How to use Retin A, retinoic acid, Renova, tretinoin creams, etc!

Dr. Irwin, I have been using prescribed 0.025% retinoic acid cream for more than a week now and the first thing which I noticed was an irritation around my mouth. Under my lower lip and on smile creases. My skin on these areas are brown and looks slightly burnt whith small flakes from peeling. I did not notice anything different on other areas of my face I have been desperate to use the cream ever since and this saddens me. Do you think I am allergic to it?

These are all retinoids (in the Vitamin A cousin category)! They all have the potential to cause some irritation, but true allergies are rare. Here’s how to use them to avoid the irritation:

  1. Wash your face, apply a moisturizer appropriate for your skin type and then let dry well for about 10 minutes.  Wait longer if you are still getting irritated;
  2. Apply a small approximately pea-sized amount to the whole face – most people use too much;
  3. Always use at night because light inactivates it;
  4. Stay away from the eyelids, it’s okay to use up to the bone (orbital bone) around the eyes;
  5. Stay away from the corners of the mouth, lips (unless your doctor specifically wants you to use there for skin cancer reasons), and the base of the nose;
  6. Start slowly and build up.  You can try using twice a week at first, then 3 times, and try to work up to nightly;
  7. Follow your doctor’s instructions or ask if there is a difference with these!!

These retinoid creams are STILL the gold standard and make a big difference over time!


Dr. I


See Dr. Irwin’s product recommendations for anti aging skin care.

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin, and I believe that consumers need and deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

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