How long does it take for tretinoin to work on acne?

Tretinoin is a medication used to treat acne and sun-damaged skin. It can’t erase deep wrinkles, but it can help improve the appearance of surface wrinkles, fine lines, and darks spots. Tretinoin is also known as retinoic acid. It’s the generic name for synthetic vitamin A. It’s sold under many different brand names.

For most people, tretinoin is prescribed as a long-term medication for several months or years of consistent, continuous use. In fact, studies show that tretinoin takes two to six months to start to produce noticeable results as an acne treatment.

Used by millions of people worldwide, tretinoin is one of the most effective medications on the market for treating and preventing acne.

It’s also safe and well tolerated, with fewer side effects than more powerful oral retinoids such as Accutane® (isotretinoin) and significant stronger effects than over-the-counter acne products such as facial scrubs and lotions.

A common question related to tretinoin is whether or not it’s safe to use the medication over the long term. Many would-be tretinoin users are unsure of whether tretinoin is intended as a quick, short-term treatment for acne or a consistent, long-term solution.

For most people, tretinoin is prescribed as a long-term medication for several months or years of consistent, continuous use. In fact, studies show that tretinoin takes two to six months to start to produce noticeable results as an acne treatment.

Studies also show that it’s safe to use tretinoin over the long term, with some studies examining the effects of tretinoin for as long as four years.

In this guide, we’ll look at several studies of short and long-term tretinoin use to help you learn more about how tretinoin works over the long term and how you can best use tretinoin to treat and prevent acne.

Tretinoin Takes Three to Six Months to Produce Results

In general, it takes three to six months to see results from tretinoin. This is supported by several studies, all of which showed a significant improvement in skin quality and reduction in acne after 12 weeks of using tretinoin.

Unlike many over-the-counter skincare products, which promise immediate results, tretinoin can take several months to start working. It’s also quite common to experience a temporary increase in acne during the first few weeks of using tretinoin.

Most studies show that the acne prevention results from tretinoin improve steadily over the first three to six months of use. In one study first published in 2009, a group of 1,537 participants received a tretinoin gel treatment of either .1 percent (n=376) or .05 percent (n=674) over the span of 12 weeks.

At the end of the 12 weeks, participants in both tretinoin groups recorded marked improvements in their acne over the placebo group (n=487). 

In short, tretinoin isn’t an instant fix for acne. Instead, it works gradually over the course of three to six months to help treat existing acne and help preventing whiteheads, blackheads and other facial skin lesions from developing in the future.

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