Retinoic Acid: What is it, Uses, Benefits and Precautions before using

What is Retinoic Acid?

Synonyms : Tretinoin, Retinol

Retinoic acid is a derivative of vitamin A and one of the most studied compounds for the topical treatment of skin aging , whether intrinsic or genetically determined, extrinsic or caused by sun exposure. A recent Cochrane review showed that of the medical options for treating light-damaged skin , retinoids are one of the substances with unquestionable efficacy, because they act by binding to specific nuclear receptors on skin cells, and by therefore they carry out therapeutic functions.

Indications of Retinoic Acid

Retinoic acid is indicated primarily for the treatment of signs of photoaging , including fine lines , hyperpigmentation spots, freckles, roughness, and skin texture irregularities.

The sun’s ultraviolet radiation stimulates the production of substances that damage the skin’s collagen , causing the appearance of all these signals, and retinoic acid helps to repair it, stimulating the production of new collagen .

In addition, it can also be used in some other treatments. In higher concentrations the product notably improves the appearance of stretch marks, especially the newer (red) ones.

Retinoic acid is widely used in the treatment of acne , as a complement to other treatments. Although it does not completely cure the excessive oiliness of the skin, it alleviates the problem and generally has a fairly long-lasting action after treatment. In people with acne, pores become more easily clogged, leading to the formation of blackheads (comedones) and pimples. This occurs because an abnormal keratinization of the pores, that is, an excess of keratin on their internal walls, closes them. Retinoic acid normalizes keratinization within the pores and this prevents clogging, hindered the appearance of new acne lesions. It improves the texture of the skin, which also helps in the treatment of acne scars.

It is used in the form of creams, gels, lotions, serum and, if more concentrated, applied as part of the peeling process , that is, applied once a week by your dermatologist.

The chemical peel with retinoic acid is also indicated for the treatment of spots such as melasma , in concentrations between 5% and 10%. In general, a weekly application is made for five weeks with a progressive increase each week. It is used in the control of acne, excess oil, improvement of fine wrinkles, melasma and other blemishes of dark skin.

How to use Retinoic Acid?

Retinoic acid is used mainly in creams , and its dosage depends on the dermatologist’s indication, depending on the magnitude of the problem.

It is best to apply it once a day, overnight, after washing your face . You should use the corresponding amount of the cream to a pea for each part of the face: the forehead and the upper face, the chin and the cheeks. After 20 minutes of application, the ideal is to hydrate the skin.

In some cases, the skin can become irritated and flaky, red, itchy or burning, because some people are unable to tolerate the more frequent applications of two or three times a week. If this happens, it is best to suspend the treatment for two days , apply moisturizer and resume the treatment with small amounts of cream every two days. However, if you do not present irritation, the ideal is to gradually increase the amount, according to the tolerance of the skin.

With this process, your skin will be more sensitive to the sun, so ideally use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher when you go outdoors.

After 6 to 9 months of daily use, the frequency of topical retinoid application can be reduced to every other day. There does not seem to be any limit to the duration of the treatment, however, prolonged use can lead to the appearance of spider veins on the skin and therefore the treatment should always be accompanied by a dermatologist.


The peel is a type of base that contains retinoic acid. It should stay on the skin for about six hours and then is removed with soap and water or cleansing lotion. After about two to three days, light and smooth skin peeling occurs, which lasts for about three days.

Precautions before using Retinoic Acid

First of all, retinoic acid cannot be used without a prescription , because the expert will know the most appropriate acid concentration in the product.

Before peeling, the ideal is that the skin is clean and degreased . Although it is true that the cream should be used after washing the face, it must be dried well to improve the absorption of the product.

Care after using Retinoic Acid

Retinoic acid makes the skin more sensitive , so after use, it is best not to expose it to the sun without adequate protection, or it can cause severe skin irritation with flaking, redness and even the appearance of spots. And use products that cannot harm your skin, such as bath gels, however, there are some such as Dalire gel that, in addition to having natural ingredients that are beneficial for the skin , such as aloe vera and avocado; They do not contain parabens or sulfates that can harm the health of our body.

Contraindications of Retinoic Acid

Any product with retinoic acid should not be applied to inflamed skin, with eczematous dermatitis or sunburned.

The use of retinoic acid is contraindicated in skin with active infections , such as herpes simplex or bacterial infections, and should be avoided in rosacea patients . In addition, the ideal is that it is not done in people who are constantly exposed to the sun, either by practicing sports, traveling or working outdoors.

Can retinoic acid be used during pregnancy?

Retinoic acid can affect the formation of the fetus, so the substance is completely prohibited in pregnancy . It can be used during breastfeeding, but it is preferred that it is after the baby is six months old, because they will already have a greater weight and less absorption of the substances present in breast milk.

Many people have skin that tolerates little retinoic acid. As it usually leaves the skin very sensitive, it can irritate it and cause peeling, redness, itching, or burning. If this happens, it is best to suspend treatment for two days, apply moisturizer and resume treatment with small amounts of cream every other day.

Retinoid dermatitis can often develop when retinol concentrations have been exaggerated. In this case, the ideal is to stop the treatment and look for the dermatologist who will help you find the correct dose.

Before and after Retinoic Acid

When retinoic acid is used to treat photoaging, you will begin to notice improvements in wrinkles within the first month of treatment or even two weeks after the start of use. The skin is clearly visible from around 45 days. Wrinkles actually start to disappear within four months, during which time bleaching of the spots also begins.

In general, if there is no sign of improvement in four months, the ideal is to put aside the treatment , because it is less likely to bring benefits.

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Kathie Sand always saw the world of beauty as the terrain on which to build her professional career, a goal that was clear to her when she was only 15 years old. Her great concern to expand knowledge led her to settle in Paris where she studied hand in hand with the best beauty professionals and with the most advanced techniques for skin care.

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