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What is Retin-A&Reg;?

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  • Written By: A. Carter
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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Retin-A® is a brand name for creams or gels that contain tretinoin topical, a derivative of vitamin A, as an active ingredient to treat acne. Tretinoin topical is available with a prescription under additional brand names such as Altinac, Avita, Renova, and Tretin-X. A less-potent version, retinol, is available in over-the-counter products.

Acne is the most common skin disorder treated by doctors. Retin-A® is distributed by prescription and is a popular treatment for the form of acne that leads to blackheads and whiteheads. Bacteria known as propionibacterium acnes colonizes in the skin naturally. People with acne have more of this type of bacteria present in their skin and the bacteria attract things that clog up hair follicles. That then leads to irritation and red bumps flare up while blackheads and whiteheads form.

Retin-A® combats whiteheads and blackheads by speeding up the production of new skin cells. Retin-A® also blocks additional blackheads and whiteheads from forming. Over time, the drug was found useful in improving the skin’s texture and fading dark spots and freckles as new skin cells generate.

In addition to fighting acne, Retin-A® is also believed to have anti-aging effects by helping the skin retain collagen, a fibrous protein that gives skin its elasticity and strength. As collagen degrades, the skin wrinkles and sags. For decades, Retin-A® users have been telling their doctors that it improves the appearance of their skin by diminishing wrinkles and brown spots.

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Retin-A® also has drawbacks. It can cause side effects such as flaking and thinning of the skin, itching and irritation, and it can increase vulnerability to sunburn. Retin-A® could be harmful to unborn babies and can pass into breast milk, so pregnant women and mothers who are nursing should consult with their doctor. Certain drugs can react with Retin-A®, so it’s best that patients speak with their physicians before starting a regiment.

As is the case with all prescription medications, Retin-A® should only be used according to the prescription directions. Applying it more often than called for does not speed up results and could bolster side effects. Both hands should be washed before applying it and the skin in the acne-affected area should be clean and dry.

It could take weeks or months before improvements are noticeable. Patients have reported that their skin looked worse initially, but became vibrant over time with the medication. If Retin-A® does not lead to better skin conditions within eight to 12 weeks of use, you should consult with a physician.

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