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What can retinoids do for my skin?

Despite irritation arising from retinoids (i.e. include both naturally occurring and synthetic products, generally in the vitamin A family, that act at specific sites called retinoid acid receptors) on some people who are sensitive to these acne treatments, it has become the mainstay of most acne therapies. It is effective when used either alone or in combination with other topical or oral acne treatments.

The reasons for it is that retinoids is able to affect several of the most important steps in the path to acne formation. For instance, retinoids get to the root problem of acne by preventing microcomedo (i.e. the first stage of any type of acne lesion, and is so tiny as to be invisible) formation. Retinoids also decrease the number of existing comedones and block pathways that lead to inflammatory types of acne. Ongoing studies are being carried out about the effects of retinoids on different types of acne and on aging skin as well.

To reduce irritation from retinoids, it is recommended that retinoids be initially used every other day or even only once or twice a week to let our skin adapts to the treatment. Depending on how our skin responds, we may then increase the applications to every other night and then increase slowly to every night as our skin adapts to this acne medication. We should apply the retinoid at night because the sun can inactivate its effect. However, retinoids are not photosensitizers, meaning that they do not increase our sensitivity to sun exposure.

However, retinoids are quite commonly used in climates that are sunny but we should be more vigilant about applying sunscreen and other sun protective behavior, i.e. not to be out in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak, stay in the shade or indoors as much as possible.

It is good to know that many new formulations have been developed that minimize possible irritation while maintaining its efficacy. Studies show that Adapalene, i.e. Differin, is the least irritating of the group.

Below are the commonly found retinoids preparations:

Differin - 0.1% cream (oil free), gel, pledgets and solution

Tazorac - 0.5% cream (oil in water), gel; 0.1% cream (oil in water), gel

Retin-A - 0.025%, 0.05%, 0.1% (all available in cream, gel, and solution)
Retin-A - micro 0.04%, 0.1%
Renova cream - 0.02%, 0.05%
Avita - 0.025% cream or gel
Generic tretinoin - 0.025%, 0.05%, 0.1%

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