Does Retin A or other retinoid creams thin your skin over time?

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I have been using Retin-A Microgel .04% every night and a good quality sunscreen every morning (in addition to SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic) for over 10 years. I heard that using Retin-A can possibly "thin" your skin over time. Is this true?

Okay – let’s put this one to rest!

Retin A and other retinoids do NOT thin your skin over time.  They DO thin slightly the outer dead layer (the stratum corneum) which has a tendency to thicken and become slightly irregular (something we don’t want) with age and sun damage. For this reason, you must use a sunscreen every morning if you are using a retinoid cream.

In the layers of the skin that really matter, the epidermis and dermis, it does the opposite, it slightly thickens the skin (in a good way) creating more healthy cells, reducing unhealthy ones with damaged DNA from UV, and improving the microvascular (tiny blood vessels) circulation and building collagen.

The only time you want a thicker dead layer (the stratum corneum) is when you are going to be outdoors a lot.  Then that thicker outer layer does help to protect you (a little) from UV.  So stop your Renova, Retin A, tretinoin, retinol, etc.  about 1 week before any prolonged sun exposures like vacations, etc.

You still need that sunscreen though.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I


Next, read more about Retinoid Creams and Sunscreen:

Should I use Renova during the Summer? 

Retin A and Retinoid Creams

See all of Dr. Irwin’s expert answers on Sun Protection