Tips for Using Tretinoin

Whether you’re new to using tretinoin or not, dermatologists recommend following a few simple guidelines to follow that will help you get the most out of your treatment.

Cleanse First

You’ll want to wash your face with a gentle cleanser first to help clear any impurities on your skin. Make sure your skin is completely dry before using the product, as any residual dampness could cause irritation.

Apply a Pea-Sized Amount Each Night

Every evening, apply a pea-sized amount to clean skin in the affected areas. If you are just starting to use tretinoin, you’ll want to start out by applying a thin layer 2-3 times per week to help your skin adjust to the medication. Over the next few weeks, slowly increase how frequently you use tretinoin so you can get to a nightly routine. If your skin becomes too dry and flakey with nightly use, scale back and reduce the number of nights you apply it in a week.

Moisturizing is Key

Tretinoin layers well with moisturizer without any negative impact to its effectiveness. In fact, moisturizer can help your skin to adjust, and can reduce the chance of flaking or irritation. If you are experiencing dryness, flakiness, or irritation, you can decrease frequency of use and you can also try the “sandwich method” — first apply a layer of moisturizer, and after letting it absorb, apply your tretinoin. Then, seal it all in with another layer of moisturizer. We recommend using a non-comedogenic moisturizer cream. You can find some great options here.

Avoid Drying Chemicals

Unless approved by your Nurx provider, avoid additional topicals such as toners, abrasive face scrubs, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid or other alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, retinol, or sulfur. These can dry out your skin and cause more irritation when combined with tretinoin.

Adapt Treatment if Planning a Procedure

If you are planning a dermatologic procedure for your face (e.g. chemical peel or laser treatment), please consult with your treating provider. Some general considerations include: Avoid retinoids (such as your Nurx prescription), alpha hydroxy acids, and beta hydroxy acids for at least 2 weeks before a dermatologic procedure and resume use as instructed by a provider. Be sure to continue wearing sunscreen SPF 30+ and sun protective clothing in the period of time before and after a dermatologic procedure

Always Wear Sunscreen

Tretinoin can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so we recommend cleansing your face properly in the morning after use and opting for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30. A few of our dermatologists’ favorites can be found here.

Reach Out If You Need Help

Although it takes time and consistent use to see the benefits of topical retinoid medications, we are always happy to re-evaluate your treatment. If you try the prescribed treatment for a while and feel you may need a different medication or strength, please send us a message and we will be happy to discuss options with you.

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