Welcome to FaceForward
Get the scoop on all things beauty, wellness, and skincare.
Tretinoin is a powerful, well-researched, thoroughly loved (by dermatologists) ingredient used in many topical creams to treat various skin conditions, like acne, hyperpigmentation, and even in the treatment of wrinkles and aging.
The only way to get this beloved medication, however, is through a dermatologist or doctor. Tretinoin is prescription-only.
Luckily, you can now get and fill tretinoin prescriptions online with Nava MD, saving you the hassle of a wait at the doctor and pharmacy, plus the peace of mind knowing a clinician has evaluated your condition. It’s dermatology done from home.
But why is tretinoin so great? How does it work for so many skin conditions, and what do you need to know about this quintessential dermatology tool?
All things tretinoin, this top skincare ingredient, below.
Tretinoin is a synthetic form of vitamin A. It’s a retinoid, one of a group of molecules that consists of vitamin A and its many derivative forms.
You consume foods that contain vitamin A, which are carried to the skin via your bloodstream, but you can also apply retinoids directly to the skin through carrier gels, creams, and lotions. These topical products and ingredients are what do most of the magic.
Retinoids have a strong impact on your epidermis and dermal cells.
When vitamin A reaches the skin, it transforms into retinaldehyde and then into retinoic acid.
It is this retinoic acid that works the magic on your skin cells. It exerts a strong influence on cell processes and gene expression through – surprise – retinoic acid receptors. When you use retinoids topically, they bind to your retinoic acid receptors, which begins a reaction in your skin cells. Retinoids influence the cell lifecycle in the dermis and epidermis, speeding up the process by which they’re created and slough off of your body (a constant process). The cells divide and die more quickly when your retinoic acid receptors are activated. Cell death signals the growth of new cells, which then replace those that have died.
Like tretinoin, retinol is also a form of vitamin A. Both substances are retinoids, so they can both be used to treat similar skin conditions and work in similar ways. However, there are a couple of notable differences between retinol and tretinoin.
The primary difference between the two for skincare purposes is that retinol is not as potent. Tretinoin is generally considered 20x more potent than retinol.
Because tretinoin is stronger, it’s only available with a doctor’s prescription. You can buy products containing the milder retinol in over-the-counter medications and many skin or beauty products. Retinol is found both in stores and online.
While some prescription drugs are hard to come by online, you can get a tretinoin prescription online, making it as convenient as retinol for those who need a stronger form of vitamin A or who want faster and more efficacy.
Tretinoin accelerates the skin cell turnover process. Along the way, it can cause some irritation for new users (called the tretinoin purge). This may not sound very nice, but it’s precisely how tretinoin works and the healing process begins. The regeneration of cells starts with getting rid of those near the surface that aren’t healthy. Where dietary vitamin A must go through your liver and bloodstream before it reaches the skin, topical vitamin A is available immediately. When you apply tretinoin directly to your problem areas, it gets to work right away. Tretinoin is often used to treat:
Topical tretinoin has been around for quite a while, and it’s a well-researched substance. It's quite effective in treating these skin conditions. If you’re fighting any of the common skin conditions above and haven’t seen progress using retinol, you may want to find out whether tretinoin is a good option for you. (Pst: Nava MD can help).
Acne is frustrating at any age. No one likes to wake up to the sight of a pimple proudly and prominently on top of the nose. It’s bad enough when there’s one, but when your face regularly breaks out in a landscape of blackheads, bumps and pustules, it can cause significant emotional distress. Severe acne may also lead to scarring. Understandably, you want to get your acne under control.
Topical tretinoin is an effective acne treatment. It works in two ways. First, it helps to heal existing pimples. While you may notice that your acne gets a little worse over the first few days to a week with tretinoin, this is normal. The red skin and additional bumps are signs that the cell death and regenerative process has started. Most people see their acne start to improve within 4-8 weeks after beginning treatment. The second way tretinoin works on acne is that it inhibits inflammation, so it helps to prevent the formation of new pimples and pustules.
Hyperpigmentation is commonly known as dark spots, areas of the skin that have a darker complexion than others. They can emerge mysteriously due to hormonal changes, as is the case with women who are pregnant, and hyperpigmentation is also common in Black people.
If you’ve noticed these dark patches surfacing on your skin, no doubt you’re concerned and would like to know how to make them disappear. Tretinoin can lighten those pigments. Research shows that topical tretinoin reduces the appearance of abnormally-pigmented skin, significantly lightening patches. In speeding up the cellular regenerative process, it helps to slough off the old cells, allowing new ones to form. You may notice a difference within 60-90 days.
Sun exposure does significant damage to your skin. Even if you aren’t spending hours in the sun unprotected (which hopefully doesn’t describe you), you can still experience the impacts of the sun’s potent ultraviolet rays. Too much sun can eventually result in skin cancer. Other signs of damage include sunspots, leathery-looking skin, and fine wrinkles.
Topical application of tretinoin improves sun-damaged skin in multiple ways, including:
Tretinoin may even help prevent cancerous skin cells from forming, but the research on this is not definitive, as some recent studies contradict early findings on retinoids and cancer cells.
The sun isn’t the only reason people start to see wrinkles and fine lines appear. Getting older does it as well. As we age, our skin begins to lose elasticity due to a decrease in collagen production. Age spots also start to appear. Your genetics and your lifestyle both impact the timing and severity of the appearance of wrinkles and age spots. When they do arise, all is not lost.
Topical tretinoin helps aging skin in the same way it improves sun-damaged skin. Wrinkles fade as collagen production increases and skin cell turnover accelerates, and age spots disappear as melanin production is regulated. Tretinoin can also improve skin color by stimulating blood vessel production in the skin. It should be noted that these processes can take some time, and you may not notice a distinct difference in the appearance of wrinkles until you’ve undergone treatment for four to six months.
Tretinoin can cause your skin to become red, dry, and itchy. This generally occurs when you first start to use the ingredient. These effects should disappear within weeks. You may also experience a light stinging or burning sensation during this time. If you have any of these symptoms, and they become severe or don’t go away, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Likewise, if you get hives or notice pain or swelling at the treatment site, get in touch with your physician right away, as these may indicate an allergy.
At Nava MD, we provide online diagnoses, treatment plans and prescriptions for skin conditions. Our experienced clinicians evaluate your condition and prescribe a personalized treatment geared to your skin and your situation. Our serums are formulated to your situation, and many contain tretinoin alongside other commonly used dermatology ingredients like niacinimade, which can help with inflammation.
With Nava MD, it’s all done online, and your custom formula is then delivered to your doorstep if approved. Complete our free online consultation to get started.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency