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Are Tretinoin side effects normal?


Tretinoin is kind of the holy grail of anti-aging products. It works by stimulating and accelerating the cellular turnover cycle. This process happens naturally and your age determines how long it takes. 

The cellular turnover cycle is when the top layer of skin is sloughed off and new skin cells below are pushed to the surface. For babies, this happens every three to five days. In your twenties, it is every two weeks. And by your fifties, you’re looking at two to three months to get through the full process. So by using tretinoin, the process moves much faster, especially if you’re older. And the side effects are amplified.

What are the side effects of tretinoin?

When you first start using the product, there really isn’t much happening. After about a week though, look out. You’ll notice a mild burning and tingling sensation when you apply the product. 

Here is the progression of side effects reported by a user of Qyral’s Accelerate+ with tretinoin. She used a low/medium dosage:

  • After 1 week- Product burns slightly with application. 

  • Between weeks 1 & 2- Redness and burning! It almost felt like the skin is chapped and it really hurt! Water hurt, touching hurt, there were days where it was really, really bad and I wasn’t sure if I should be using the product. I also developed a few “hot spots” where the redness was amplified.  The corners of my mouth were bad, probably because I moved while talking.  And I had a big red spot on my neck as well.

  • Around the same time the pain starts, so does the  flaking. For me, it was the worst around my mouth and nose.

  • Redness and pain lasted for about 2 weeks, and is then sporadic. It seemed to stop completely by about week 5.

  • The flaking radiated out from the center of my face. It eventually spread to around my eyebrows and eventually my cheeks and jawline. The most extreme flaking was around week 4.

  • Dry skin comes along with the flaking.

  • I experienced a few pimples here and there. Nothing major, but I normally don’t get pimples.

This user’s experience is completely normal. Tretinoin isn’t a walk in the park, so it’s good to know what you could be in for before using it. 

How to Deal with the Side Effects of Tretinoin

The side effects of tretinoin are not pleasant, but you can manage them. Here are our tips for tretinoin side effects:

Use Moisturizer

Even though you may not have been instructed to use moisturizer, it makes a huge difference! There are two ways you can do this. One is to use the tretinoin first, wait about 20 minutes and then apply moisturizer. You can also combine them together in your palm to dilute the tretinoin a little bit, then apply them together. Either method is fine, depending on how you feel.

It’s best to use a quality moisturizer, such a Qyral’s Fortify. This product is customized for your exact skin type and will compliment your use to the Accelerate+ product. 

Take a break!

If your skin really hurts, it’s okay to skip a night or two. Sometimes the short pause is all you need for just enough recovery. 

Plan Ahead

If you have a big event coming up in the next 6 weeks, we recommend holding off on starting tretinoin. Wait until after your vacation. Start well before your wedding. The side effects are a minor inconvenience, but still enough that you might not want to be dealing with them at a time when you should be making memories!

Consider the Dosage

Even though you want results fast, you might be better off starting with a lower dosage. If your skin is resilient, you may still have issues (the user above is not sensitive at all). When you take your Qyral skin assessment quiz, we’ll ask you about the strength you prefer. There is nothing wrong with starting small- in fact, it’s probably better. It’s still prescription grade and you’ll see results!

Don’t Pick!

If you’re someone who likes to pick or peel, keep your hands busy! If you think your skin hurts, picking at it will only make it worse! Don’t pop any pimples or pick away at dry spots. It’s tempting, but best to just leave it alone. 

Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen

This goes without saying but USE SUNSCREEN RELIGIOUSLY. When that top layer is sloughing off, it’s exposing fresh skin, making it even more sensitive to the sun. Be sure to use sunscreen during the day, even in the winter. The sun’s rays can penetrate windows and amplify the tretinoin side effects.

Remember, You Will Adjust

There are a few rough weeks with tretinoin and if you know what you’re facing going in, you’re more likely to sick it out. After a few weeks, the results will make it worth it. 

Of course there are cases where people get an unhealthy reaction. If you feel you’re in this camp and your side effects are beyond what we’ve described, contact your doctor! Rashes, bleeding, or fevers could indicate an allergy and the medicine will do more harm than good.

If you’re ready to start your journey to younger looking skin, take Qyral’s skin assessment quiz today. We’ll ask several questions about your skin and will provide the telehealth consult from a board certified dermatologist as part of the process. We highly recommend using Qyral’s full regimen of products along with your prescription from your dermatologist. Everything is customized based on your exact skin type. After a few weeks of discomfort, you’ll emerge looking refreshed and rejuvenated!

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