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TRETINOIN (Vitamin A Acid or Retin-A)


Tretinoin is a medication that is applied to the skin to reduce the number of new blackheads and whiteheads produced by the skin.  The fewer of these you have, the fewer pimples you will get.  Tretinoin is one of a class of medications called retinoids and it has been shown to help reduce fine wrinkles in the skin and help even out skin tones in addition to reducing acne.


There are several brands of vitamin A acid in Canada.  They are Retin A, Retin A Micro, StieVA A, Stievamycin,  Biacna and Vitamin A Acid.  They come in creams, gels and liquids of varying strengths:



Cream 0.01%

Cream 0.025%

Cream 0.05%

Gel 0.01%

Gel 0.025%

Gel 0.05%

Liquid 0.025%

Liquid 0.05%

Liquid 0.1%


The stronger the tretinoin you use, the more effective it will be against your acne.  However, the stronger the medication is, the more likely it will be to irritate your skin.  Finding the best one for you is, to a certain extent, a matter of trial and error.




1.   Wash skin gently.


2.   Apply a thin layer of the medication all over the face.  Avoid the eyes, lips and the corners of your nose.


3.   The medication will be invisible when it dries.  Leave it on the skin either all day or all night depending on your physician's instructions.  The exact time does not matter.


4.   Tretinoin will make your skin slightly sensitive, tight and flaky.  This is not something you should worry too much about.  It is a problem we can make adjustments for later, as your treatment progresses.  If the skin becomes irritated, red, itchy, too flaky or otherwise uncomfortable, stop using the medication for 3-7 days, and then restart when the skin starts to return to normal.  If the skin becomes too dry again, try using the tretinoin every other night.  Different parts of the face will dry to different degrees with the medication.  You may wish to use it less often or not at all on more sensitive areas of your face once you get an idea of its effects.  Using too much tretinoin can lead to a temporary "burn" so follow your instructions carefully.


5.   Tretinoin can irritate existing whiteheads and blackheads, causing some of them to come to the surface and others to turn into small pimples, so don't be surprised if your acne looks slightly worse in the first 2-3 weeks of use.  Some people refer to this effect as “purging”.


6.   You can expect an improvement in your acne in 6-12 weeks.


7.   Tretinoin makes your skin burn more easily in the sun so you should take appropriate measures to protect yourself.  Don't stay in the sun if you can help it.  If you must be in the sun for more than 15 minutes, protect your face with a hat and/or sunscreen.  Do not use sunlamps or tanning beds as these may also cause damage to the skin.


The tretinoin you are using is a very safe medication.  But it is for you only and is not to be shared with friends or acquaintances.  It may not be good for them.  It is not recommended for women who are pregnant or who may get pregnant while they are using it.

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