How Topical Retinoids Work

The dermatologists in our network are very fond of prescribing topical retinoids, like Retin-A. These creams and gels are very effective acne treatments, yet have relatively mild side effects. Many YoDerm patients ask how these treatments actually work, so we’ve done our best to describe exactly how retinoids treat and change your skin.

How Topical Retinoids Work

To explain how topical retinoids work we first must explain the lifecycle of a skin cell. Essentially, a skin cell is created at the deepest layer of your epidermis. As the cell ages it moves towards the surface of your skin and flattens. Once it reaches the outermost layer, it is a flat, dead cell called keratin. From here it sheds off of your body, a process called desquamation. This process typically takes about 4 weeks.

Acne can have many causes, but one in particular is when keratin is trapped in your pore, clogging up the opening and creating a micro-infection inside (a pimple). Retinoids speed up and “normalize” the process of your skin shedding, so keratin is pushed to the surface as it is supposed to. This allows your pores to release naturally occurring oil (sebum) at a healthy rate, without becoming blocked.

Speeding up your skin-shedding cycle also maintains youthful skin for older individuals. When cells replicate, their DNA may be affected by a host of factors that can damage the cell and make it act strangely as it moves towards the surface. The older someone gets, the more likely damage occurs. This can cause wrinkles, sun spots, hyper pigmentation, and many other changes. By applying retinoids, the skin turns over more cells, quickly removing the damaged cells and replacing them with healthy, normal ones.

TL/DR: Retinoids treat acne (and wrinkles) by speeding up your skin generation and shedding process.

About us: YoDerm is the only way to get a prescription acne medication safely and legally online. Each of our dermatologists are board-certified and will treat your acne within 24 hours. If you’re struggling to get clear, click here, and let us help.

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