If you have troublesome acne that can’t be cleared up with regular over-the-counter treatments, your GP may prescribe a topical retinoid. These are a class of medications that increase cell turnover, speed up production of collagen and blood vessels and reduce hyperpigmentation. They are also known to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They are a must-have for those who want smoother skin and clearer complexion.
One of the most powerful in this group is tretinoin, a derivative of Vitamin A that’s often prescribed to treat acne and hyperpigmentation. It’s available on prescription in a range of strengths from 0.025 to 0.1 creams, and it can help smooth out fine lines on the face, correct hyperpigmentation and improve skin texture. It’s important to note that it is not safe for pregnant women and shouldn’t be used when breastfeeding. It can also make the skin sensitive to the sun, so be sure to use a sunscreen with a high SPF level and wear protective clothing when going outdoors.
Using tretinoin can be scary for those new to it, as you’ll likely experience some red, swollen, flaking skin at first. This is called the ‘pizza face’ phase and it can last for a few weeks as old, dead cells are shed and replaced with fresh ones. When this happens, all the ‘dirt’ that was covered by that layer comes to the surface and is able to be pushed out of the pores, resulting in clearer skin.
As well as being a great treatment for acne, tretinoin can also help reverse some of the long-term damage caused by UV rays. It does this by speeding up the replacement of skin cells, so it’s like hitting the fast-forward button on your face! It can also boost collagen levels and reduce the appearance of fine lines.
Tretinoin is a strong medication so it’s best to consult a dermatologist before starting. There are a number of online dermatologist services such as Get Harley, Dermatica and Skin + Me that offer digital consultations with qualified doctors who can assess your skin needs and advise if it’s suitable for you to start using tretinoin. It’s worth noting that if you have a condition such as rosacea, it’s usually recommended to use tretinoin with caution as this can exacerbate the inflammation.
A good idea is to start with a less powerful retinoid such as retinol and work your way up to tretinoin if you can. This will give your skin time to get used to the changes it’s going through and ensure that it’s safe for you to use the higher strength product. It’s also a good idea to use a rich moisturiser when you’re using retinoids as they can leave your skin feeling dry and flaky. Look for gentle, hydrating ingredients such as shea butter and glycerin. tretinoin uk