- Retin-A is a medication that helps control and eliminate blackheads and acne through exfoliation
- Retin-A is available in varying formulations depending on the concentration of its active ingredient, vitamin A
- Before beginning any treatment with Retin-A, review your medical history with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure this is an appropriate medication for you.
Blackheads, also known as open comedones, develop when pores become clogged with dead skin cells and sebum, an oily substance that is produced in pores by the sebaceous glands.
Once clogged, bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes multiply within the pore. The combination of these factors leads to the formation of a comedone that when exposed to air, darkens, creating a blackhead.
Retin-A is a brand name tretinoin product and a vitamin A derivative. It is a topical prescription strength retinoid used to treat acne.
How Does Retin-A Treat Blackheads?
Retin-A can be used to treat mild to moderate cases of acne and blackheads. For existing blackheads, Retin-A works to unclog pores by removing existing debris and clogs. Sebum is then able to flow normally and reach the surface of the skin, which serves to effectively eliminate the blackheads.
Retin-A also triggers the growth of new skin cells and decreases sebum. This means that it not only treats existing blackheads, but also aids in preventing future breakouts.
When applied to the skin, Retin-A helps regulate oil production in the sebaceous glands. While the exact mechanism for this is not yet properly understood, the result is a drop in sebum which greatly reduces the possibility of clogged pores and the formation of comedones.
Over time, Retin-A use boosts the body’s natural production of collagen, the connective tissue that gives skin its structure and firmness. This not only provides more youthful looking skin, it also reduces the size of pores. Smaller and tighter pores are less susceptible to accumulating dead skin cells and clogging, preventing the formation of blackheads.
While Retin-A may be an effective acne and blackhead treatment, it is important to note that results take time. Improvements typically begin to appear after 6–9 weeks of use. Bostered collagen production only produces noticeable results after six months of application and full results can take over a year to appear.
However, with regular application, skin should appear clear from most, if not all, visible signs of blackheads and acne. While redness may occur after the first few applications, this should subside with time.
Proper Application of Retin-A
In the United States, Retin-A and other tretinoin products are only available by prescription. Your dermatologist will help tailor treatment to your specific needs in order for your treatment to be as safe and effective as possible.
Retin-A is available in varying strengths of 0.025–0.1% of the active ingredient. Acne and blackhead treatment typically uses 0.1% Retin-A in cream, liquid or gel form, however your dermatologist may recommend a lower strength for your skin, especially when starting treatment.
While your treatment regimen may vary, Retin-A is typically applied 2–3 times a week in the evening. As skin grows accustomed to the medication, application may be increased to as often as daily. Speak with your dermatologist before altering your treatment schedule.
Retin-A is best applied on clean, dry skin as moisture on the skin can cause unnecessary irritation when combined with the medication. For best results, apply equal portions to the cheeks, chin and forehead, then evenly massage the medication into the skin.
One of the side effects of using retinoids for the first time is that it may cause acne breakouts and peeling during the first few weeks of use. However, by week six to nine of the treatment the initial flare-ups should give way to a marked improvement in the quality of skin.
Topical tretinoin products have been used to treat various forms of acne for almost half a century. Their relative safety and efficacy has been well documented in numerous studies and tretinoin-based products are used regularly to treat acne.
That said, these products are not without side effects and speaking with a doctor or pharmacist is required before using this medication safely. Patients need to explain their medical history, especially if they have suffered from eczema in the past, as Retin-A can aggravate the condition.
While most users experience little to no side effects, redness, dryness and itching may occur following application. If this irritation is persistent or worsens, a lower dose may be required. Speak with your medical professional before altering your treatment plan.
Combining Retin-A treatment with topical products containing ingredients such as glycolic acid, sulfur or salicylic acid can cause unnecessary skin irritation. If you have recently applied one of these products, wait until its effects have worn off before starting your Retin-A treatment.
Using Retin-A can also lead to thinner skin that is more susceptible to sun damage. Avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun when using the product by employing sunscreen and wearing protective clothing when outdoors. Tanning booths and sun lamps should also be avoided while using Retin-A.
Waxing, chemical hair removal and other hair removal techniques that remove skin cells should be avoided for approximately six weeks before or after using Retin-A. Doing so can lead to lasting skin damage.
Retin-A and other tretinoin products have not been found to be safe for use during pregnancy. Use of these medications should be suspended as a precaution while pregnant or breastfeeding. Speak with your medical professional about altering your treatment plan if you are pregnant or plan to be in the near future.
Retin-A is a brand name tretinoin prescription medication in the retinoid family. Tretinoin and other retinoids are recommended by dermatologists to help eliminate stubborn blackheads and other forms of acne.
Retin-A is effective in preventing blackheads by tightening pores, clearing away dead skin cells and reducing the production of sebum. It also works to clear away existing debris to help treat blackheads.
Those looking to treat blackheads at home without a prescription can also try over-the-counter retinoids which may help with milder cases of acne. There is also a wide selection of cleansers and exfoliators that may be effective in the treatment of blackheads.
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