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Is Retin A Safe?

by Ella Goodman 05 Dec 2019

Retin A has been making waves in the beauty industry for years now, generating a following of people with radiant skin claiming that it has done nothing short of produce miracles. You’ve probably also noticed that not everyone has positive things to say about Retin A, and there’s the fact that you need a prescription to use it. This may have you wondering whether Retin-A is really safe, and if it’s the best option available today for bringing out the natural vibrance of your skin.

What Does the FDA Say About Retin A?

Of course, one of the first places we look when considering the safety of any prescription product is the FDA, the agency responsible for ensuring that our drugs and food are not harmful. Retin A has the backing of FDA for the treatment of acne. Over the years, however, the uses of Retin A have been expanded to treat many skin conditions, even though the FDA has not officially approved it for any condition outside of acne.

What the FDA is lacking is evidence of the long-term safety profile of Retin A. Most studies looked at have a range of about 12 weeks, although there are some lesser known and older studies that have looked at smaller groups and the use of Retin A over longer periods of time. What the FDA does say about the use of Retin A long term is that the safety of long-term use of this product, or for the treatment of any condition other than acne, has not been effectively established.

The FDA also lists Retin A as a pregnancy category C. What this means is that it is currently not known if Retin A is harmful to a fetus or a baby/child that is breastfed. Because of this, women who are trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding should not use any product containing Retin A.

There have been animal studies involving rats that indicate high doses of tretinoin can cause birth defects and be toxic to the unborn fetus. That said, there are no current studies that demonstrate the same relationship in human studies – although the reason animal studies are often used is because we simply can’t ethically replicate certain trials in the human population. Retin A also hasn’t been approved for use by anyone under the age of 12. The bottom line? Best to avoid Retin A, or any other brand name of tretinoin, while trying to conceive, pregnant, or nursing.

What Are Retin-A Side Effects?

There is always a reason that a drug is available through prescription, rather than over the counter. This is almost always because the drug in question poses the risk of side effects, even minimally, that require either observation or adjustment of dosage to effectively treat specific conditions. Retin A is no exception to this.

Retin A hasn’t been shown in medical studies to have serious long-term side effects, although honestly, there is a significant lack of medically relevant studies that assess long term use. As a result, we’re typically left looking at anecdotal evidence and non-official (meaning less reliable) studies.

Retin A has been used for the treatment of acne along reducing the visible signs of aging for years at this point. There exists a sizable population of long term Retin A users who have not experienced any medically significant side effects of their extended use of tretinoin.

When it comes to using Retin A, it’s more the immediate effects that we’re more commonly concerned with. Retin A can cause some notable short-term side effects, especially when used too frequently, or in a strength that is too high. In fact, a dermatologist is most likely to prescribe the lowest possible effective strength of Retin A until tolerance is assessed. Side effects of Retin A generally go away after discontinuing use, or as your skin adjusts to the strength of the tretinoin product used.

Some of the more common side effects of Retin A include:

  •  A burning or stinging sensation on the skin where Retin A is applied. For individuals with sensitive skin, burning and stinging may be severe.
  • One of the most common side effects of Retin A is peeling skin. This generally can be alleviated by using a lower strength product and allowing your skin time to adjust, although for some individuals, this side effect is recurring.
  • Redness, chapping, or in some cases inflammation where Retin A is applied.
  • Skin that is hot or warm to the touch.
  • Skin lightening where Retin A is applied.
  • A worsening of sensitive skin conditions, such as eczema.
  • Interactions with photosensitizing medications, such as tetracycline, fluoroquinolones, sulfonamides, and thiazides, among others.

Retin A and Sun Exposure

One of the most significant side effects of the use of Retin A isn’t listed above because it’s serious enough to deserve a spot all its own. The application of tretinoin increases photosensitivity significantly, making it crucial that you avoid the sun or become extremely diligent in the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors – no matter for how short of a time, or how cloudy the day. This is especially true if you’re someone with skin that’s easily sunburned.

One area of research that is especially concerning when looking at the side effects of Retin A is that in animal studies, the application of tropical retinoid products, like Retin A, has been linked to skin cancer. We can deduce that this stems from the fact that Retin A makes you more susceptible to sun damage, which is a predominant factor in the overwhelming majority in cases of skin cancer.

Is There an Alternative to Retin A?

Retin A has somewhat of a cult following in some circles. Honestly, this is because it works, and the results are genuinely noticeable. Still, if the side effects associated with Retin A don’t sound like your cup of tea, or if you’re someone with sensitive skin that may not respond well to tretinoin, you may be wondering if there’s an effective alternative available.

The answer is yes, and you don’t even need a prescription for it. While tretinoin might be the most bioavailable retinoid, there are other retinols that have shown to be equally effective – in some cases even winning over Retin A users.

The key is finding a product that’s gentle, effective, and formulated with retinoids and complementary ingredients that work together to produce incredible results. Admire My Skin’s Clinically Effective Retinoid Cream is a formula of 2.5% retinol, combined with hyaluronic acid and plant stem cells that is both gentle enough for a range of skin types, and suitable for everyday use.

Retinols for Beautiful Skin

Retinols are derivatives of Vitamin A, but that doesn’t mean that they’re entirely safe just because they come from nature. When given a choice, it’s frequently better to start with the gentlest, most natural skincare solution you can find. The goal is to heal and revitalize your skin, not make matters worse with a laundry list of side effects. Take the time to research your options and be open to solutions that don’t necessitate a prescription. Radiant, healthy skin can be yours, without a prescription or unpleasant side effects.

Discover our clinical proven skincare products to exfoliate and hydrate your skin to help the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, smoothness, and firmness.

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