How to Treat Acne With Tretinoin

Treat Acne With Tretinoin
Treat Acne With Tretinoin (Image: Andre Veron at

Tretinoin is a prescription medication used to treat acne by causing skin cells to turn over more rapidly than normal. It is marketed in the United States under the brand names Retin-A, Avita and Atralin. It can be a very effective way to clear up zits and pimples, but it is important to follow your doctor's instructions when using this or any other prescription medication.

Things You'll Need

  • Non-medicated face wash
  • Hand towel
  • Sunscreen SPF 15+

Moisten your face with warm water and wash it gently with a non-medicated facial cleanser. Gentle cleansers specifically formulated for sensitive skin, such as Cetaphil, are recommended when using Tretinoin. Do not scrub your face with a wash cloth or any type of facial scrub.

Dry your face completely with a towel. Wait approximately twenty minutes to make sure your face is completely dry before moving on to Step 3.

Squeeze a small amount of Tretinoin onto your finger and apply it to the affected area using gentle strokes. If acne covers your entire face, apply the medication onto your whole face. If not, apply Tretinoin only to those areas where you have acne. Do not apply more than a pea-sized amount of the medication to your face.

Rub the medication gently into your face until it is completely absorbed and wash your hands after applying the product. Do not apply any other acne medications after applying Tretinoin.

Apply Tretinoin only one a day, preferably at night. After applying the medication, do not wash your skin again for at least one hour.

The next morning, wash your face with the same facial cleanser you used in Step 1. Dry your face and apply a lotion or sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater. It is important to be diligent about using a sunscreen while you are being treated with Tretinoin, because it can heighten your sensitivity to the sun.

Tips & Warnings

  • Tretinoin is a long-term acne treatment and it may take some time to see results. Don't get discouraged if you do not see results right away or notice new pimples forming in the first few weeks of treatment. You should start to see improvement within eight to twelve weeks.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or become pregnant while you are using Tretinoin. Some studies have indicated that this medication may cause harm to a fetus, so it should not be used to treat acne during pregnancy. Do not use any other acne medications in conjunction with Tretinoin, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Tretinoin may cause skin irritation, especially in the first two to three weeks. Your skin may burn or tingle when you apply the medication and it may cause dryness and peeling. If any of your side effects become severe, stop using the product and talk to your doctor.

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