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Skin Care and Diseases

Retin-A and Vitamin A creams

09/01/2005

Question:

I know that Retin-A and Vitamin A creams and gels work by exfoliation and that there are ways to minimize the peeling. But is it ok and would the skin get more used to it if it`s used even when there is some peeling? Or should someone wait until there is not any peeling at all before using it again? Thank you.

Answer:

Contrary to your understanding, Vitamin A derivative materials such as Tretinoin are not primarily exfoliates.  Rather they change the metabolism of the skin so that cells are shed in a more normal fashion, leading to draining of blackheads.  There are other changes, including laying down new collagen in the papillary dermis which can slow aging, and in fact reverse early photo damage. 

Since all of these preparations are in vehicles that are low grade irritants, it is appropriate to apply them for several hours a day initially and then to increase the application by at least an hour a day on a weekly basis, building up to the 6 to 8 hours that normally are prescribed.  This will minimize the irritant effect and maximize the therapeutic process.

Be certain to wear sunscreens during the daylight hours whether you are inside or outside since both ultraviolet light A and B are present in the solar spectrum and may cause some additional damage to your skin.  It is very important that you wear sunscreen on a 365 day per year basis.

Good luck!

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Response by:

Charles L Heaton, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati