This is probably the best thing most people can do for their skin other than wear sunscreen. I use it for acne and my skin is pretty much clear now (however I also use spironolactone and birth control which also help). It also helps fade scars and smooths out the texture of your skin as well with long-term use. I’ve tried so many things for acne like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, AHAs, OTC adapalene, etc, and none of them seem to be strong enough to keep my skin as clear as this does. I have to use 0.05% as 0.025% didn’t seem to be strong enough for me. However I did try 0.1% and it was too strong for me.
Of course when you start using it for the first few weeks your skin will be irritated, dry and flaky, but all you need to do to get through this period of retinization is learn to apply it to minimize irritation and not overdo it and only increase frequency of use slowly. A lot of people don’t use this correctly and discontinue it due to the irritation but the irritation and dryness is expected and it does take some time to go away, but honestly it is worth waiting it out even though your skin may look worse for a few weeks.
It’s best to start out with the lowest percentage, 0.025%, and then increase the percentage once your skin is used to it. You can also try using other weaker retinoids like retinol, retinaldehyde, and adapalene and let your skin get used to those before switching to tretinoin.
It’s really important to apply this on dry skin so you should wait a while after cleansing so your skin is no longer moist to the touch (the more wet your skin is the faster and deeper it will penetrate which will make your skin more irritated and increase flakiness). The standard recommendation is to wait 30 minutes after cleansing but I normally don’t wait that long. After your skin gets used to it this doesn’t always matter as much but it definitely made a difference for me when I started out.
You can also apply a bit of moisturizer or oil as a barrier to slow down absorption before applying it. Some people say this decreases the efficacy but in my experience it doesn’t seem to do that.
It definitely helps if you moisturize well afterwards of course. I usually add another layer of moisturizer and you can even do a layer of petrolatum (Vaseline) or something else like aquaphor if you have super dry skin.
Be careful with using other actives at the same time. Especially when starting out, you will find that your skin can’t handle what you’re used to using if you like using exfoliants/ acids or anything acidic like l-ascorbic acid serums. It’s best most of the tome to just do the basics (cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen) and maybe one other thing for acne like benzoyl peroxide if you’re already used to it. You probably won’t even need any of those acids anymore if you use this frequently when your skin gets used to it. Keep in mind you can’t use this with benzoyl peroxide as benzoyl peroxide inactivated it, and you should never layer it over acids as that’s an easy way to ruin your skin barrier.
If your insurance covers acne meds, and your doctor will prescribe it for acne, then this will likely not be too expensive. If you’re using it for anti-aging purposes then you’re going to pay much more. I pay about $25 for a tube in the US with insurance although it’s ridiculously expensive without insurance, even if you use GoodRx. In a lot of other countries you can get it at any pharmacy without a prescription and it typically costs less than $20 per tube and often less than $10. It’s crazy how much it costs in the US. I really hoped that this becomes available over the counter like adapalene because I know not all insurance plans cover acne meds especially for adults. It doesn’t even make sense that it is by prescription only considering it’s relatively harmless. Apparently it’s because it could possibly be teratogenic, but so are many other things available over the counter like vitamin A pills...