Is tretinoin the secret to glowing skin?

Learn about tretinoin's pore-cleansing, acne-treating and anti-aging benefits

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We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

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Derived from vitamin A, tretinoin is a potent retinoid. It stimulates the growth of healthy new cells while weeding out damage. Tretinoin (aka Retin-A) is the whole package: pore-cleansing, acne-busting, and anti-aging all in one.

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Tretinoin for clogged pores

In healthy skin, skin cells naturally turn over. Old ones die and slough off and new ones replace them. Acne can strike when there's a glitch in the process and dead cells stick around, gunking up pores. If you think of your skin as a garden, tretinoin efficiently weeds out old dead skin cells and replaces them with fresh ones. Tretinoin helps prevent clogged pores, which can lead to blackheads and inflamed cysts. It also improves the overall texture of your skin and reduces the appearance of dark spots.

Tretinoin's anti-aging benefits

FDA-approved in 1971 to treat acne, tretinoin took doctors by surprise when patients started showing other unexpected improvements including increased smoothness and firmness. Tretinoin builds up what UV rays tear down: collagen, a protein that holds skin cells together and gives skin firmness. That’s why it’s one of the top prescribed ingredients to help with wrinkles and fine lines. It works by promoting collagen production can improve skin texture and wrinkles.

Tretinoin for improving skin tone

Tretinoin doesn’t just tend to what you can see — it nurtures the root systems, too. Tretinoin can stimulate healthy blood flow beneath the surface of your skin which may improve skin tone and lighten up your complexion with a warm "glow." So there’s actually a scientific basis to the coveted "glowing skin" look. Neat, right?

Where can I get tretinoin?

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You can get a lot of things at the drugstore (life-sized teddy bears, pogo sticks, etc.). Tretinoin isn’t one of them. Tretinoin is only available by prescription. It’s powerful enough that the FDA classifies it as prescription-only. You’ll need to chat with a dermatology provider — in person or online through curology.com. Like with any great master, quality work takes time. You may need to use tretinoin for 6–8 weeks before you see results with acne, and even longer for anti-aging.

Tretinoin side effects

If you’re experiencing sun sensitivity, flakiness or redness, get in touch with your provider about how to manage these side effects.

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Learn more

Curious about other acne-fighting or anti-aging ingredients? For acne, go to our guides on ingredients like clindamycinzinc pyrithione, and azelaic acid. For anti-aging, we recommend ingredients like azelaic acid (working double-duty!) or niacinamide.

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