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Practical Tips for Retinoids

Retinoids are chemical compounds derived from Vitamin A.

Oral retinoids are used to treat various skin conditions like acne and rosacea. 

 Topical retinoid creams help minimize fine lines/wrinkles, reducing pigmentation, treat acne and even help prevent precancerous lesions.  Overall, they are a useful tool in improving skin health.

 Topical retinoid creams may require a prescription.  There are also over-the-counter skin care lines that contain ‘retinol’ that have good evidence as well.

 Topical retinoids sometimes get a ‘bad rap’ due to local reactions such as:

  • Redness
  • Dryness/peeling
  • Irritation/burning

It’s important to note most of these side effects are short lived and peak during the first 1-2 weeks of treatment.  They will decrease over time.  Higher concentrations may increase the likelihood of side effects.

 Practical Tips for Application

  • “Less is more”…use a pea sized amount
  • Spread thinly over entire face, avoid ‘spot treatment’
  • Take care to avoid eyes, mouth, and nostrils
  • Follow up with a moisturizer
  • Start using twice a week increasing to every other night with goal of nightly application as tolerated
  • Ensure you’re using a minimum SPF 30 sunscreen daily

Tips to reduce irritation

  • Ensure face completely dry prior to application, eg. wait 10-15min after washing face before applying
  • Avoid using harsh skin care products eg. scrubs
  • Short contact application for an hour or 2 is an option if significant irritation develops
  • If you develop significant irritation, stop treatment for 1-3 days, moisturize liberally, then reintroduce the cream for 30-60min at a time, slowly increasing for longer intervals as tolerated