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Why is Tretinoin Used at Night?

by Ella Goodman 18 Feb 2020

Tretinoin is one of the most powerful and effective medications in the world of skincare. It has become a popular dermatological choice for treating acne, evening out skin tone and texture, and keeping the earliest signs of aging at bay. Tretinoin is most often prescribed under the brand name of Retin-A and is used as both a short term and long-term skincare treatment. Because tretinoin is so popular, there are often questions about how to use it correctly, and why it’s best used in a certain way.

One of the questions many people have about tretinoin is why it’s recommended to be used only at night. Here are a few of the reasons nighttime use is the most common recommended treatment.

Tretinoin Works Best at Night

Your skin is doing some amazing things while you’re off in dreamland. During the night, when you’re blissfully resting, your body is hard at work. Your body uses this time of rest to get busy recovering and repairing all the damage the day brought with it. Cellular renewal is at a peak while you’re sleeping, making it prime time to take advantage of tretinoin’s power for rejuvenating your skin.

One of the main ways tretinoin works is by increasing the rate of cell turnover in your skin. When we’re younger, cells rejuvenate at a nice steady pace but as we age, the process begins to slow down. Somewhere around your thirtieth birthday, you might begin to notice a few signs of this decline in cell turnover. Your skin might not seem as supple or “plump” as it once was. The texture of your skin might begin to feel a little uneven, and that rosy glow of youth might be a little harder to come by.

This is all part of the natural aging process, but there are things you can do to stop some of it from happening so quickly – like taking advantage of tretinoin’s ability to enhance cell turnover. If you want to get the most from your Retin-A treatment, it only makes sense to use at night when cell turnover is at its highest.

Tretinoin Works Best on Its Own

Tretinoin is one of the strongest retinoids, which is why you need a prescription for Retin-A. It’s effective but can also come with a few side effects. The most common side effects of tretinoin are redness, irritation, and peeling. Tretinoin is typically prescribed for nighttime use because this is when you’re less likely to be using other skincare products or cosmetics, some of which can increase the severity of side effects or interfere with tretinoin’s effectiveness.

Because tretinoin can cause skin sensitivities in the beginning, it’s best to avoid using it with other products that might cause irritation. This includes other acne control treatments, as well as common chemical exfoliants that are found in many skincare products, glycolic acid being just one example.

Other common skincare ingredients that can interact with tretinoin include:

  •  Alcohol based products
  • Citrus
  • Menthol containing products
  • Abrasive cleansers and exfoliants
  • Sulfur
  • Salicylic acid
  • Alpha hydroxy acid
  • Medications that increase your sensitivity to sunlight

While it’s best to avoid these potential irritants altogether while using Retin-A, it’s even more important to not apply them together at the same time. Using tretinoin at night gives the medication a chance to work on its own with minimized side effects.

Tretinoin and Sun Exposure

There’s an interesting contradiction to tretinoin. It can be very effective at repairing damage caused by the sun, but at the same time increases your sensitivity to UV rays. When using Retin-A, it’s crucial that you’re diligent about sunscreen use (not that you shouldn’t be already).

Sun sensitivity doesn’t magically disappear when you wake up after a nighttime Retin-A treatment and wash your face. The residual effects are still there, and it’s important to protect your skin from sun damage. However, using tretinoin at night means you’re less likely to be out there soaking up the sun’s rays with the medication freshly applied to your skin.

What About Tretinoin Alternatives?

Tretinoin is a prescription medication, and like any pharmaceutical you should know the risks, benefits, and weigh them against each other to make an informed decision for your own health. Because tretinoin is a medication used for skin conditions, its potential is often underestimated. If you’re interested in the benefits of tretinoin but worry about the side effects, there are alternatives that can work beautifully for your skin.

One such alternative is to choose a non-prescription strength retinoid cream that can work just as effectively, without the side effects – and no restrictions on when to use it. Retinol is a member of the same retinoid family as tretinoin but is available in non-prescription formulas that are gentler on your skin. The secret to finding a retinol that’s as effective as its tretinoin counterpart is to choose a product such as Admire My Skin’s Clinically Effective Retinoid Cream that is formulated with complimentary ingredients like hyaluronic acid and plant stem cells.

It’s important to love your skin and treat it with the respect it deserves. Take the time to research skincare products, even those that come at the advice of a medically qualified skincare expert. Choose what feels right to you, and feel good about the skin you’re in.

Discover how to build an effective skin care regimen for all skin types with our top selection skin care product bundles.

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