Many people who start using tretinoin are eager to see the benefits, such as even skin tone or fewer breakouts. However, the treatment requires consistency and an acclimation period. It can take up to 12 weeks to notice results.
As with many treatments, tretinoin encourages cell turnover which can cause your skin to appear dry or flaky. This process can also make your skin sensitive to sunlight, so you should be extra careful when going outdoors. It is recommended to use a high SPF sunscreen with a brimmed hat and protective clothing.
Using cleansers with alcohol or other harsh ingredients can change how long it takes for the medication to work. It is important to wash your face well before applying tretinoin and to use it on clean, dry skin. You should also inform your healthcare provider about any other medications, herbs, vitamins or supplements you are taking. It is especially important to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, since tretinoin can pass through breast milk.
Tretinoin reduces fine wrinkles, spotty discoloration and rough-feeling skin but does not cure them. During the first 7 to 10 days of regular use, you may experience red and scaling skin and acne sores. This is part of the acclimation period.
Many people don’t see any improvement and discontinue the prescription, but if you keep at it, small improvements will add up until you begin to look younger. If you’re having trouble seeing results, it’s worth checking in with your dermatologist to discuss the dosage and frequency of application or consider another retinoid, like tazarotene, which has similar effects but is less irritating.