Does Retin-A (tretinoin) help reverse skin aging?
Retin-A, whose active ingredient is tretinoin, has been shown to have positive effects on both the deeper collagen layers of your skin as well as the upper most layer that is comprised of skin cells.
Tretinoin effects collagen in two ways. With consistent long term use, tretinoin will increase the production of collagen while simultaneously decreasing the rate of collagen degradation. In other words, a win-win benefit.
On the upper layers of skin (the epidermis), tretinoin has been shown to smooth fine lines and wrinkles because it thickens the upper skin layer while simultaneously thinning the undesirable upper most dead skin cell layer. So it is incorrect to think that tretinoin will thin your skin overall–it’s quite the opposite.
The results on the epidermis are typically seen as early as 3 months, with more notable effects on wrinkles, skin sallowness, and roughness at the 6 month time period. The effects on collagen does take longer but are readily apparent in 9 to 12 months.
In contrast to prior beliefs, the concentration of Retin-A (tretinoin) does not have to be high to see these results. Many patients and studies have shown positive effects with the use of 0.025% to 0.5% tretinoin creams used on a nightly basis. This is good news for patients who had issues with Retin-A in the past because they may have been using too strong of a concentration (0.1%) than their skin could tolerate. Therefore, trying a reduced concentration will allow your skin to enjoy the anti-aging benefits of tretinoin while minimizing previous issues.
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Timothy R. Miller, M.D.