Does retinol in skincare products help with brown spots?

Hello, Will the skin care ingredient Retinol help with a couple of small light brown spots on my cheek? Thanks, Thelma

In general, the answer to this is yes although the reason is not what you might think.  The "vitamin A" creams include some that are prescription (at least in the U.S.) like Retin A, RetinA Micro, Renova, Refissa, etc  and the generic tretinoin.  There are a number of OTC ones and most contain retinol and the better ones usually have a concentration of somewhere between 0.5 and 1.0%.   The are several other versions now but it’s probably more than you want to know. 

These retinoid creams improve skin in a number of ways but they reduce brown spots by speeding up the cell activity in the skin which moves the pigment up and out faster.  They may also help the pigment making cells to spread the microscopic brown granules (melanin) more evenly.  As skin gets older or sun damaged the pigment tends to clump up leading to spots.  Link to how to avoid irritation with it. 

So yes, it will help with brown spots but if the brown spots already have texture – you can feel them as raised when you pass your finger over it – the retinol itself probably won’t be enough.  Also, the longer the spot has been there, the less likely that the retinol alone will do the job.

The retinol or tretinoin WILL help to prevent more brown spots and must always be used with at least an SPF 30 sunscreen every morning and one with 5-15% zinc oxide is best.   Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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