Topical Retinoids
Topical retinoids can improve acne, pigmentation, scarring and fine lines and wrinkles.
Dr Magnus Lynch | | 2 min read

Topical retinoids can help with acne, pigmentation, scars and fine lines and wrinkles. It will generally take a number of months to notice an effect. When first used they can cause irritation or dryness of the skin and it is important to introduce them gradually in order that the skin has time to adjust. Begin by testing on a small area of the face - such as the back of the cheek. Apply a small quantity to this area every other day. If tolerated for a week then you can apply to the entire area of concern.

Retinoids should be applied last thing at night and you should not use at the same time as other active ingredients including serums or other acne treatments. If you are experiencing irritation then use a smaller quantity and apply every third day rather than every other day. You can apply a light water-based moisturiser (e.g. cerave/cetaphil) first and then spread the small quantity of retinoid across the face. If you are tolerating well then you can use the retinoid every day rather than every other day and slowly increase the amount that is applied. You should not use retinol-containing products if you are using topical retinoids. You should not use topical retinoids if you are pregnant or at risk of becoming pregnant as they can potentially cause birth defects. As for any medication it is essential to read the information leaflet that comes within the packaging and contains a full list of all recognised side effects.

The most common topical retinoids that I will prescribe are adapalene, which is particularly good for acne, and tretinoin, for which there is better evidence for reduction of fine lines and the treatment of pigmentation.

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