Tretinoin is a retinoid commonly used to treat some of the signs of aging. It helps with fine lines and wrinkles by increasing cell turnover, improving elasticity, and replenishing skin cells’ collagen stores. While effective, tretinoin is not a quick fix—it can take several months of consistent use before you see any improvement in your fine lines and wrinkles. Common side effects include skin stinging or burning, skin irritation, dryness, and changes in skin tone. You should apply sunscreen (at least SPF 30) while using tretinoin because it can increase your sensitivity to sunburns.
Usually it takes 3-6 months of nightly application of tretinoin to see significant improvement, however many patients cannot tolerate a retinoid every night to start out because retinoids exfoliate the top layer of the skin and can cause dryness, peeling, or irritation. Because of this patients are generally advised to start by using a prescription retinoid 2-3 nights per week and gradually increase until the skin can tolerate nightly application. Note, however, that the best (and most lasting effects) come from consistent use over the course of many years.