Topical Retinoids

imagetempalte_4_250x250_acf_croppedWhat the heck is a topical retinoid?

These are one of the most important tools in the battle against acne. Virtually everyone with every type of acne benefit from their use. They are only available by prescription, and can be found under the names RetinA, Differin, Tazorac, AtraHn, TretinX, and Fabior (as well as some generic versions).

Why would I need a topical retinoid?

Every type of pimple you get starts with a clogged pore. These drugs unclog the pores and, more importantly, prevent the formation of new clogs and new pimples in the future.  So no matter what type of acne you have these medications can make it better and keep it better.

How would I use the product?

Topical retinoids come in a cream form and should be applied to a dry face, so don’t do it right after you’ve washed or showered. Split one small pea-size dollop on your index fingers and dot the medication evenly on your temples, cheeks and chin to make sure you apply evenly, and then rub in.

What should I know about safety?

The upside of topical retinoids is that they strip out the contents of your pores, removing any clogs. The downside is that they can make the skin very dry and red in the first two weeks of treatment. The upside to that downside? After two weeks, it’s gone. The skin becomes accustomed to the medication and it stops causing irritation.

Another thing to watch for is sunburn. Topical retinoids unclog pores by stripping away the outer layer of dead skin cells, so this removes one of your defenses from the sun. Make sure that you use adequate sun protection when exposed to intense sun. For the same reason, waxing can cause issues, so be sure to tell your esthetician if you’re on any of these meds, and check with your dermatologist if considering using a home waxing kit.

Sidenote: Though there are no reports of topical retinoids doing this in the small doses we normally take, the active ingredients can cause birth defects. The thing is they’d need to be consumed in such a high dosage, and taken orally to really have any effect. So it’s recommended to stay away during pregnancy, but only out of extreme caution.

What should I do if I get irritated?

A lot of people worry they’re allergic and stress out. First step? Don’t do that. There’s nothing to worry about and the irritation will likely subside in several days. Next, make sure you’re using the right amount. Remember, just a pea-size amount. Less is more in this case. Or rather, less is adequate. Finally, take a few days off until you’ve returned to normal. Then restart with one of the following techniques:

  1. Apply a small amount of moisturizer to your face. Let it dry and then apply your medication.
  2. Use the medication every other day

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