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How does Tretinoin in Dermatica work and how does it help acne?

Hi, welcome to my beauty blog. I am Rachael, and this is my beauty blog Written by Rachael on August 2023, last updated: February 2024

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Tretinoin is in the cream I’m getting in my personalised Dermatica subscription to fight hyperpigmentation/melasma on my forehead. It’s strong stuff, so I’ve done research and thought I’d share my findings.

[Tretinoin is used for] Topical preparation to reduce hyperpigmentation of skin,
such as persistent freckles, dark marks (lentigines) or
melasma. Tretinoin works by increasing the skin cell turnover rate,
which helps exfoliate the skin and improve the signs of
photodamage.

from the leaflet in my Dermatica skincare subscription

Page contents:

Is Tretinoin a retinol?

Retinol and tretinoin are both retinoids (vitamin A) but tretinoin is more concentrated and can give quicker results. It can also aggravate the skin more quickly as it’s stronger.

When I started my personalised Dermatica subscription in May, the cream included 0.025% and it took 2 more months to take me up to 0.05%. I have recently reduced to 1 pump, instead of 2 at night, as my skin was feeling dry (it’s never dry) and slightly irritated. I took a few days off, with extra moisturiser, and it’s fine again.

You’re only able to get Tretinoin via a prescription, unlike retinol which is readily available online. It’s strong stuff and should be used with care and sparingly!

Being careful with retinoids

As with any intense skincare, such as retinoids, I take it day by day depending on how my skin is feeling. As I’ve mentioned, my skin started to become irritated so I gave my skin a few days off and added lots of moisturiser to my morning and evening routine. Once I found my skin was back to normal and happy again, I introduced the cream again but only 1 pump this time instead of the usual 2. I’ve kept it at 1 as I feel that’s enough for my skin.

If this continues, I’ll most likely ask Dermatica to reduce my subscription to 0.025% again.

What does Tretinoin do to the skin?

Tretinoin is used to treat skin conditions such as acne, scarring and hyperpigmentation. It helps to exfoliate the skin so although it helps with skin renewal, it can irritate because it’s so intense.

I use it in the evening before I go to bed. I put the cream on, then wait a few minutes (normally I clean my teeth) then I follow up with 2 moisturisers.

Since May, each monthly subscription has included Tretinoin and I’ve seen huge improvements to my melasma.

Tretinoin 0.05% / Niacinamide 4% / Azelaic Acid 4%
1st month on Dermatica, May 2023 – Tretinoin used 0.025% to treat melasma on my forehead/sides of cheeks
Dermatica personalised skincare with Tretinoin Hydroquinone Niacinamide Azelaic Acid
4th month on Dermatica, August 2023 – Tretinoin used is now 0.05%

Tretinoin with Hydroquinone

According to the leaflet I got with my Dermatica subscription, they both go hand in hand together.

Topical preparation to reduce hyperpigmentation of skin, such as persistent freckles, dark marks (lentigines) or melasma. Tretinoin works by increasing the skin cell turnover rate, which helps exfoliate the skin and improve the signs of photodamage. Hydroquinone is a depigmenting agent that interrupts the production of melanin pigment to help lighten the skin. Combining these active substances can help target and improve different skin concerns simultaneously.

Info from a leaflet in my Dermatica subscription

Using other products

When I use Tretinoin, I stay away from acids, such as salicylic acid or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) unless it’s in the morning and at a different time than using tretinoin.

I also moisturise with Malezia (that’s fungal acne-safe) and FaceTheory Supergel more than usual, including lots of high SPF (La Roche Posay) to give my skin as much protection as possible.

What skincare are you using?

I’ve been using Dermatica for melasma since May and I’m happy with the results. I started to see results within 6 weeks, with quite dramatic results within 3 months. See my full article on my 4-month experience with Dermatica here.

Tretinoin, 0.05% per tube - the first 2 months was 0.025 Hydroquinone, 4% per tube From looking at my upcoming formulas, they are introducing Niacinamide 4% and Azelaic Acid 4% in September (this will be my 5th month)
Dermatica personalised skincare review – with Tretinoin Hydroquinone Niacinamide

Are there any side effects in using Tretinoin?

Yes. As it helps to exfoliate the skin, too much can irritate it because it’s strong. I moisturise with two thick creams after using it. If I forget, my skin peels within a few days which doesn’t hurt but it looks weird and stops me from applying make-up. If you are new to tretinoin, I would go for a tiny amount once a week and then build up slowly for a few months.

I had a break from my Dermatica skincare towards August of last year as I had been using too much and my skin felt tight and irritated. I wouldn’t say I’ve got sensitive skin, but I felt like my skin needed a break. I’m back on it now, but I only use it twice a week in a smaller amount, and I don’t use other exfoliators.

How does Tretinoin help acne?

As Tretinoin works by increasing the skin cell turnover rate,
which helps exfoliate the skin, it gets rid of those oily skin cells that might be causing the acne.

I have an oily forehead. I wasn’t exfoliating it enough, so I had a build-up of dead skin cells just sitting there, causing havoc with acne. People with oily skin don’t lose dead skin cells like those without oily skin. Skin cells drop off you all the time with daily life but it doesn’t work so well if you have oily skin, as the dead skin can’t drop off as it’s being clung on to. Oily skin needs a bit of help, which is where good old exfoliation comes into play (but not too much).

I exfoliate twice a week generally but that can change depending on how my skin feels. If I’ve worn more makeup, then I add another day. but ensure to properly moisturise before I go to bed.

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