Retin-A ( Tretinoin or Retinoic Acid)
Is a derivative of Vitamin A and is used mainly to treat acne and acne scars for its power to regenerate the top layer of the epidermis and, over time, to create new collagen.
In cosmetics, however, its weaker derivative is used: Retinol which is not what I want to talk about today, as the concentrations are so low as to have no perceptible effect on wrinkles.
I have used 0.1% tretinoin cream, the highest concentration (not available in most of Europe), since 29. So, to date, it’s 16 years of continuous use, and I can say with certainty, supported by scientific evidence, that:
Tretinoin / retinoic acid (the active ingredient in Retin-A) is the only cream with real anti-wrinkle properties on the market. A Harvard study also states this in this article.
Very Important Premises:
I haven’t started using Retin-A for this purpose. A doctor prescribed it for me to treat a terrible episode of nodulocystic acne, which has disfigured me for more than a year (more on this in a separate article).
The side effect I wasn’t aware of was that it not only cured my acne but also set my skin’s biological clock back years. Tretinoin erased the wrinkles I had and prevented new ones from forming. The more you use tretinoin consistently (I’m talking about years), the more remarkable the results will be.
Retin-A is a drug, not a wrinkle cream to spread on the face. You can’t take it lightly. There are contraindications and side effects that you need to be aware of. Remember that it should not be used if you are pregnant and do not plan to use sunscreen every day.
Tretinoin is also an excellent ally to prepare the skin for strong peels, such as TCA peels and other types of chemical peels. You can read related articles by clicking on the links.
How Does Retin-A Work To Reduce/Erase Wrinkles?
Above is a more recent photo, aged 42, with more years of using tretinoin. You can see that the skin is free from hyperpigmentation and wrinkles. After 13 years, I’m pretty white, but with blush or self-tanners, I look human again, and I don’t give up the pleasure of a day at the beach using SPF 50 ++++ sunscreen.
How Retin-A Works as anti-wrinkle:
The action of Retin-A is simple: it constantly exfoliates the superficial layer of the skin. That is why it is also used against acne, preventing the formation of blackheads and cysts.
By exfoliating the skin daily, wrinkles don’t have time to develop or deepen. As a bonus, Retin-A also helps with collagen production by making the skin:
- MUCH MORE SENSITIVE TO THE SUN
- MORE DELICATE
As you can see, there are also drawbacks to using Retin-A. As a first step, you can forget to have a natural tan on your face.
It is dangerous to expose yourself to the sun or even daylight without sunscreen, even if it is cloudy or inside the house but near the windows. There is also a higher melanoma risk rate if proper precautions are not used.
When I say that Retin-A has erased my wrinkles, I don’t mean that I have a mummified face: D
Of course, I have dynamic wrinkles like anyone else if I’m surprised, laugh or get angry, but they’re not as pronounced as they used to be. The great thing is that having more elastic skin, similar to younger skin, when “I don’t grimace,” everything falls into place, and wrinkles leave no marks.
That’s why I swore eternal love at the Tretinoin and even took it to the Namibian desert. I don’t skip one night, even when I had malaria! (Yep, no kidding!)
I could go into the scientific details of why Retin-A (retinoic acid/tretinoin) is so powerful in fighting and preventing skin aging.
However, I prefer to refer to scientific articles supported by decades of experimentation, which have definitively proven the effectiveness of Retin-A. Bottom line: you don’t have to trust me. Go to Google and search for scientific texts on Retin-A. There are plenty of them!
How much does Retin-A cost, and How Long does it take to See The Benefits?
Prices may vary by country. I lived in Mexico for two years and bought 0.1% Retin A at about $ 20-30 for a 40g tube (which lasted about a year).
In the United States, Retin-A / Tretinoin costs $ 50 to $ 100 depending on the type of cream prescribed; in Canada slightly less.
After 3-4 years of daily use, tretinoin has permanently erased two deep forehead lines that I had since the age of 29, and now, at 45, I no longer have wrinkles in that area.
Retin-A is the best-known trade name, but you can search for the cream by several names, the most common:
- Tretinoin Same cream/gel
- Isotretinoin cream/gel
- Airol cream
Where To Buy Tretinoin Online
Important Notice: Only evaluate online pharmacies if you are fully aware of this medicine’s risks and side effects.
Due to abuse by irresponsible consumers, it is now very difficult to find Retin-A online. I advise you to consult your family doctor/dermatologist and read carefully about how to use Retin-A correctly.
It’s easier to find Retin-A / Tretinoin in online pharmacies in Canada, America, Asia, and Spain, but check if the companies are legitimate and consider the shipping costs.
In my opinion, it is still worth it, considering the product’s durability, but the price goes up. Check the user reviews first and read the dedicated forums.
Tretinoin is a strictly controlled cream used for medical purposes (mainly for acne) and is usually not prescribed if you ask for it as an anti-wrinkle.
When you find your favorite pharmacy, online or not, do not change it because you are sure of the seriousness of the seller.
If you go to Mexico (or know someone who lives there), take advantage of it! Retin-A costs a lot less than other places, and the quality is top-notch (I’ve tested it myself). You don’t need a doctor’s prescription if you pay a surcharge (which costs $ 10 to $ 20 depending on the pharmacy). You can find it in almost all pharmacies at low prices in tourist areas.
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 should require a prescription:
Sometimes, they make it for you from their certified doctor for a higher cost. These are the sites, in my opinion, where you have a better guarantee, even if you spend a bit more.
Be wary of companies who don’t ask for a prescription
A serious online pharmacy will not sell potentially harmful drugs without a prescription. That said, some sell legitimate products and are trustworthy.
Search online forums about this topic:
With real users and real advice. They also indicate scams, if the products are shipped, if they are of quality, etc. If you want to buy Retin-A online, you must find a safe pharmacy, and it’s not always located in your country, so you should know the commercial names used abroad. Here is a list:
US Tretinoin commercial Names:
- Retin-A /Retin-A Micro
UK Tretinoin Commercial Names:
- Tretinoin same (generic tretinoin medication, identical to Retin-A)
- Iso Tretinoin (Slightly different composition at the chemical molecule level but with comparable results, I tested it at 0.1% and personally found it stronger than regular Tretinoin)
Canada Tretinoin Commercial Names:
- Stieva-A Cream/Forte/Gel/Solution
- Vitamin A Acid
Spain Tretinoin Commercial Names:
- Retirides (Until recently, they sold the medicine without prescription in Spain, try to ask people who live there or have bought Retin A in Spain in the past few months)
Difference Between Retin-A and Retinol Creams
Retin-A (drug) is not to be confused with retinol, which is part of the retinoid family and is present in several cosmetic creams. However, its power is not remotely comparable to that of retinoic acid (Retin-A). From personal experience, these creams can slightly exfoliate the first layer of the epidermis and make some active ingredients penetrate better.
If Retin-A, in the pharmaceutical form at maximum concentration, takes months (or even years) to give initially minimal results, let alone if Retinol, the much lighter form, can give concrete results in terms of wrinkles.
So, to wrap up the parenthesis on Retinol, I’m not saying these products are useless. Some, which I mention in the article about my best wrinkle cream, are very good.
Just don’t trust the promises of wrinkle reduction or improvement (visible to the naked eye) of sagging skin. Appreciate other features such as the feeling of hydration it leaves, the temporary firmness, and more. But for wrinkles, ladies, rely on our good old Retin-A.
How to Use Retin-A, Avoiding Side Effects & Getting Maximum Results?
I remember the first time I had to apply Retin-A for acne. I was terrified of online reviews about inflammation, flaking skin like a python, redness, heavy peeling, and worsening acne in the first few months. It took me two weeks to get to try it (and luckily, I did).
Everything I read was more or less true, at least in the first few months. But (and that’s a big but) you can minimize these side effects and get through the weeks your skin adapts without any issues.
1| USE THE LOWEST CONCENTRATION AVAILABLE:
You have to be patient. Retin-A is a marathon for the skin, not a sprint. In Italy, the concentration on the market for both cream and gel is (in 2022) 0.05%.
When I started, there were lower concentrations, but we can get around this issue if you don’t find a lower % in your country.
The one I use now after years is 0.1 % and is the strongest ever but is not sold in Italy. Don’t worry; when the skin is not used to tretinoin, a lower % is fine. If you have never applied Retin-A, start with the lowest concentration you can find.
I don’t advise mixing a higher strength of Retin-A with moisturizer; you’ll not know how much you’re applying and can’t control the process to accustom your skin to it.
2| USE VERY LITTLE (A TIP ON ONE FINGER IS ENOUGH FOR THE WHOLE FACE)
Almost everyone is wrong in thinking that if you use more product, the results come sooner. Wrong! It is also counterproductive because it creates irritation, and it is necessary to leave the skin alone for a few days, disturbing the continuity of the treatment. I use a small amount all over my face. Retin-A, if stored well, lasts up to a year. The results will come, don’t worry!
3|INITIALLY, DON’T APPLY TRETINOIN TO THE NECK AND UNDER THE EYE AREA
These areas have the most delicate and thin skin, so initially, they should not be touched by Retin-A.
Some people never apply Retin-A to the eye area. I try it sporadically, but I am hesitant because, initially, the result is terrifying: The skin under my eyes is filled with wrinkles from dryness and flaking.
To avoid this, I first put on a moisturizer and then bring up the Retin-A under my eyes. It will not have the same regenerative effects, but I can see results. Initially, however, you should avoid the eye area.
4| START WITH 2 TIMES A WEEK TO LET THE SKIN GRADUALLY GET USED TO IT
Again, slow and steady wins the race. You don’t launch into putting it on every night. Test how your skin reacts, and it takes several days to see it even after just one application. So if you don’t immediately see yourself reddened/irritated or flaky, don’t put it on again because “it doesn’t do anything to me.”
In the first month, try two times a week if your skin can handle it (a little flaking is there at first anyway, which means the skin is adapting and the Retin-A is doing its job).
The following month increase the applications to 3 times a week until your skin can tolerate it every night without side effects.
I have been applying it every day for years and have no (visible) flaking or redness because I have gradually become accustomed to it over 15 years.
5| IF SKIN BECOMES IRRITATED, DISCONTINUE 2 DAYS AND USE CONNETTIVINA
Despite all precautions, it sometimes happens that the skin is more sensitive or dry and gets irritated with the use of Retin-A. In this case, I stop for about two days and let the skin rest while I pamper it with the Connettivina Plus to avoid infection if the skin splits at the corners of the mouth.
Connettivina is AMAZING. It is pure Hyaluronic acid and helps the skin regenerate in no time, leaving it moisturized. It’s THE only thing I use, along with ‘Pure Organic Coconut Oil if I have skin irritated by Retin-A. It is sold in pharmacies or on Amazon. Click on the Images to see and buy the products.
6| DON’T GIVE UP IF YOU SEE YOURSELF GETTING WORSE!
You know what they say: You get worse before you get better. This is a valid concept when applied to Retin-A. Except in rare cases, with skins that will endure anything, your skin might get worse for about two weeks to 2 months.
Dry skin, which flakes more or less markedly, preventing you from using foundation and powders without it being noticeable, and also a sudden worsening of acne. This is what you have to expect in the first few months.
Why does this happen? First, the skin is becoming accustomed to much faster cell turnover than usual, is more exposed to the elements, sun, and pollution, and tends to become irritated.
The surface layer of the skin is exfoliated daily, and for those with oily skin, there is also an acne problem. All the “dirt” under covered by that layer of the skin comes to the surface, giving you unsightly pimples and cysts.
Fortunately, Retin-A has incredible power to speed up the healing of pimples and blemishes if you use it every day. After a few weeks of “pizza face” you won’t even need to put on foundation if you don’t like it. The skin, when past the pimples and flaking phase, is almost perfect.
I remember my bad phase lasted four months because I already had a horrible acne, then almost suddenly, the skin became so radiant that several people pointed it out to me. And never in my life had anyone made positive comments about my skin. EVER.
8| CLEAN YOUR FACE AND PUT ON RETIN-A ONLY WHEN IT IS COMPLETELY DRY.
Very important action, often forgotten. Why use Retin-A only with super-dry skin? Because moisture residue causes more of the product to be absorbed, irritating the skin and making flaking more visible.
9| AVOID PUTTING CREAMS BEFORE OR AFTER PUTTING ON RETIN-A
I give you this advice based on my experience. After putting on Retin-A, some people allow enough time for the skin to have absorbed it completely (about 20-30 min) and then apply their anti-wrinkle cream or moisturizer. The “Sandwich Method.”
I carefully avoid it for a couple of reasons:
1) I have skin that tends to be oily, and although I initially feel that the Tretinoin is drying out my skin as soon as I put it on, overnight, my skin balances it out by producing enough oil to compensate. In the morning, I wash my face well with lukewarm water, removing any flaking, and treat my skin well with the creams and serums I talk about in the article about 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 it all, adding other products (depending on what you use) could affect the cell regeneration work that Retin-A is doing, so to be safe, I avoid mixing products.
I only do this when I put the cream in the eye area before the Retin-A. NEVER AFTER: I did this once, and some of the product migrated into the eye area, giving me beautiful, wrinkled skin the next morning. But if it happens, don’t worry. It is a transient effect.
10| USE SUNSCREEN OFTEN!
This step is the most important one. As already explained, Retin-A and the sun do not get along. I dare say they are bitter enemies. Remember that when you use Retinoic Acid, you are missing a layer of skin. The “stratum corneum” a protective layer made of dead skin cells.
Sun sensitivity increases exponentially, putting you at risk of burns, irritation, and more serious problems. So I highly recommend one of the sunscreens with physical Zinc Oxide filters for the face.
Any sunscreen is better than none until you find the right one for your face. ALWAYS use it even if it is cloudy or raining. The harmful rays, UVA, always come through even without the 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. Lots and lots of attention! is a medication, not just any cream (which is why, as an anti-wrinkle, Retin A beats no one)
So Who Doesn’t Have Wrinkles at 40/50 Years of Age Use Retin-A!
Ok, the makeup and the right lighting, but you can see that this woman’s skin is in very good condition. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure that out.
When you see Hollywood stars a la Jennifer Aniston still with fabulous skin at 50, their REAL secrets can only be these listed below. In combination or individually:
- They won the genetic lottery (it’s rare, but it happens, lucky them, I have bad skin).
- They use Botox (more or less extreme, in some cases not noticeable, in others terrifying).
- They have been using Retin A, probably for decades, with admirable consistency, every night.
- They undergo peels as aggressive as TCA (post separately because I experienced it once).
- Consistent use of ultra-high protection sunscreens even in cloudy conditions or in winter.
- They did the facelift in combination with the previously mentioned points.
Another necessary premise:
I am not writing the article to lecture anyone. I know people who highly don’t give a damn about wrinkles and are even proud of them (okay…maybe the only really believable one was my grandmother), but some women, however, are not particularly concerned/obsessed with them.
While others, like me, care about keeping their facial skin in good condition, as much as nature and genetics may allow, because sooner or later we all get old, let’s face it 🙂 Why did I make this premise? Very simple.
Because all the miraculous creams, lotions and serums we are offered by advertisements ( as good as some are in improving the appearance of the skin) DO NOT CANCEL OR ATTENUATE THE WRINKLES THAT ARE ALREADY PRESENT. FORGET IT.
I know people who spend a fortune on famous brand creams that promise to erase wrinkles, pull up the skin, and even plump it up (seriously?!), maybe in 30mg packs for “only” 150 euros, and then maybe criticize those who do Botox.
Such misinformation that Botox is often confused with Hyaluronic Acid injections, which, if done incorrectly, give the effect of a mouse/ hamster 😀 Very often, I have heard comments on photos of starts stuffed with Hyaluronic Acid with a ” Look at this one, WITH ALL THE BOTOX THAT WAS MADE UP!”
Those who criticize are often the ones who buy the super-expensive creams, which are supposed to achieve the same result (fewer wrinkles, younger/fresh face).
A result you get with that Botox they criticize so much (why do they confuse it with the stars’ mummy faces? Bah!), which gives immediate results that last for at least 3-4 months. Without ruining anything at all. And then there is Retin-A, much less immediate but just as effective! In short, the reasoning of those who criticize and then buy expensive creams I find ridiculous and hypocritical.
If you don’t love your wrinkles and a proven method (Retin-A and/or Botox) gives you certain results, why spend hundreds on “anti-wrinkle” creams and criticize those who use the methods that work? On balance, you spend MUCH less and get what you want.
Anti-aging creams and serums, the good ones, work, and I recommend them to improve the appearance of the skin and prevent other damage. They don’t flatten anything, unfortunately. Better a few targeted but good products!
And here we come to the end (for now!) of this article. I was going to post frequently asked questions about Retinoic Acid’s use for severe acne, but I thought I would prepare a second dedicated article. Otherwise, I risk confusing you!
Have you ever tried Retin-A? If yes, leave me your experience in the comments, or if you have any doubts, leave a comment below, and I’ll try to answer you as best I can!