Should I Start with the Lowest Dose of Retin A if I Have Never Used It Before?

Which percentage is the lowest dose of Retin A? 0.25, 0.05,or .1?

Doctor Answers 6


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Yes when first starting Retin-A it would be beneficial for you to start at a lower dose and work your way up, this will help minimize the negative side affects such as redness, dryness, or irritation,  You may also think about starting at Retinal - which is a milder version of Retin-A.  Keep in mind what other medical grade skin care products you are using, you don't want to over due it and end up stopping your products do to irritation,.  I would recommend starting every other night and working your way up. 

Kansas City Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Best Starting Dose of Retin-A (Tretinoin)

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Treatment with Retin-A (tretinoin) should be individualized with factors such as age, skin type, degree of photodamage, and presence of other skin conditions taken into consideration. Therapy should start with a lower concentration to minimize irritation and redness. Tretinoin cream is available in three different strengths: 0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.1%. For treatment of wrinkles and sun-damaged skin, I recommend beginning with the mildest strength, tretinoin cream 0.025%. It should be applied in the evening to clean, dry skin at least 20 to 30 minutes after washing. The affected area is covered lightly and evenly. Temporary warmth or stinging may be felt. Sensitive areas to be avoided include around the eyes, nose, and mouth. Spot treatment should be avoided due to reduced efficacy and blotchiness.  Patients are warned to expect temporary irritation with peeling that usually lasts up to 6 weeks. If the irritation becomes excessively bothersome, a several day break from treatment can be done. Maximum effects will be seen after 6 to 12 months. Maintenance application is 2 to 3 times per week after the maximum results have been achieved.


Mitchell Schwartz, MD
South Burlington Dermatologic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Lowest dose of Retin-A

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Starting with the lowest dose of Retin-A and working your way up to a higher dose is definitely a good idea. Doing this may minimize the redness, dryness, and irritation that is a common side effect of Retin-A, especially when beginning a routine. Start at 0.05% and use it every other night if irritation develops. Everyone's skin adjusts differently to Retin-A so adjust how often and what percentage that you use slowly until irritation is minimal-and get a good moisturizer and sunscreen for use during the day!

Kristin Egan, MD
Manhattan Beach Facial Plastic Surgeon

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Try the lowest dose when starting Retin-A

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Retin-A is a very good option for facial skin rejuvenation.  However, it has a couple of downsides.  The first, it does not work right away so plan to make it a part of your daily skin care regimen, and be patient.  The second issue is that it can cause dryness.  People with different skin types have different reactions when it comes to dryness.  Also, people living in different climates can experience dryness differently.  For instance, my patients in humid Naples, Florida tend to have less problems with dryness than patients using Retin-A in dry Pheonix, Arizona.  Regardless, the goal is to have a positive experience with Retin-A and therefore I always start patients with 0.25%.

Jonathan Sonne, MD
Naples Facial Plastic Surgeon

Retin A

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Retin A is an excellent choice for treatment of photoaging. It really works and should be prescribed under the supervision of your dermatologist. I would recommend starting at .05% and using it every other night until tolerated nightly.

Steven Hacker, MD
West Palm Beach Dermatologic Surgeon

How should one start Retin A?

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Retin A is used for acne and for photodamage.  Acne skin tends to be more oily, although not always, and photodamaged skin tends to be more dry.

For oily skin, you can start with a mid-dose of Retin A of 0.05% and increase from there.  For dry, photodamaged skin you want to start at the lowest dose.

The lowest dose of tretinoin is actually in Renova at 0.02%.  Renova is a relative of Retin A that has a moisturizer in it.

Start the applications twice a week at nighttime, using a pea-size amount of the Retin A to be applied to the entire face avoiding the eye area.  Before the application wash your face with a mild cleanser and let the skin dry for 15 minutes.

If you still find that your skin is getting dry, you can apply a moisturizer made for sensitive skin under the Retin A.

Then gradually build up to using the medication every night, followed by increasing the dose of the Retin A.

Emily Altman, MD
Short Hills Dermatologic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.