Are You Using Your Retin-A Correctly…or Even At All?

Dr Elizabeth Lebrun Nestor
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Author: Dr. Elizabeth Lebrun Nestor

Many of you have heard me spout out a list of the countless benefits of Retin-A: anti-aging, collagen building, reversing sun damage, exfoliating, and even treating pre-cancerous skin lesions. But why aren’t all of my patients using it? Here are some common myths, along with tips and tricks to put you ahead of the skin game and convince you to start using this skin-saving cream:

“I can’t use Retin-A if I live in Florida, because it will make me too sun-sensitive”

Retin-A is safe to use in Florida. In fact, I use it on a nightly basis. We tell patients to use it only at night, because the product itself will destabilize in the light and will not work. The only reason that it should make you too sun sensitive is if your skin is irritated from it. If your skin is dry and peeling, then you may be more sensitive to the sun, regardless of the cause. Of course, I always recommend using a daily moisturizer with sunscreen in the morning, as this should be part of any skin routine.

“My Retin-A must not be strong enough, because my skin isn’t peeling”

The perfect strength Retin-A is one that is tolerable without obvious drying or peeling of the skin. If your skin is having this reaction, you may need to go down in strength, or use it less frequently until your skin gets used to it. I recommend starting every other night, to allow your skin to get accustomed to the product, before using it nightly. I also recommend a pea-sized amount for the whole face (more is not better!), followed by a good nightly moisturizer.

“I’m scared to use Retin-A, because it will thin my skin”

This is actually the opposite of the truth! Retin-A actually helps the deeper layer of the skin (the dermis) build collagen. Loss of collagen is often due to sun exposure and the aging process, which causes the skin to lose elasticity, leading to sagging and wrinkles. Retin-R helps to reverse this process, to thicken the deeper layers of the skin, improve elasticity and soften wrinkles over time. Remember, this cream is not meant to transform your skin overnight. Its subtle effects will become noticeable over years, giving you a nice glow and allowing you to age a bit more gracefully.