Retin-A (Tretinoin)

  • Generic name: Tretinoin, derivative of vitamin A
  • Trade names:
    Renova: Cream 0.02%, Cream 0.05%
    Retin-A: Cream 0.025%, Cream 0.05%, Cream 0.1%; Gel 0.025%, Gel 0.01%
    Retin-A Micro: Gel 0.04%, Gel 0.1%
  • Pharmacologic category: Retinoid
  • FDA approved: October 20, 1971
  • Pregnancy risk factor: C
Medical uses

Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A. Retin-A is licensed for acne. Renova is is the only tretinoin cream approved by the FDA for treating sun-damaged skin.

The growing body of research supports the claims that Retin-A has antiaging properties, and many dermatologists prescribe it for that purpose. Tretinoin improves visible signs of ageing such as facial wrinkles, fine lines, pigmentation, freckles and age spots, rough skin texture, uneven tone, and visible pores.

However, the FDA has not granted approval for Retin-A brand as an anti-aging remedy.

Topical tretinoin can also reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

Renova vs Retin A

What is the same?

Both Renova and Retin-A contain an active ingredient tretinoin, a vitamin A metabolite that occurs naturally in the body.

What is different?

Renova contains tretinoin in a more moisturizing base aimed for mature and dry skin. If you read the PDR, you will find that Retin A is not FDA approved as an anti-aging remedy, but Renova is.

So, Retin A tends to dry out the skin more, which is beneficial to youthful, oily, acne-prone skin, while Renova tends to have a moisturizing effect, which is beneficial for dry, mature skin. Heavy moisturizing base in Renova may cause a flare of acne in teenagers prone to this condition.

Retin-A for Wrinkles

No one likes wrinkles. The rejuvenation of aging skin is a cherished desire of many people. Wrinkles are caused by the natural aging process, sun damage and the attack of free radicals on the skin.

Retinoids such as Retin-A and Renova are proven to reduce the wrinkles, discoloration due to sun damage, skin roughness, and pigmentation - and thus slow the aging process of the skin.

How does Retin-A work?

Noticeable improvement is seen after 3-4 months of topical application. It will slowly regress once tretinoin is discontinued. The disappearance of hyperpigmentation takes 1 year until it becomes noticeable.

The beneficial anti-aging effect of tretinoin is due to an increase in dermal collagen. Tretinoin stimulates the new collagen synthesis and an inhibition of enzymes responsible for collagen degradation, and boosts epidermal growth resulting in a thicker epidermis. Tretinoin stimulates production of hyaluronic acid and perhaps other glycosaminoglycans in the dermis. It can also protect against UV-induced collagen destruction and thus prevent photodamage.

Retin-A Micro

Retin-A Micro (tretinoin microsphere gel) utilizes a new delivery system, which may minimize its irritative effects. This delivery system works by entrapping tretinoin in sponge-like polymeric microspheres that bring the medication more directly to the follicle and serve as reservoirs.

  • Younger and healthier looking skin. Topical tretinoin is proven to reduce fine wrinkles and hyperpigmentation; improve skin texture, tone, and complexion; fade brown spots and freckles.
  • Increases in dermal thickness and boosts newly synthesized dermal collagen.
  • Low systemic toxicity.
  • Retin-A frequently causes irritation, redness, itching, burning, dryness, erythema, and skin peeling.
  • Photosensitivity. Tretinoin causes a heightened susceptibility to the sunlight requiring the user to be especially careful to minimize UV exposure and apply sunscreens.
  • There is some concern that overuse of high-concentration tretinoin may cause excessive skin thinness over time.
  • Systemic retinoids are teratogens. However, a number of studies have demonstrated that topical tretinoin is not associated with congenital abnormalities.
  • It really works but takes time and requires patience.
Mechanism of action

Tretinoin (vitamin A derivative) initiates a series of events that can both prevent and repair photodamage. It increases epidermal and granular layer thickness, decreases epidermal melanin content, and promotes stratum corneum compaction.

Tretinoin downregulates production of enzymes that degrade collagen and, thus, preserves dermal collagen. In addition, when collagen damage has already occurred, tretinoin induces procollagen gene expression.

User Reviews and Ratings

Last modified: February 10, 2015


retin a


  • Tretinoin has been the best-studied topical remedy for skin aging.
  • It gives the hope to people searching for the ever-elusive Fountain of Youth.

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All information on is intended for general knowledge only.
For medical advice consult with your physician.