Skin & Fragrance Blog by Thom Watson

Acne, spots & blemishes, Dark Spots & Pigmentation, Photoageing & Firmness, Skin Science, Special Care

Tretinoin / Vitamin A Treatment

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Tretinoin, also known by the brands Atralin, Renove and Retin-A is a skin irritant that causes an increase in skin cell turnover, skin cell regeneration and the synthesis of proteins such as elastin and collagen. It’s used commonly in the treatment of acne / blemished skin as well as having powerful anti-ageing benefits. It inhibits and helps turn back the ageing process by inhibiting matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, that become more overactive as we age.

There’s 3 strengths – 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.1% and these are available in a cream or gel formulation.


Proper care needs to be taken when using this product. It should only be applied at night to minimise sun exposure, which can harshly irritate the skin and also break down some of the actives, reducing the benefits.

Discontinue the use of any harsh soaps, or other retinols and exfoliants. The skin needs to be cleansed before use and allowed to dry for at least 15 minutes with no moisturiser before applying. You may apply a gentle moisturiser after the treatment, just wait a couple of minutes first.


Start by using the cream just twice during the first week and seeing how you get on, and only ever a pea-sized amount, which should be enough to cover the whole face. If on first use your skin starts to burn, itch and by the morning peel significantly, then consider lowering the percentage or possibly discontinuing use altogether. It’s not recommend to be used directly under the eyes and under the brow bone, as the risk of reaction is huge, but if you’re determined to do this, proceed with great caution.

After the first week, if your skin is tolerating the treatment well, step it up to once every other night. By the third week, you may be wanting to try it every night, again, just see how it goes, and knock it back a step if any significant increase in skin sensitivity starts to become visible.

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Acne Results

With acne / spots / blemishes, you should start to see a difference within around 2-3 months. It will possibly get worse within the first 6 weeks as the skin is purged, and many spots and blemishes will come to the surface as your skin is effectively cleansed and detoxed through the increased skin cell regeneration and turnover. Around the 3rd or 4th month, you should see significant improvements with results reporting over 95% reduction in spots and blemishes.

Hyperpigmentation Results

Hyperpigmentation will start to reduce in around the same time period, 4-6 months. Remember, hyperpigmenation can never permanently erased as it’s a process that once triggered is near impossible to switch off, so to continue seeing the benefits, you need to keep on top of your treatment.

Anti-Ageing Results

Reductions in lines and wrinkles takes much longer, around about 6 months. The process of elastin and collagen growth is a long one and the older you are, the longer it takes. Tretinoin doesn’t directly affect the growth, as mentioned it simply reduces the MMP enzymes, so you have to wait for your body to natural repair itself. If you are using this treatment for its anti-ageing benefits, you will notice that before your wrinkles are reduced, your skin will look beautifully smooth and more even in tone.

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Frustratingly, this product is not available in the UK without a prescription from a GP, primarily because of its sheer strength.

In all likeliness, you’re not going to get it prescribed unless you have severe acne or a required skin concern; our health system has a lot more important matters to be dealing with.

You can however buy it from most pharmacies on the continent and in most US states, it seems the rest of the world is more trusted than we are.


Just be careful, use your common sense, and don’t hurt yourself. I will not be held responsible for any problems that may arise through your treatment and I trust that you will seek proper medical advice from a doctor or pharmacist. Good luck…

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