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Does Tretinoin Work for Acne? How To Use It and Where To Find It

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Tretinoin is one of the oldest and most popular acne therapies on the market today.

But, what makes Tretinoin a classic first-line therapy for everyday acne?

In this article we will cover the basics, benefits, and what to expect from your Tretinoin acne therapy.

What is Tretinoin?

Tretinoin is a naturally occurring derivative of Vitamin A.

You may see Tretinoin referred to as all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA).

Tretinoin is the active ingredient in a cream or gel form under the brand names Retin-a, Altreno, Atralin, Avita, Refissa, and Renova.

Tretinoin may also be found in combination products, or from a compounding pharmacy with a prescription.

How does Tretinoin work for acne?

Tretinoin works for acne in a lot of different ways:

Increases the speed of healthy cell turnover

Leads to the drainage and clearance of excess sebum (face oils)

Prevents clogging of pores by clearing dead skin cells and debris

Reduces inflammation

Lessens the appearance of acne scarring

Acne treatments are generally classified as being comedolytic (able to clean out blackheads and whiteheads), or anti-inflammatory (able to reduce redness and inflammation.)

Tretinoin is a potent acne-fighting ingredient because it is comedolytic and anti-inflammatory.

How to use Tretinoin cream for acne?

Apply a light amount of the formulation to clean, dry skin at nighttime.

Excess water on the skin may increase the risk of irritation, so wait 20-30 minutes after washing your face to ensure it is fully dry.

Wash hands after application.

Wear sun protection and keep skin moisturized during Tretinoin therapy.

Do not get the product in your eyes, mouth, or open wounds. Wash with water thoroughly if this occurs.

Tretinoin side effects:

In the first weeks of treatment, you may experience an initial irritation with these products.

These effects are common and will normally lessen over the first 2-3 weeks.

Common side effects may include:

Burning, itching, peeling, redness, or dryness.

How long does Tretinoin take to work for acne?

After the first few days and weeks of using Tretinoin, you may experience an initial irritation. This is a sign that the chemical is working.

The full effects of Tretinoin therapy take time, but you should be able to see acne improvement after 12 weeks of therapy.

Depending on your case, your doctor may decide to keep you on Tretinoin long term for continued acne protection.\

How long can you use Tretinoin for acne?

Depending on what you are dealing with, you may use Tretinoin for just a few month period to clear an outbreak, or your doctor may recommend that you use tretinoin long-term for prevention of future outbreaks.

Long-term use of tretinoin to prevent future acne breakouts is considered suitable for maintaining clear skin without the risk of bacterial resistance.

Bottom Line: Both short-term or long-term Tretinoin treatments can be appropriate depending on the situation and your doctor’s opinion.

How to get Tretinoin for acne?

Tretinoin is a prescription-only medication, and cannot be found over the counter.

You will need to schedule an appointment with your local doctor or have an Online Consultation with our U.S. licensed doctors to see if Tretinoin therapy is right for you.

If these medications are a good fit for you, we can ship your prescription formula directly and discreetly to your front door.

Our physician formulated Acne Formula and Acne Scar Formula both contain pharmaceutical grade Tretinoin to help with your skin issues.


Tretinoin is a derivative of Vitamin A. Tretinoin works by increasing cell turnover, clearing clogged pores, reducing oil production, reducing inflammation, and lessening the appearance of acne scars. Tretinoin is normally applied once daily at night. Wear sunscreen daily while using Tretinoin.

Many will experience initial side effects including redness, itching, burning, peeling, and dryness. The initial side effects should lessen after the first 2-3 weeks of treatment. You should begin seeing benefits within 12 weeks of treatment.

Tretinoin can be used for a short-term or long-term therapy for acne clearing and maintenance. Tretinoin is a prescription-only medication, so you must conduct a consultation with a doctor in person or online to be prescribed this medication.

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