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Bev Sidders Skincare Glossary

Retinoic acid (tretinoin)

Retinoic acid (tretinoin) — (See Active Ingredients, see Vitamin A) A vitamin A derivative that is prescription strength. At the end of the day, it’s only RA (retinoic acid) that modulates gene expression and influences cellular processes in both the epidermis and the dermis, and the path to get there is either indirect via retinol (the Vitamin A derivative, not to be confused with Vitamin A) or retinaldehyde, or directly with tretinoin (retinoic acid). And now that we’ve cleared that up let’s forge right ahead. RA has demonstrated an ability to alter collagen synthesis, increase dermal hyaluronic acid levels, and stimulate fibroblast growth and the extracellular matrix. It is used for keratinization disorders and for treating acne. Retinoic acid’s anti-aging effect has been convincingly documented and it is often used for treating the visible signs of aging, though these results can take approximately 6 months to be visible.

A few symptoms common to the beginning stages of retinoid use might explain why many people either fear to try them or discontinue their use before they’ve had the opportunity to revel in the improvements. Retinoids initially can cause peeling and some redness, a process called facial “retinization” and is “part of the process.” Users should be aware that this is normal and even to be expected — peeling and redness are side effects of retinoids working at a profound level to influence gene expression, resulting eventually in enhanced collagen production, skin smoothing, and evening out of pigmentation. According to Dr. Dana Sachs, Associate Prof. of Dermatology at the University of Michigan. Medical School, “We’ve seen clinically that after two or three weeks, the skin cells adapt to the retinoic acid and begin to tolerate the ingredient.” When people experience such symptoms they often make the mistake of stopping their treatment program, then waiting until the skin gets “better” before beginning again. Giving the top layer of skin time to rebuild can unfortunately initiate another round of redness and peeling which ultimately delays the anticipated therapeutic benefits. Switching to a weaker formula if the discomfort is prolonged or very uncomfortable, is sometimes recommended, or limiting use to every other night while adjusting. Please consult with your own dermatologist or physician about using this product. It is a prescription-only product.