Retin A – the facts

Retin A (Tretinoin) – Your Questions Answered

What is Retin A made of?

retin a creamRetin A is made of Tretinoin – this is the active pharmaceutical ingredient.

Tretinoin is a form of vitamin A (retinol). Other ingredients in Retin A are non-medicinal.

Where does Retin A come from?

Tretinoin, the active ingredient of Retin A was developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. At the time it held the patent for Retin A. It’s now available in generic form, usually simply called Tretinoin. Other brand names include

  • Retin-A Micro,
  • Atralin,
  • Renova,
  • Avita,
  • Renova Pump.

How does Retin A work?

Retin A works by causing your skin cells to grow and die more rapidly. New cells replace the old ones more quickly. This increased cell turnover helps unclog skin pores and keep them clear. As such, it helps prevent blackheads, whiteheads and pimples from forming and helps them heal more quickly when they do.

How long does Retin A take to work?

Retin A can take a few weeks to work and can even make your skin condition worse initially. Usually you would experience any aggravation in the first 2-4 weeks then start seeing effects by 6-12 weeks. So stick with it!

What are other uses for Retin A?

Tretinoin (brand name Retin-A) is basically a form of vitamin A. It helps the skin renew itself (shedding old cells).

Although Retin A cream is a popular prescription treatment for acne, people use it for other skin-related issues.

For example, it’s the only skin cream proven to reduce fine wrinkles. It also reduces some types of skin discolouration. This includes damage caused by sun damage. It makes the skin feel smoother in general.

It can’t stop the effects of ageing. But it can mitigate some of its effects. e.g, fine wrinkles and some skin darkening.

Retin A treats molluscum – a viral infection causing small wart-like bumps to appear on your skin.

Doctors also prescribe Retin A to reduce stretch-marks and can shrink and flatten acne scars.

Tretinoin (Retin-A) also treats melasma (a kind of patchy skin discolouration) but it can take up to six months to have an effect.

Are there other products that work like Retin A?

Retin A or Tretinoin is a retinoid – a derivative of vitamin A, retinol. Some skin creams contain retinol itself but its effects are not as strong as retinoids like Tretinoin.

There are other retinoids similar to Retin A, such as Tarzorac (tazoretene) and Differin (adapalene). They work in different ways but have the same effects of unblocking skin pores. People use them in topical cream form.

Accutane is the brand name for Isotretinoin, which is another retinoid but one which is taken orally rather than on the skin. Accutance has such severe side effects that it’s only used for very severe acne.

How does one use Retin A?

Usually you’re recommended to use it once a day, usually before going to bed. Firstly, wash your hands and gently clean and dry the area of skin where you’re going to apply it. Then, using your fingers or a gauze pad or cotton pad, spread a small (pea-sized) amount of cream onto the skin in a thin layer.

Only use it on unbroken skin and don’t put it inside your lips or nose or mouth – or get it in your eyes! And don’t put on more than you’ve been directed to. Putting it on more thickly won’t make it more effective but will make your skin more prone to irritation and other side-effects.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Retin A can take a while to have visible effects, usually at least a few weeks. This is because it’s affecting processes inside the skin and its benefits are not immediately apparent. So be patient and keep taking it as long as your doctor recommended.

How does Retin A compare to other skin treatments?

Most topical treatments for acne are either retinoids or antibiotics, which work in different ways on different features of acne. Skin pores (hair follicles) blocked up by skin cells or oils causes acne. Bacteria then infects these skin pores. This causes inflammation of the oil-producing glands which lie at the base of the follicles.

Retinoids treat the blocked skin pores/hair follicles. Experts call these clogged skin pores or hair follicles “comedones” – so these pore-unblocking effects are “comedolytic”. Antibiotics and antibacterials treat bacterial infection. Retinoids are creams or gels which contain derivatives of vitamin A, retinol.

Retin A is a retinoid containing Tretinoin. Tretinoin works by increasing the ‘turnover’ of skin cells so that old ones are shed and pores in your skin become or stay unblocked.

Retin A and Adapalene

Adapalene is also a retinoid (vitamin A derivative) but works differently to Tretinoin. Adapalene slows or stops the proliferation of certain cells within the skin, with the same effect of keeping skin pores unblocked.

Yoiu can find Retinol, vitamin A itself, in some over-the-counter acne creams. However it’s weaker in its effects than prescription retinoids.

Retin A with Benzaclin or Ziana

Benzaclin is antibacterial (benzoyl peroxide) and antibiotic. It kills bacteria in the skin which can cause inflammation.

Sometimes doctors will prescribe both a retinoid like Retin A and an antiobiotic, taken at different times of day.

There are also creams and gels which contain both, like Ziana, which contains tretinoin (like Retin A) and an antibiotic (the same antiobiotic as in Benzaclin).

Isotretinoin is also a retinoid. It is an oral treatment rather than used topically on the skin. Prescribed to treat severe (nodular or cystic) acne only since it has serious side effects.

Retin A with Vitimin C and Coconut oil

Natural remedies for acne include vitamin C and coconut oil. Vitamin C is effective because of its antioxidant properties. This pre4vents skin damage by toxins, e.g., pollution, which can increase the likelihood of infection. It’s also supposed to help the skin produce collagen, involved in healing the skin and forming scar tissue. It may be most effective for cystic or nodular acne – the most severe kind.

Some say coconut oil is effective for treating mild cases of acne since it contains acids which keep your skin free of bacterial infection, has anti-inflammatory properties, and contains vitamin E which helps keep your skin’s oil-glands working healthily.

As for how well each of these work, well it depends on the person and the severity of their acne. have user reviews and ratings of different treatments which might be helpful.

Can one use Retin A with sunscreen, moisturizer, accutane or BHA?

You’re advised to use sunscreen and moisturizer when using Retin A, since Retin A can make your skin more sensitive to the sun and can also make it more prone to dryness, irritation and itching.

It seems that you can use Retin A while taking Accutane but that it’s probably not a great idea to use Retin A too much since both can irritate the skin and cause redness etc, so using Retin A can increase those side-effects of Accutane. Check with your doctor though.

There are mixed views on using creams containing BHA (beta-hydroxy acid which helps ex-foliate skin) with Retin A. Some say that Tretinoin will make the BHA ineffective and vice versa, so use them at different times of day at least.

What is the price of Retin A without insurance or prescription?

In the UK you need a doctor’s prescription to get Retin A. However, you can buy Retin A without a prescription from an online pharmacy.

In order to comply with regulations you must complete a consultation procedure during checkout and get a prescription online provided that Retin A is appropriate to your symptoms.

Where can you buy Retin A cream?

retin a cream tubeAs mentioned above, you can buy Retin A cream in most pharmacies, online or on your high street.

However, it’s a prescription-only medicine so you’ll need to get a doctor’s prescription first, or use an online pharmacy that will permit you to get a prescription from one of their doctors online.

A list of reliable online pharmacies with great customer service that stock low-cost Retin A cream are listed below.

Retin A cream tubes

Retin A is widely regarded as the most effective treatment for acne as well as helping reduce wrinkles and create healthy complexion.
PharmacyDeliveryRetin A price per 20g tubeOrder page
Airmail Free
Express Trackable £23
0.025% from £9.49
0.05% from £10.18
retin a price
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Airmail £7.65
Express & trackable £23
0.025% from £10.48
0.05% from £14.82
retin a price

How much Retin A should one use? What strengths?

Retin A creams and gels come in all kinds of different strengths. Retin-A gel can be in concentrations of 0.025% and 0.01% and the cream with 0.1%, 0.05%, and 0.025% concentrations of Tretinoin.

As for how much you shoud use, you should only be applying a very light thin layer to the affected areas. Don’t apply it too thickly as it’ll only increase your likelihood of side-effects, not of good effects!

What are side effects of Retin A?

Using generic Retin A / Tretinoin usually comes with mild side-effects like skin itching, rashes, redness, tingling or stinging, irritation and peeling, and your skin generally being more sensitive – to the sun (use sunscreen!), and even the wind and cold. Rarely, more serious side-effects like darkening of the skin occur.

Retinoids can also harm the foetus during pregnancy so don’t take them if you’re pregnant.

Can Retin A cause peeling or more outbreaks of acne?

Yes, Retin A can cause your skin to peel, though usually only mildly. Occasionally it can cause your acne to worsen at first (often during the first 2-4 weeks) but to then get better.

It doesn’t appear to be linked with further later outbreaks of acne.