.
But first of all, they are no longer as pronounced as they used to be, but the nice thing is that having a more elastic, younger-looking skin when I don’t use my face muscles everything returns to its place and the expression lines don’t turn into wrinkles.
That’s why I swore eternal love to Tretinoin and I even brought it with me to the Namib desert. I never skip an evening, even when I was sick with malaria! (Yeah, I swear this is the truth)
I could go into the scientific details of why Retin-A (Retinoic Acid / Tretinoin) is so powerful in fighting and preventing skin aging, but I prefer to refer you to scientific articles, supported by decades of experimentation, which therefore have definitely proven tretinoin effectiveness as an anti-wrinkle.
You don’t have to trust me, go to Google and search for the scientific texts on Retin-A, you’ll find plenty of them.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRETINOIN AND RETINOL ANTI-WRINKLE CREAMS
The Retin-A is not to be confused with the RETINOL, which is part of the same family and is present in many cosmetic creams, but its power is not even remotely comparable to that of Tretinoin (Retin-A). The only thing these creams can do is, from personal experience, hydrate the first layer of the epidermis and let some active ingredient penetrate with a visible but temporary improvement of the skin.
If Retin-A, the strongest Vit. A molecule we know takes months (or even years) to produce initially minimal appreciable results, you can imagine what retinol, the much lighter form, can really do in terms of removing wrinkles!
So to close the Retinol parenthesis, I’m not saying that these products (with or without Retinol) are worth nothing. Some creams and serums, which I mention in the article about my best anti-wrinkle creams for women over 40, are very valid products indeed.
What I’m saying is to not trust the promises of significant wrinkle reduction or (visible to the naked eye) improvement in sagging skin.
Appreciate other characteristics such as the sensation of hydration, the temporary firmness of your skin, and much more. But for the real wrinkles ladies … I still rely on my dear old Retin-A.
HOW TO USE TRETINOIN TO AVOID IRRITATION AND MAXIMISE THE ANTI WRINKLE EFFECT?
I remember the first time I had to apply Retin-A on my skin for acne. I was terrified by reading the online reviews about inflammation, flaky skin, redness, very heavy peeling and worsening of the acne itself in the first few months. It took me two weeks to find the courage to try (now I’m so glad I did!).
Everything I read was more or less true, at least in the first few months. But (and it’s a big BUT) … it’s possible to minimize these side effects and get through the weeks when the skin is adapting with only minimal issues.
Here’s How I Did It!
1| I STARTED USING THE LOWEST CONCENTRATION (0.01%):
You need to be patient. Retin-A is more of a “skin marathon”, rather than a sprint. In Italy, the versions on the market (both in cream and in gel) are 0.010%, 0.025%, 0.05%.
The concentration that I use now after years is 0.1% (bought in Mexico) and is the strongest you can find. Don’t worry, when the skin is not used to the tretinoin, even the lowest % are totally fine, actually, they are recommended. If you’ve never applied Retin-A, start with the 0.010/0.025% concentration.
2| I USE A VERY LITTLE AMOUNT (A PEA SIZE QUANTITY IS SUFFICIENT FOR THE WHOLE FACE)
The classic mistake we all make (including me!): To think that if you abound in applications, the results come sooner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that but it is also counterproductive because it creates irritation, hence it is necessary to leave the skin alone for a few days, disturbing the continuity of the treatment. I use a tiny bit for the whole face. That’s why Retin-A if stored well, lasts up to a year, and you save money without destroying your skin. The results will come none the less, don’t worry!
3|I INITIALLY AVOIDED THE EYE AREA AND THE NECK
Some women never apply Retin-A on the eye area. I try from time to time but I’m hesitant because initially, the result is terrifying in my case: The skin under my eyes gets super wrinkly from the dryness and flaking.
To fix this, I put on a little moisturizer, and then I carefully massage the retin-A from my cheeks up under the eyes. It doesn’t have the same regenerative effects but I can see some results. However, when you are starting out, I’d avoid that area.
4| I STARTED WITH 2 APPLICATIONS PER WEEK SO THE SKIN COULD ADJUST GRADUALLY
Like we use to say in Italy, those who go slowly go healthy and far. Don’t rush it and put it on every night. Test how your skin reacts, as it takes several days to see it, even after just one application. If you don’t immediately see any irritation or peeling, don’t put it on again because “it doesn’t do anything to me”.
The first month, try twice a week if your skin can handle it (a minimum of flaking, in the beginning, is normal and it means that the skin is adapting and the Retin-A is doing its job).
The next month switch to 3 times a week until you apply it every night without adverse effects. I have been applying it every day for years and have no (visible) flaking or redness because I have accustomed my skin gradually over the course of 13 years.
5| IF THE SKIN IS IRRITATED, I DISCONTINUE FOR 2 DAYS AND USE A REPAIRING CREAM.
Despite all the precautions, sometimes it happens that the skin is more sensitive or dry and becomes irritated with the use of Retin-A. In this case, I stop for about 2 days and let the skin rest, while I pamper it with repairing cream (to avoid infections if there are skin cracks in the corners of the mouth).
The Connettivina cream is FANTASTIC, it is pure Hyaluronic acid and helps the skin to regenerate in no time, leaving it hydrated. It is the only thing I use if I have it at home, along with pure organic coconut oil, if my skin is irritated by Retin-A. Click on the images to see and buy the products.
6| I DIDN’T GIVE UP WHEN MY SKIN INITIALLY WORSENED
You know what they say: before it gets better, it gets worse. This is indeed a valid concept when applied to Tretinoin. The before and after results are broken by an intermediate “bad” phase. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. Except in rare cases of skins that can withstand everything, you will see your skin worsening from about 2 weeks to 2 months.
Dry skin, which peels more or less markedly, preventing you from using foundation and powders without it being noticed, and also a sudden worsening of acne. This is what you should expect in the first few months. But seriously, DO NOT GIVE UP!
It is not exactly a walk in the park, but it can be overcome, knowing that in the end, you’ll have smooth skin like a peach, rosy, without spots and without marked wrinkles!
Why does this happen? First of all, the skin is getting used to a much faster cell turnover than usual and finds itself exposed to atmospheric agents, sun, and pollution, so it gets irritated.
The superficial layer of the skin is exfoliated daily and for those with oily skin, there are also acne issues. All the “dirt” under your skin comes to the surface, giving you unsightly pimples.
Fortunately, Retin-A has an incredible power to accelerate the healing of these pimples and spots, using it every day, after a few weeks of “pizza face”, you won’t even need to put foundation on if you really don’t like it. Once the pimples and flaking phase has passed, the skin looks almost perfect. Actually, you should take some before and after pictures to remember what you went through (I wish I did!)
I remember after the first 2 years of constant use, the worsening phase for me lasted 4 months due to horrible acne, then almost suddenly the spots, pimples, and scars disappeared and the skin was so radiant that several people made remarks on how beautiful and radiant my skin looked. No one in my life had ever commented positively on my skin before.
8| I CLEAN THE FACE WELL AND APPLY THE TRETINOIN ONLY WHEN THE SKIN IS COMPLETELY DRY.
A very important action that is often forgotten or overlooked. Why use Retin-A only on super dry skin? Because the residual moisture means that a greater amount of product is absorbed, irritating the skin and making the flaking more visible.
9| I AVOID APPLYING OTHER CREAMS BEFORE / AFTER THE USE OF TRETINOIN
I give you this advice based on my personal experience. There are people who, after putting on Retin-A, allow enough time for the skin to absorb it completely (about 20-30 min) and then apply their anti-wrinkle or moisturizer cream. I avoid it carefully for a couple of reasons:
1) I have oily skin and although initially, I feel that the Tretinoin is drying my face, during the night my skin balances it all out by producing enough oil to compensate.
In the morning, I wash my face with warm water, eliminating any residual flaking and oil and I treat my skin well with the creams and serums I talk about in the article on the best anti-wrinkle cream after 40 years.
2) I don’t want to minimize the effect and benefits of Retin-A: Although the skin has absorbed everything, adding other products (depending on what you use) could affect the cell regeneration work that Retin-A is doing, so to stay on the safe side I avoid mixing 2 products together.
I only do it when I put the cream around the eye area before putting on the Retin A. NEVER AFTER: I did it once and some product migrated to the eye area giving me a “beautiful” wrinkled skin the next morning. But if it happens don’t worry, it’s a transitory effect.
10| I PROTECT THE SKIN FROM THE SUN WITH THE HIGHEST SPF, AND USE PHYSICAL FILTERS (ZINC OXIDE)
This is of paramount importance. As already explained, Retin-A and the sun do not get along, they are actually sworn enemies.
Remember, when you use Tretinoin you are missing the first layer of skin, the protective one, made up mostly of dead cells. So the sensitivity to the sun increases exponentially putting you at risk not only of burns and irritation but also of more serious problems.
Therefore I highly recommend one of the sunscreens with physical zinc oxide filters for the face. FURTHER READING: Unmissable mineral sunscreens to have a younger skin.
Anyways, any sunscreen is better than nothing until you find the right one for your face. ALWAYS use it even if it’s cloudy or raining.
The harmful rays, the UVA, always pass even if there is no sun. If you don’t feel like using solar 365 days a year, then you better not use Retin-A. You would do more damage to your skin than anything else.
You need to be very careful, tretinoin is not your common anti-wrinkle cream (and that is why Retin A is the best there is, but you shouldn’t use it lightly).
SO WOMEN WITHOUT WRINKLES AT 40/50 ALL USE RETIN-A?
Ok the makeup and the right lights, but you can see that the skin of this FIFTY-YEAR OLD woman is in excellent condition, it doesn’t take much to see it.
When you see Hollywood stars like Jennifer Aniston still having great skin in their 50s, their REAL secrets can only be the ones listed below. In combination or individually:
- They won the genetic lottery (it’s rare but it happens, lucky them, my skin sucks).
- They use Botox (more or less extreme, in some cases you can barely notice, in others it is terrifying).
- They have been using Retin A, probably for decades, with admirable consistency, every night.
- They undergo aggressive peels like TCA (I will create a specific post about it because I also tried it).
- Constant use of very high protection sunscreens even in cloudy conditions or in winter.
- They had a facelift in combination (or not) with the points mentioned above.
Another necessary premise: I’m not here to preach. I know people who don’t really care about wrinkles and are also proud of them (ok … maybe the only really credible one was my grandmother), but some women are not particularly worried/obsessed with them anyway.
While others, like me, are keen to keep their skin in good condition, as far as nature and genetics allow it, because sooner or later we all age, let’s face it 🙂 Why am I saying this? Very simple.
Because all the creams, lotions, and miraculous serums advertised out there (although some are valid in improving the appearance of the skin) DO NOT ERASE REAL WRINKLES THAT ARE ALREADY THERE. FORGET IT.
I know people who spend their salaries on creams from famous brands that promise to erase wrinkles, pull up the skin, and even plump it (are we serious ?!), all this in 30 mg little tubes for “only” 150 euros, and then they criticize those who use Botox.
Such misinformation that Botox is often confused with Hyaluronic Acid injections which, if done badly, give the mouse/hamster effect: D
I have heard comments on photos of celebrities clearly using Hyaluronic Acid fillers with a “Look at her, she ruined her face with all that botox!”
Those who criticize are often women who buy super expensive creams, which should be used to achieve the same result (fewer wrinkles, younger / fresher face).
A result that is obtained with the Botox they criticize so much (because they associate it with the mummified look of some celebrities?).
Botox, compared to my beloved Retin-A gives immediate results that last for at least 3-4 months. Without ruining anything. The Retin-A is not immediate but just as effective in the long run and doesn’t cost that much. In short, I find the reasoning of those who criticize these methods and then buy expensive creams hypocritical.
If you don’t love your wrinkles and you know of a proven method (Retin-A and/or Botox) that gives you real results, why spend hundreds of dollars on “anti-wrinkle” creams and criticize those who use the methods that really work? In the end, you spend a LOT less and you get what you really want.
Anti-aging creams and serums, the good ones, do work, and in fact, I recommend them, but only to improve the appearance of the skin, and prevent further damage. They do not plump anything, unfortunately. Better buy a few targeted but good products!
And here we are at the end (for now!) of this article. I wanted to post the most frequently asked questions also related to the use of Retinoic Acid for severe acne, but I will be posting a dedicated article, avoiding any mix-up.
Have you ever tried Retin-A? Do you have any before and after to share? Leave a comment, or if you have any doubts, let me know and I will try to help!
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