How do I Use Tretinoin for Acne?

Anna T.

To use tretinoin for acne, you should probably wait until just before you go to bed at night to apply it. Wash your face thoroughly with warm water and mild soap and then dry your face completely. Put just a pea-sized amount of tretinoin on your fingertip and rub it evenly into your skin, concentrating only on the areas where acne is a problem. When you wake up the next morning, you can wash your face again with warm water and a mild soap. It might also be a good idea to use a moisturizer with built-in sunscreen on your skin during the day after using tretinoin for acne at night.

Tretinoin should be applied only to problem areas with acne.
Tretinoin should be applied only to problem areas with acne.

Your dermatologist may have different instructions for you regarding the use of tretinoin for acne, but in most cases it should not be applied more than once per day. During the first few weeks of using tretinoin, you might notice that your skin becomes very dry, red, and flaky. Many people stop using tretinoin when they notice the redness and flaking, but these side effects typically become less severe after the first few months. Being diligent about using moisturizer on your skin while you use tretinoin for acne can greatly help relieve the flaking and discomfort you might experience.

Tretinoin can make the skin more prone to sunburns.
Tretinoin can make the skin more prone to sunburns.

You should be careful not to use any other acne medication on your skin while you use tretinoin. Other acne medicines combined with tretinoin could produce some unpleasant side effects. Even over-the-counter acne medicines should typically be avoided until you are finished with your tretinoin treatment. You will likely be much more sensitive to sunlight when using tretinoin and may sunburn more easily than before, so you should take care to either use a sunscreen or apply makeup or moisturizer that has a sunscreen built in. Pregnant women are typically advised to avoid tretinoin for acne because it could be dangerous for fetuses, so if there is a chance you could be or might become pregnant, you should consult with your dermatologist about other methods of acne treatment.

Tretinoin should be used in conjunction with a regular skincare routine designed to prevent breakouts.
Tretinoin should be used in conjunction with a regular skincare routine designed to prevent breakouts.

It could take you a few months of using tretinoin for acne before you begin to notice an improvement in your skin. For some people, results are not visible for up to nine weeks. Even though side effects, such as skin irritation, burning, and redness, are common with tretinoin use, you should still report all side effects you experience to your dermatologist. If your side effects are incredibly severe, your dermatologist may decide that you should discontinue tretinoin for acne.

A dermatologist can provide patients with insight on the best way to use tretinoin for their acne.
A dermatologist can provide patients with insight on the best way to use tretinoin for their acne.
It's wise to use sunscreen with a high SPF when using tretinoin to treat acne.
It's wise to use sunscreen with a high SPF when using tretinoin to treat acne.

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Discussion Comments

ysmina

@turquoise-- That's true. More than a pea-sized is not needed anyway because this stuff really dries out the skin. I always have to moisturize with an oil-free face lotion with sun protection after I use tretinoin cream for acne. Otherwise, my skin becomes very flaky and itchy, I also get sun-burnt.

turquoise
@anamur-- Yes, they're used the same way. Apply a pea-sized amount on your skin at least twice a day.

I want to emphasize the pea-sized amount, especially when you're using tretinoin cream because more than that can actually trigger a breakout.

I made that mistake when I first started using tretinoin treatment for acne. I was using the cream which has some ingredients that can potentially clog pores. It's not a problem when only a pea-sized is used. But if you lather it on like I did, it can clog pores and cause more breakouts at first. So follow the directions carefully.

serenesurface

Are tretinoin cream and tretinoin gel used the same way?

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