Dr. Aysha Butt is the Medical Director of FROM MARS, and is a GP Partner at Woodcote NHS Medical Practice.
If you have acne you’ll know about the huge range of acne treatments out there. You’ll also know that some of these are far more effective than others. But did you know that tretinoin is one of the effective ones? In fact, it’s one of the best treatments for acne you can buy.
If you have acne you need to know about tretinoin. In this essential tretinoin 101 guide we’ll explain what tretinoin is, how it works and what its benefits are.
What is tretinoin and what does tretinoin cream do?
Tretinoin is a topical medication that was developed to treat acne. You apply it directly to the affected skin, usually as a gel or a cream. It belongs to a class of drugs called retinoids, which are a group of compounds based on vitamin A – you can think of tretinoin as a type of synthetic vitamin A. Tretinoin is also sometimes called retinoic acid and you may see it being sold as retinoic acid cream or gel.
For many people tretinoin is one of the most effective treatments for acne available. It’s scientifically proven to help clear acne up and make outbreaks less likely. Interested? We don’t blame you.
Is tretinoin available in the US?
You can buy tretinoin in the US, but only with a prescription from a doctor. Tretinoin isn’t an everyday skin product. It’s a prescription medication so you can’t buy it over the counter. You need to have a consultation with a doctor, either face-to-face or online where they’ll assess your situation and explain tretinoin to you. If the doctor feels tretinoin is suitable for you they’ll issue you with a prescription.
How does tretinoin work?
You get acne when the follicles in your skin become blocked, usually by dead skin cells and the oil your skin produces called sebum. This causes blackheads and whiteheads to form. If the bacteria that naturally live on your skin feed on the blockage in a blackhead or whitehead the follicle can become infected and inflamed, leading to more serious forms of acne. Tretinoin has been shown to stop this from happening in three ways:
- Your skin cells are regularly replaced, old skin cells are shed and new ones grow in their place. Tretinoin can speed up how quickly this happens, helping to literally push whiteheads and blackheads out of your skin.
- Tretinoin can also remove dead skin cells and sebum from your face, stopping your follicles from becoming blocked and turning into whiteheads and blackheads.
- Tretinoin has also been shown to reduce the inflammation caused by more serious forms of acne.
To put it simply, tretinoin makes you less likely to develop whiteheads and blackheads. It can help remove them and can also reduce inflammation when your spots become infected. It’s no wonder it’s become such a popular acne treatment.
Tretinoin also has a fourth potential benefit for acne. It can increase the rate at which other topical medications get into and help your affected skin.
What are the other benefits of tretinoin?
Tretinoin has been proven to reduce the frequency and severity of acne outbreaks, but that’s not all this wonder medication can do. Research has shown that tretinoin can also increase collagen production and reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles, skin blemishes and areas of discoloration. Tretinoin can even help reduce the appearance of acne scars.
It won’t always work as effectively for everyone, as people respond differently to medications, but if you use tretinoin you can expect to see both a reduction in your acne and an overall improvement in your skin tone and condition.
Acne can take a toll on your confidence and your mental health too. So alongside these physical benefits, having better skin may help you feel more confident and happier in your appearance as well.
How long does it take for tretinoin to work?
This will vary by person, but it can take up to 12 weeks of continuous use for you to see the benefits of tretinoin.
Can you use tretinoin with retinol?
Retinol is like tretinoin and has a similar effect on your skin (although retinols aren’t usually as strong as tretinoin). However, you shouldn’t use them together, as doing so can increase your risk of side effects including dry and red skin, itching, stinging and peeling.
Where can I buy tretinoin cream?
You need a prescription from a doctor to buy tretinoin in the US. You can do this with FROM MARS. Our doctors can give you an online consultation. If approved, you’ll receive a treatment plan in around two hours and we’ll ship your medication to your door within two days.