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Tretinoin for Acne Scars: Can Tretinoin Improve Your Scarring?

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If you’re no stranger to acne breakouts, you might be intimately familiar with the aftermath they can leave behind. Often, the most frustrating part of dealing with acne is the scarring that can result. If you’re looking for a great topical scar cream for your acne scars -- we think tretinoin might be the thing you’re looking for.Keep scrolling to learn more about how tretinoin may help improve your acne scarring.

How does tretinoin work?

Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A and is classified as a retinoid (but it is stronger than retinol).Topical retinoids chemically exfoliate the surface of the skin and increase the skin cell turnover rate. Over time, as newer skin is revealed, scars, fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots become less and less noticeable.Our skin naturally generates new skin cells but products like tretinoin can speed up this process causing rapid skin rejuvenation.Because of this, tretinoin is a great treatment for clogged pores, acne, acne scarring, age spots, hyperpigmentation, and signs of aging.

So, is tretinoin a good acne scar cream?

In short, absolutely.Your skin is always shedding old skin cells and creating new ones -- however, when using a prescription retinoid, it’s happening in fast forward. (Not to be dramatic, but it almost sounds like a cellular time machine.)As your skin regenerates, the areas that have acne scars, wrinkles, or hyperpigmented areas begin to rebuild themselves with new cells.

Consulting the research

While scientists wouldn’t hyperbolically call tretinoin a “cellular time machine,” they would, however, agree that it can significantly improve atrophic acne scarring.In a 2018 study researching acne scar treatments, topical retinoids were found as effective as micro-needling for reducing the appearance of acne scars.Other researchers also looked into noninvasive retinoid acne scar treatments and found promising results. In this 2017 review, researchers note the improvements topical retinoids have on acne scarring and pigmentation:

  • Acne scarring improvement of "one or two grades on a scar assessment scale by week 24”
  • Significant decrease or complete resolution of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks
  • Better overall skin texture (atrophic acne scarring)

Tretinoin and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Sometimes breakouts leave behind flat tan or pink marks where active acne once was. This is what is called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (or PIH).Research has found topical retinoids, like tretinoin, can significantly lighten PIH “by inhibiting melanosome transfer to keratinocytes and reducing epidermal pigmentation by accelerating epidermal turnover.”Learn more: Fade Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation With Tretinoin

Is tretinoin the same as Retin-A?

Tretinoin is the active ingredient in brand name topicals like Retin-A. This brand name has become the shorthand for the topical active ingredient tretinoin for some. However, this ingredient can be in many prescription formulations without the brand name - the active ingredient is still tretinoin -- don’t worry.

Retinoid side effects and considerations

It’s important to note that powerful prescription retinoids may cause some side effects. For some, this medication may be irritating and drying to the skin.This is common when you first start using a retinoid-containing product like tretinoin. At first, you might experience skin dryness, redness, peeling, and acne “purging”. These symptoms start to subside as your skin begins to adjust to this new product.Learn more: What Is Skin Purging? Is Your Skin Taking Out The Trash? This is precisely why it’s commonly recommended to start slow when you’re new to retinoid products. This allows your skin some time to gradually adjust.When it comes to retinoids, less is more, and slow and steady wins the race.

Try the gold standard for acne scars

Our prescription acne scar cream was formulated to help smooth over acne scarring, discoloration, and pitting. If you’re worried about your scarring, our Strut Acne Scar Formula might be able to help.Skip the waiting room and treat your acne scars online. To see if our 0.1% tretinoin acne scar cream combination formula is right for you, complete our free questionnaire-based online doctor's consultation.If our doctors find you’re a good candidate for this acne scar treatment, we will send your prescription formula to your doorstep.

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