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When used topically, Retin-A treats whiteheads, blackheads, and general symptoms of acne.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: August 15, 2012

Retin-A, or tretinoin, is a chemical derivative of vitamin A. When used topically, Retin-A treats whiteheads, blackheads, and general symptoms of acne. Retin-A is commonly prescribed as a gel or cream, and is sold by prescription only.

Long-term use of Retin-A smoothes and moisturizes the skin, accelerates cell turnover, increases the speed at which dead skin cells are swept from the surface of the skin, and unplugs clogged pores.

Over time, Retin-A has a similar, though less dramatic, effect on the skin as a light chemical peel, boosting collagen production and enhancing skin quality.

What It's Good For

If you've ever sprouted a blackhead or a whitehead, then you're no stranger to comedonal acne. Retin-A targets this type of acne, clearing your pores, reducing excess oils, and preventing future breakouts.

Retin-A may also improve wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and textural issues of the skin. Many physicians even recommend using Retin-A in preparation for laser skin resurfacing.

Who it works for: Retin-A is a good acne treatment for skin that's plagued by mild to moderate acne. Because Retin-A is known to dry the skin, it is best for patients who have oily or combination skin.

Retin-A makes users more sensitive to the sun, so Fitzpatrick type I users, who have very fair, sun-sensitive skin, should be especially cautious when using it.

Recommended age range: There are no age restrictions for Retin-A. It's often used by teens battling acne.

When will I see results?: After about six to nine weeks, you should begin to notice improvements in the quality of your skin. (If you're hoping to improve fine lines and wrinkles, this can take longer. You may be waiting as long as six months.) Acne can also worsen during the first month of treatment before it improves.

How long it lasts: Retin-A provides long-lasting acne reduction when used over an extensive period of time. As for wrinkles, Retin-A may reduce fine wrinkles or delay their formation, but it can't protect your skin from age-related lines forever.

Key benefits of Retin-A: With continued use, Retin-A can ward off acne, smooth blemishes, and improve uneven skin.

Licensed uses: Retin-A is intended for the topical treatment of acne.

Find experts who offer Retin-A near you