Topical retinoids

Topical retinoids

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* Topical retinoids are used to treat mild to moderately severe acne.

Topical retinoids (Trade names: Retin-A, Avita, Renova, Differin, and Tazorac, among others) are derived from Vitamin A and used to treat mild to moderately severe acne. It is also known to reverse sun damage. If used long term, it may reduce some fine wrinkles, freckles, solar comedones, and solar keratoses. They work by increasing skin cell turnover promoting the extrusion of the plugged material in the follicle. They also prevent the formation of new comedones.

It may also be used in bleaching creams to reduce pigmentation in melasma.


Topical retinoids can be applied to any area but are most often used on the face, the neck and the back of hands. Topical retinoids are creams, lotions and gels (creams are less potent than the gels). For treatment of acne, you may see improvement after one week, but it may take six weeks for longer improvement to occur. Acne may flare in the initial weeks of use before there is improvement.

Side Effects

Topical retinoids can irritate the skin resulting in stinging, particularly for those with sensitive skin. Some retinoids may be more irritating than others. Irritation may also be aggravated by exposure to wind or cold, use of soaps and cleansers, astringents, peeling agents and certain cosmetics. Excessive use may result in redness, swelling, peeling and blistering in treated areas. It may also aggravate or cause eczema, particularly atopic dermatitis. It also poses an increased risk in sunburn.

Notes of Precaution

* Topical retinoids should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women. It may cause birth defects.

* It is used for external use only.

* Apply sunscreen to treated areas to avoid sunburn.

* If your skin peels dramatically, you may need to discontinue use. Consult with your physician.
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