Even if you manage to live a life of perfect zen, without a frown on your face, you’re going to get wrinkles.
Wrinkles are a normal (albeit annoying) sign of aging caused by your skin becoming naturally more dry and less elastic over time. Spending too much time in the sun can speed up the aging process and cause premature wrinkles.
While there’s not much you can do to prevent the natural, chronological aging of your skin, you do have more control over premature wrinkles. No anti-aging treatment would be complete without exploring a class of chemical compounds called retinoids. Turns out, retinoids like tretinoin can, in fact, reverse signs of premature aging. Let’s find out how.
What is tretinoin?
Tretinoin is a derivative of Vitamin A. It’s probably the most well-known and well-researched retinoid in both anti-aging and acne skincare and is prescribed as a topical cream or gel — in fact, you might recognize it as its brand name counterpart Retin-A (source).
So, how does tretinoin reverse aging?
At a high level, tretinoin works by interfering with how your body breaks down collagen (source).
Where does collagen fit into all of this? Collagen is a protein that gives your skin its structure and firmness. Too much time in the sun breaks down collagen; and as you get older, your cells produce less and less of it to repair your skin. That’s why back in the day, people used to get collagen injections to restore fullness to their skin.
Instead, tretinoin works by inhibiting the enzymes that cause collagen breakdown and by helping your body produce more collagen — thus slowing down the aging of your skin (source).
Since the 1980s, when tretinoin was first considered as a possible treatment for wrinkles, doctors have conducted several clinical trials testing the effects of different concentrations of tretinoin for 6 months or longer. Patients with photodamaged skin showed significant improvements in all the signs of skin aging — including wrinkling and hyperpigmentation. As a result, tretinoin cream 0.02% is now an FDA-approved treatment for aging skin caused by sun damage (source).
Does tretinoin have any major side effects?
Incredibly, some studies have even indicated that tretinoin treatment could be as effective as laser therapy for some patients! Erasing your wrinkles with just simple, topical cream seems almost seems too good to be true. One thing you’ll have to discuss with your dermatologist is the possibility of side effects.
Topical retinoids like tretinoin often cause a normal, somewhat unpleasant side effect called the retinoid reaction. This includes things like:
- burning at the site of application
- increased sensitivity to the sun
Typically, these side effects tend to last for just the first couple weeks, as your body’s gets acclimated to the treatment.
Take the first steps toward fighting aging
If you want to turn the clock back on your skin, tretinoin is a promising choice. However, as with any treatment, it’s best to discuss this with your dermatologist first. A dermatologist will help you determine if tretinoin is the right retinoid for you, or if perhaps a less potent choice would work better. A dermatologist would also help you evaluate the positive anti-aging effects of tretinoin alongside its possible side effects. In many cases, a highly personalized therapy specifically suited to your skin and designed to balance the multiple effects of tretinoin might give you better results than using tretinoin on its own.