Can Retin-A Make the Skin Prone to Scarring?

There are some people on chat forums who are sure that retin-A caused their skin to scar, or made their skin prone to scarring. Is there any evidence that might support this?

Doctor Answers 3

Retin A

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Retin a does not cause scaring nor makes skin prone to scarring.

Retin A is probably the only real ANTI AGING cream on the market. All other CReams are false.

Baltimore Plastic Surgeon

Retin A Does Builds Collagen, Does Not Cause Scarring

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Retin A does not cause scarring or make a person's skin more prone to scarring.  In fact, studies have shown that regular use of Retin A helps build collagen in the derm (deeper layer of the skin) over time. That is why it is such a great maintenance treatment for wrinkles and fine lines.  They are safe, FDA approved and have been studied for over 40 year.

I wonder if people from the chat forums are referring to trouble tolerating to Retin-A.  Frequent application of RetinA initially can cause redness, irritation, pealing skin.

There are several tricks I use to make the product more tolerable for my patients.

1. I always advocate starting slowly-- a pea size amount is sufficient for the entire face. Use only twice a week (i.e. Mondays and Fridays) for a few weeks, then if tolerated, go to every other night. Finally, if you can tolerate every other night application, you can try doing it every night.

2. If it is still too drying even with infrequent application, I recommend using a moisturizer such as Cetaphil or Neutrogena first, then applying the Retin-A. This often will reduce irritation.

3. Next I would consider changing from generic versions of Retin-A to several new formulations which are much more hydrating for the skin. Both Renova and Refissa by Spear Pharmaceuticals contains tretinoin in an emollient base. Atralin by Valeant Pharmacueticals contains a glycerin based humectant. Avita, by Mylan Bertek, comes in a lower strength tretinoin so it is generally less drying. These brand name versions are usually more expensive. While they are not necessarily more effective for wrinkles, they are definitely more tolerable to use.

4. And Finally, some of my patients really do have very sensitive skin that just can't tolerate retinals. In those cases, I would recommend using an over the counter product containing retinols. Retinols are precursors to retinals. Since our bodies do not readily convert all of the retinols into retinals, they are usually more tolerable, though they tend to be less effective as well.

No matter which you choose, make sure you use a sunscreen during the day!


Dr. Margaret Mann

Margaret Mann, MD
Cleveland Dermatologic Surgeon

Retin A does not cause scarring

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Retin A increases and makes skin turn over more uniform in addition to causing thickening of its inner layer - the dermis. It does NOT cause skin scarring not does it predispose to scarring. Dr. Peter Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

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