How To Use Retin-A (Tretinoin) For Wrinkles And Skin Aging

Improve skin texture and keep aging signs at bay with this potent ingredient.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Aanand GeriaDr. Aanand Geria, MD
By Ramona SinhaRamona Sinha, Certified Skin Care Coach  • 

Tretinoin (Retin-A) is one of the most potent ingredients to fade signs of aging. You can never go wrong with Retin-A for wrinkles as it works to improve skin texture and tone to minimize the signs of aging and keep the skin youthful. Retin-A also helps fade dark spots and pigmentation to make your skin brighter. While tretinoin is quite potent, you must be patient to experience visible results. This article explains why Retin-A should find a permanent spot in your anti-aging skin care routine. Read on.

What Is Retina-A Or Tretinoin? How Does It Work On Your Skin?


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Tretinoin or Retin-A belongs to the retinoid family (derived from vitamin A). Usually, retinoids are used topically for treating skin issues such as acne, melasmai  XA skin disorder where dark skin patches develop on the face due to hormonal changes or sun exposure. , psoriasisi  XA non-contagious autoimmune disorder where skin cells accumulate and develop into scales and dry, itchy areas. , etc. Tretinoin is the most studied retinoid. It was only in 1984 that the potential of Tretinoin in treating photoagingi  XAccelerated skin aging caused due to prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun. was discovered. Researchers tested the effect of tretinoin on mouse skin for 10 weeks and found that it increased collageni  XA protein that helps maintain the structure of connective tissues like skin, tendons, bones, and cartilage. production and reduced wrinkles and fine lines (1).

There are a lot of scientific studies that prove the efficacy of tretinoin as a potent anti-aging topical medicine. Let’s take a look.

Tretinoin For Anti-Aging Benefits: What Does Research Say?

Retin-A anti-aging benefits

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In a randomizedi  XA research study approach that divides participants into control (no intervention given) or experimental groups at random. , paralleli  XA clinical study where two or more participant groups get different treatments. , and double-blinded studyi  XA study where the therapy the subjects get is kept a secret from both the researchers and the subjects until the study is over. , the participants used retinol and tretinoin on their skin for three months. After three months, a significant improvement in their wrinkles, photodamage, and pigmentation levels was observed, with very mild adverse effects. The study concluded that even through tretinoin could help improve wrinkles and other signs of aging, it might cause irritation, such as redness and/or dryness, which is a common side effect of topical retinoids (2).

Another double-blinded study observed the effects of tretinoin on photoaged skin. The study suggested that applying 0.5% tretinoin cream daily not only boosted collagen formation but also improved the skin texture and skin tone and facilitated the development of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) (3).

While you can feel the effect of tretinoin on your skin right after a few weeks, you will see major changes in the long run. A study found that tretinoin improved the clinical signs of photoaging in the participants, but significant differences were observed after six months of using the cream continuously. The study was then extended to six more months, with the participants now using the cream one to three times per week. The results showed more improvements in the overall signs of photoaging (4).

Tretinoin is a potent medication for anti-aging. However, you need to use it properly to get the most out of it.

How To Use Tretinoin Or Retin-A For Signs Of Aging

Retin-A skin care routine for wrinkles

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  • Avoid using tretinoin during daytime. Always apply the cream at night, before going to bed. This ensures your skin gets time to absorb the medication and improves its efficacy.
  • Avoid pairing tretinoin with benzoyl peroxide. It’s best not to use it with other acid products, such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and vitamin C.
  • Cleanse your face before applying tretinoin or any other skin care product. If you are layering tretinoin with any other skin care product, wait for at least 15 minutes before you apply tretinoin.

When used in the right way, tretinoin improves your skin cell turnover and slows down the development of lines and wrinkles. But, you have to be patient.

Did You Know?
While retinol is a natural derivative of vitamin A and doesn’t warrant a doctor’s prescription, tretinoin is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A and needs a prescription.

How Long Does It Take For Tretinoin To Work?

Retin-A treatment effects for wrinkles

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It will take several months before you see actual results.

A study observing the effect of tretinoin on Caucasian skin concluded that tretinoin therapy should be continued for at least six months to notice visible changes in the skin. The subjects observed no significant difference in their skin for the first six months. However, after 12 months, new collagen fibers developed, and researchers observed overall improvement in their skin (1).

In another study, the researchers observed visible results after 84 days. They found significant improvement in supralabial wrinklesi  XWrinkles above the upper lip, which are often the early signs of aging. , pigmentation, and nasolabial folds (laugh lines) (2).

Despite its impressive benefits, tretinoin might cause some side effects.

Side Effects Of Tretinoin

Side effects of Retin-A

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Your skin needs some time to adjust to retinoids. If you are using tretinoin for the first time, you might experience initial side effects, such as:

  • Skin dryness
  • Irritation
  • Stinging sensation
  • Itching
  • Scaling
  • Mild burning

Introduce it to your skin gradually. Start with a twice-a-week routine and stick to it for the first two months. You can also talk to your doctor and get an idea about how to use it properly.

Stylecraze Says
Certain compounds like lime, astringentsi  XIngredients that cause the body tissues and skin cells to constrict to reduce skin oiliness or stop minor bleeding. , alcohol, and spices may interact with tretinoin. Hence, ensure these don’t come in contact with your skin.

Also, before you start using tretinoin, be aware of the following things.

Things To Consider Before Using Tretinoin

Things to consider before using Retin-A for wrinkles

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  • In case you are considering any facial treatment, such as laser treatments or chemical peels, don’t forget to consult your doctor and inform them that you are using tretinoin. Tretinoin might interfere with other skin treatments, and the doctor might suggest you stop using it for a certain time before and after you undergo the facial treatment.
  • Avoid using tretinoin if you are pregnant.
  • Tretinoin and other retinoids exfoliate your skin and make it sensitive to the sun. So, use sun protection and try not to expose your skin to the sun for long periods to prevent damage. Use a sunscreen that has at least SPF 30 and consider wearing a hat when outdoors.

If you have just introduced your skin to Retin-A, you may notice breakouts and experience minor skin irritation. Do not discontinue using it as retinol and its derivatives usually cause skin purging before showing any results. This should not stop you from using Retin A for wrinkles, fine lines, and other aging issues. However, always start with a lower concentration. Consult a doctor to determine the right strength of tretinoin for your skin and the correct way to use it. This will help avoid unwanted skin reactions and irritation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better for wrinkles: retinol or Retin-A?

According to anecdotal evidence, Retin-A is better. Its main active ingredient is retinoic acid, which reduces wrinkles more effectively than any other anti-aging product.

Does Retin-A tighten the skin under the eyes?

Yes. Retin-A helps boost collagen production and reduces wrinkles and fine lines that help tighten the skin under the eyes.

Do I need to wash tretinoin off in the morning?

No. If you have applied tretinoin to the skin, wait at least for 1 hour before washing it.

What moisturizer should I use with tretinoin?

Tretinoin may dry your skin or make it sensitive to the sun. Use a water-based, hydrating moisturizer with SPF.


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging..”, Clinical Interventions in Aging, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. A double-blind randomized study comparing..”, Wiley Online Library
  3. Topical tretinoin for photoaged skin.”, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Photoaging and the skin. The effects of tretinoin.”, Dermatologic Clinics
    , US National Library of Medicine.

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