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    1234 · 20 min read

    Tretinoin Precautions: What To Expect When Taking Tretinoin

    Tretinoin is an increasingly popular medication that is used to treat acne. Recently, Tretinoin has been going viral on TikTok thanks to the results that it can provide people. It not only improves acne but also helps the appearance of the skin, making fine lines and wrinkles appear smoother and fresher. People will watch TikTok videos about this medication, but may not actually know what to expect when they begin using it themselves. In this article, we will aim to shed some light on what you can expect when using Tretinoin so that you will not be surprised by anything should you decide to use it. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about the medication that can give people more informed decisions about whether or not to pursue it.

    Video: What is Tretinoin?

    Google Web Story: What To Expect When Taking Tretinoin

    Take a look at UK Meds Google Web Story explaining what acne patients should expect when using tretinoin cream as a treatment:

    What can I expect in the first 3 weeks of using Tretinoin?

    During the first three weeks of Tretinoin usage, it is completely normal for your skin to become irritated, and you may think that your condition is actually worsening, especially if you are using the treatment for acne. It is always important to keep in mind that your skin is going to get worse before it gets better. In some cases, it can take up to 12 weeks for people to notice a real improvement in their skin. 

    Can I expect acne to improve after long-term use of Tretinoin?

    Yes, although it is important that you stick with your medication even whilst it may seem to be worsening your condition. After around 12 weeks (possibly more) you will begin to notice a considerable improvement in your skin. This is because the medication has had time to do what it needs to do. People who have used Tretinoin report an initial skin ‘purge’ that is then followed by fresh, healthy skin after a period of time. Long-term usage of Tretinoin can leave your skin looking the best it has ever been. 

    lady with acne on her face

    Can acne get worse when using Tretinoin?

    When you first start to use Tretinoin it is highly likely that you will experience a skin purge. This is when your skin appears to get worse before it gets better. Unfortunately, this is the process that Tretinoin needs to take in order to clear your skin. This will mean that your acne may appear to worsen. It is important to stick with your medication during this time as this is simply part of the process of getting fresher, healthier skin.

    Stage of Tretinoin Usage

    What to expect

    2-4 Weeks
    • Slight irritation to the skin
    • Some skin peeling
    • This is the ‘purge’ phase
    4-6 Weeks
    • You can increase the frequency of your dosage here
    • Your skin should be smoother and with less peeling
    8-12 Weeks
    • You will notice major positive changes to your skin
    • Deeper layers of the skin are healthier resulting in a fresher feel
    • Dark spots begin to lighten
    6+ Months
    • Long-term usage will work forever and you will notice benefits for as long as you use the treatment
    • Wrinkles and fine lines will diminish
    • Acne breakouts are very rare

    What is purging?

    Skin purging is the name that has been given to the phase of Tretinoin usage where the skin appears to get worse. This name was given to this phase by users of the medication. The purge will see your skin become irritated and it may appear worse than before. This is intentional however as this is the medication speeding up the life cycle of the damaged skin cells. Doing this will allow fresh, healthier skin cells to grow quicker, improving acne and the appearance of the skin.

    How much tretinoin should I use to avoid unwanted side effects?

    When you first begin to use Tretinoin your doctor or prescriber will provide you with instructions on how to best use your medication. Typically, you will apply a pea-sized amount of cream onto your face every night. Depending on your condition, your doctor may tell you to use more or less cream to avoid side effects.

    Should I check my progress with a doctor regularly when using Tretinoin?

    If you feel that you need to, you should always speak to your doctor if you feel that your medication needs reviewing, or if you think that the medication is not working as well as it can. Your doctor may actually ask you to stick with your medication as many people can mistake the purge period for the medication not working correctly. 

    Should I be cautious of overexposure to sunlight, wind and cold weather whilst using Tretinoin?

    Simply put, yes. When you use Tretinoin you will need to be extra cautious when you are going outside, especially if it is sunny. Tretinoin can make the skin more susceptible to sun damage, especially in the first few weeks of use. To combat this you should ensure to use a high-SPF sunscreen to ensure your skin is protected.

    Should I avoid using other topical medicine in the same area as I use Tretinoin?

    If you are using any other topical skincare products then you should avoid using them for at least an hour after you have applied tretinoin onto your skin. This is to ensure that the tretinoin you are using is working its best. Usually, you apply tretinoin before bed, so this should not be too much of a concern.

    What can you expect when taking Tretinoin?

    Should I expect burning when using Tretinoin?

    One of the side effects of Tretinoin usage, especially during the purge phase, is a burning sensation. As your skin progresses, this should begin to alleviate and should not be a factor for more than a couple of weeks.

    Should I expect stinging when using Tretinoin?

    Another side effect of using Tretinoin can be a stinging sensation on the skin that you use it on. Again, this is a part of the purging process and should not last too long. If the problem persists for an extended period then you may wish to speak to your doctor. 

    Should I expect peeling when using Tretinoin?

    Yes, you should expect your skin to peel when you first start using Tretinoin. This occurs because your skin cycle is sped up. The peeling skin is the dead cells that are being replaced by healthy new ones.

    Should I expect redness when using Tretinoin?

    When your skin is irritated it will look red. This is completely normal, however, can be very discouraging especially if your condition is bad to start with. It is important that you stick through this period as it should only last for a few weeks and the results will be worth it.

    middel aged lady with clear skin on her face smiling

    Tretinoin FAQs

    Will using Tretinoin with hair products cause irritation?

    There is no link between Tretinoin and hair loss. There is also no need to be concerned about using any hair products such as hairspray or gel as these are not directly applied to sensitive areas of the skin. 

    Will using Tretinoin with sun-sensitivity skin products cause irritation?

    Tretinoin usage increases the sensitivity of the skin to UV rays. You may be tempted to use sun-sensitivity products to help with this, however, this can result in redness, itching and further peeling. You are best off using a high SPF (at least 30) sunscreen that should be used specifically by those who have sensitive skin. 

    Will using Tretinoin with skin products that contain alcohol cause irritation?

    Using skin products that contain alcohol can make the skin more susceptible to side effects including stinging, burning and redness. Alcohol can dry out the skin which can make the side effects of Tretinoin usage worse. It is recommended that you use non-alcoholic skin products that are formulated for sensitive skin.

    Tips for using Tretinoin

    Is it recommended to wear protective clothing when using Tretinoin?

    As Tretinoin increases the sensitivity of the skin to UV rays you will need to be careful when you are going out in the sun. You should use high-SPF (at least 30) sunscreen when you are going out in the sun as you will be more prone to sun damage. You can also help to prevent this by wearing plenty of layers and keeping to the shade as much as you can. 

    Is it recommended to use moisturisers when using Tretinoin?

    It is recommended that you use a moisturiser alongside your Tretinoin use as it can help to prevent the effects of the initial purging process. It should be noted that the moisturiser you use should be formulated for sensitive skin and should be alcohol-free and fragrance-free. This is to ensure that the moisturiser is not going to worsen the side effects of Tretinoin. 

    Is there a better time of day to use Tretinoin?

    Yes, when you are prescribed Tretinoin you will be given usage instructions. Usually, it is recommended that you use Tretinoin at the same time every day to ensure you remember to use it. Typically you will use the medication in the evening just before you go to bed. 

    Tretinoin Reviews

    Here are some reviews from real Tretinoin users, taken from

    “This has been the A LIFE changing product for me. I started out using this only two weeks ago during a bad hormonal breakout around my chin and jaw area. I used this every other night mixed with a hydro-boost moisturiser from LOREAL. My skin is completely cleared of the acne and breakouts and I have had no active pimples since!”

    “My skin is clear, my wrinkles are minimal to non-existent, and I don’t notice an over-drying of my skin, even living in the Nevada desert.”

    “COMPLETELYYYY cleared my skin. I used to have severe and persistent clogged pores but ever since I started using Tretinoin my skin has 100% cleared up.”

    To read more reviews about Tretinoin from real users, check out

    Results of Tretinoin: Before and After

    Interested in learning about more user experiences for Tretinoin in the treatment of acne? If so, check out our Tretinoin page.

    Google Web Story: A-Z Guide to Tretinoin

    Take a look at UK Meds Google Web Story providing an on-the-go A-Z guide of tretinoin cream:

    Google Web Story: Can You Get Tretinoin on the NHS?

    Take a look at UK Meds Google Web Story that explains whether tretinoin cream can be prescribed for acne treatment on the NHS in the UK:

    Google Web Story: How To Get A Prescription For Tretinoin Cream In The UK

    Take a look at UK Meds Google Web Story explaining how to get a prescription for Tretinoin cream in the UK:

    How To Pronounce Popular Acne Medication Names

    Are you interested in learning how to pronounce popular acne medication names correctly? If so, check out our handy TikTok content:


    Related Products

    From £34.99
    • Effectively treats acne
    • Helps the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
    • Viral TikTok skincare treatment
    From £39.99
    • Treats facial acne
    • Highly effective
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    Related Products

    From £34.99
    • Effectively treats acne
    • Helps the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
    • Viral TikTok skincare treatment
    From £39.99
    • Treats facial acne
    • Highly effective
    • Easy application

    Blog author

    Scott Weaver

    Scott is an experienced and professional content writer who works exclusively for UK Meds.

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