Topical retinoids are used in the treatment of acne, fine wrinkles, and to improve the overall appearance of your skin. There are many medications in this class, including tretinoin (brand names: Altreno, Renova, and Retin-A), tazarotene (brand names: Tazorac, Fabior, and Arazlo) and adapalene (brand name: Differin). Combination products that contain topical retinoids include Epiduo and Epiduo Forte (adapalene + benzoyl peroxide), Duobrii (tazarotene + halobetasol), Veltin and Ziana (tretinoin + clindamycin) and Tri-Luma (tretinoin + hydroquinone + fluocinolone).
How Do Retinoids Work?
Retinoids work by increasing the speed at which dead skin cells are shed and by bringing new, fresh skin cells to the surface. One way acne develops is when dead skin cells and sebum collect inside hair follicles leading them to become clogged. This is why it is important to increase the cell turnover rate to decrease the chances of acne developing.
Retinoids also treat wrinkles by speeding up cellular turnover. Having a slower cellular turnover rate can lead to dead skin cells accumulating in your wrinkles and fine lines, which leads to them becoming more pronounced and accentuated, giving your skin a more aged look. This is why it is important that you maintain a good cellular turnover rate.
Consult with your doctor to find out what medication was prescribed to you to make sure you are getting the best one for your skin condition.
How to Apply Topical Retinoids
Applying topical retinoids is a pretty straightforward process, but you must make sure you are using them properly to take care of your skin. Before applying the medication, clean the area you will be applying it to and let it dry for 15-30 minutes. From there, apply a very thin layer of the medication to the area (about a pea sized amount will cover most people's entire face) and rub it in completely. The medication should be completely absorbed into the skin.
When to Apply Topical Retinoids
It is recommended that you start applying topical retinoids every other day before applying them daily in order to build up your tolerance. If you notice skin irritation when you start applying the medication daily, go back to applying it every other day. From there, you can slowly build up to daily application.
It is also recommended that you apply the medication at night before you go to bed to allow the medication to work overnight. Once you wake up, wash your face well, and then apply sunscreen to the affected area before you go outside to protect it from the sunlight.
Possible Side Effects
During the first days of applying the medication, you may experience some skin irritation, dryness, and even some slight peeling. If you notice any of these side effects when you first start applying the medication, apply a moisturizer to the affected area 10-15 minutes before applying it again going forward. If you are still experiencing any of these symptoms, start applying a moisturizer 30-60 minutes after applying the medication.
Another side effect from retinoids is that they may increase your sensitivity to sunlight, which makes it easier for you to get sunburned. If you notice that you are more sensitive to sunlight, take some precautions before you go outside. Apply sunscreen to the area that you applied the medication to and wear protective clothing.
Finally, people who are using adapalene in combination with benzoyl peroxide (Epiduo and Epiduo Forte), be aware that the product may bleach linens and clothing when wet.
If you have any questions about the medication that was prescribed to you, feel free to give us a call and we’ll happily answer any of your questions. At claRx Big Country Dermatology Pharmacy we want to make sure you know how to properly apply topical retinoids, as well as how to take care of your skin while using these medications.