So, you reap the fruits of using tretinoin in your skincare routine. Your face finally looks clear and you enjoy having pure skin without large pores and tons of pimples.
However, if you have been using it for quite some time, you or your dermatologist, may decide you should take a break, or simply stop using tretinoin in your skincare routine.
Are you wondering what will happen when you discontinue your favorite product for clear skin?
I bet you feel worried, thinking about new breakouts and acne come back, or dealing with hyperpigmentation on your face all over again, once you ditch your tretinoin cream.
Although I recommend you to talk with your dermatologist anyway, I decided to write this article to explain the changes that you can expect to happen when you stop using tretinoin.
Will you get new breakouts or new blemishes? Will you get the dark spots back?
Read the article till the end, to get some insight into what ending (or pausing) Retin A treatment will do to your skin.
What Is Tretinoin?
Tretinoin, commercially named Retin A, is an active form of vitamin A. Basically, it is a retinoic acid.
Tretinoin is used as a prescription medication for several skin conditions. Severe acne is in the first place, followed by hyperpigmentation of the skin, signs of aging, sunburns, and issues with rough or oily skin1.
Tretinoin is usually prescribed as a topical medication. So, it is most probable that you will use tretinoin as a cream or gel.
It is important to distinguish Retin A from retinol, a topical retinoid, which is a natural form of vitamin A (and much weaker than tretinoin).
This magical substance and powerful exfoliator has anti-inflammatory properties which means it reduces inflammation and redness caused by acne.
It is, therefore, a great companion in acne treatment. An additional plus for both active acne and potential new acne is that Retin A suppresses excessive oil production.
It is obvious why it’s so widely used to treat acne, right?
To help you fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation, as well as to help you on your anti-aging path of reducing wrinkles and fine lines, tretinoin works by increasing skin cell turnover and aiding collagen production.
Keep in mind that Retin A DOES expire. Using expired tretinoin is not only less effective but can also do a lot of harm to your skin.
Benefits Of Tretinoin
Tretinoin (Retin A) can actually help your skin with a wide variety of conditions and major and minor skin issues.
The benefits of tretinoin on your skin are in:
- Treating (and preventing) acne
It unclogs your clogged pores and increases skin cell turnover. In that way, it prevents pimples from forming2.
- Treating acne scars
It can reduce the appearance of acne scars by increasing collagen production and skin cell turnover, both of which help fill the indented scarring and fade hyperpigmentation.
It smooths out your wrinkles and fine lines by stimulating collagen production and the formation of new skin cells3.
- Fading dark spots
Due to the abovementioned characteristics, it can fade your hyperpigmentation.
- Smoothing skin texture and improving skin tone
It exfoliates away dead skin cells giving you smooth, soft skin. Furthermore, as it lightens your dark spots and acne scars, it evens out your skin tone.
And we all know how difficult it is to get that even skin tone with other products.
- Minimizing pores
It can reduce the size of your pores by unclogging them and by stimulating new collagen production.
What Happens If You Stop Using Tretinoin Or Retin-A?
The scariest question for all of you fighting acne and enjoying the benefits of tretinoin creams is – “Will I breakout if I stop using tretinoin?”.
That applies to all other uses of tretinoin. It has so many benefits that you may be afraid of what will happen once you cease its use.
Will your condition get back? Or (more scary) – will it get worse? Here are the answers.
Acne Come Back
Yes. Your acne may come back. This is a logical answer, as you use Retin A to treat acne. Right?
Tretinoin unclogs your pores and prevents new acne and pimples from forming4.
And once you discontinue its use, you can get your clogged pores back and experience breakouts again.
That is, however, not the end of the story: you may even have more frequent breakouts than before using tretinoin. So, unfortunately, it may become worse.
Tretinoin (Retin A) helps to unclog the pores and keep them clear. Clear, unclogged pores look smaller, while the clogged ones will look larger.
Once you stop tretinoin treatment, you may see your pores getting larger again, which may negatively affect your skin texture, but also cause new pimples and acne.
As topical tretinoin helps smooth your wrinkles and fine lines5, and increases collagen, it all helps your skin look smooth – and helps you look younger.
Once you stop using tretinoin, these effects also stop, and you can expect new signs of aging on your face.
As tretinoin sloughs off your dead skin cells and smooths the skin’s surface – once you stop using it, your skin may become rougher. And you may experience skin dryness.
That occurs due to dead skin buildup on the surface of the skin. So, if you don’t (at least) use another type of exfoliant and peeling, you may expect these side effects of Retin A discontinuation.
Make sure to nourish your facial skin with a rich moisturizer (actually tretinoin can also make your skin feel rough and dry so you should always layer moisturizing cream on top of treated areas anyway).
Dull Skin Tone
Tretinoin helps your skin tone even out. One of the reasons you would want Retin A among your skincare products is that it gives your skin a healthy look.
Dead skin cells on the top layer of your skin make your skin look less radiant and dull.
Tretinoin exfoliates those cells and helps healthy skin cells stand out, making your complexion brighter and more radiant.
Once you stop using tretinoin, the dead skin cells may again accumulate on the surface on your skin, making your skin tone dull.
For the same reason, your skin may become more rough and uneven.
Uneven Skin Tone
I previously described how tretinoin helps lighten your dark spots. Once you stop using tretinoin, your hyperpigmented spots won’t fade as fast6.
If you don’t use proper skincare products and sun protection, you may develop even more dark spots, which can lead you to uneven skin tone.
Furthermore, you may develop sun damage – so always have your sunscreen on!
What Happens If You Stop Using Tretinoin For Wrinkles
Aging is not easy, and anti-aging treatment is even more difficult. Fighting wrinkles is definitely challenging, and you may be adjusting your skincare for some time, to find the right products.
Using tretinoin actually helps. Most people who use tretinoin for treating wrinkles state it is effective and would recommend it to others.
But, if you don’t use it long-term, which gives best results, you may get worried about what happens if you stop using tretinoin.
Tretinoin stimulates collagen production and increases cell turnover, removing dead skin cells and producing new ones. Once you stop using it, these effects end, too.
So, if you cease the use of Retin A, you can expect new wrinkles, new fine lines, and new signs of aging. Your collagen will produce at its own pace, regularly, which is definitely slower than with the aid of tretinoin.
Are Tretinoin Results Permanent?
Tretinoin is definitely effective. But, are its results long-term? Or are they temporary? And, one of the most important questions: “Does tretinoin permanently change your skin?”.
Unfortunately, tretinoin results are not permanent. Once you stop using it, all its positive effects go away, as well.
Your skin’s turnover cycle will revert on its baseline and to own, natural, 28-day cycle – and the effects of Retin A will slowly reverse.
Can I Suddenly Stop Tretinoin?
Yes, you can suddenly stop using tretinoin, or Retin A if needed. However, before doing so, it’s best to consult your dermatologist.
Usually women suddenly stop or pause their tretinoin treatment due to pregnancy (it shouldn’t be used when you are pregnant or breastfeeding), but you may end your tretinoin therapy due to other circumstances.
Whatever the case is, be aware of the potential side effects that may occur. Your skin condition can be back (and can be even worse).
Can You Start And Stop Tretinoin?
The answer is yes. You can start and stop tretinoin treatment, according to your skin needs. Consulting your dermatologist is, of course, advisable, to avoid or minimize possible side effects.
As long as you don’t experience major side effects, you can start and stop tretinoin treatment, as needed. Note, however, that your skin adjusts to tretinoin, so it will need to go through some changes and revert to the baseline – the state before using tretinoin.
Also, if you stop using tretinoin for longer time periods – from several months, to several years, you may experience a new tretinoin purge once you restart the therapy.
How To Prevent & Minimize Negative Effects When You Stop Using Tretinoin
Now that you know you can expect some side effects once you stop using tretinoin, you probably wonder if there is something that may help you out and minimize – or prevent those terrible side effects.
Make sure you opt for some natural ingredients, as many harsh chemicals will do harm to your skin.
There are plenty of options, depending on the skin condition you are dealing with. Some of those natural alternatives are:
- Rosehip seed oil: It could be a natural alternative to tretinoin. It has been shown to have anti-aging potential in addition to reducing scarring and acne.
- Snail mucin: It’s very popular in Korean skincare products, especially eye creams, as it can help minimize wrinkles in eye area and reduce dark circles. Some people even combine tretinoin with snail mucin for better effects.
- Vitamin C: It works well against cell damage, and is a great natural exfoliator.
- Evening primrose oil: It can be used to treat acne and inflammatory skin conditions.
- Green tea and honey: They both have antioxidant properties, so you can add them as alternatives once you stop using tretinoin.
- Bakuchiol: This ingredient becomes very popular as natural and safe alternative to retinol and tretinoin7. It offers great anti-aging benefits.
How Do I Know If I Should Stop Using Tretinoin?
You may think of that question if you have some side effects from using it, or if you accomplished your goals and got rid of whatever skin issue you wanted to batch.
If you experience severe irritation, sensitivity, rash, redness, dryness, or other skin concerns – that don’t pass with time, you should probably stop using tretinoin.
However, consulting your dermatologist is a must. Also, you should stop using tretinoin if you get pregnant, or you are breastfeeding.
On the other hand, if you see improvements and think you should stop using tretinoin – be aware that its results aren’t permanent.
So, once you accomplish your skin goals, you may stop tretinoin treatment, but there is a risk that your skin issues will come back.
Again, talk to your dermatologist about your concerns.
Reasons To Stop Using Tretinoin
There are different reasons why you should stop using tretinoin. Some are more obvious than others. For example, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and family planning are obviously reasons to stop using tretinoin treatment.
Also, it is clear you need to stop using it if you notice severe side effects and irritation. Immediately stop using tretinoin if you experience a burning sensation, blistering, crusting, or intense itching upon applying tretinoin cream.
Some cases are less known. For example, tretinoin interferes with your body’s own ability to use natural sources of vitamin A. Furthermore, it is not a permanent solution, so you may want to look for the root cause and treat it internally.
Results of one study showed that there are higher mortality rates among smokers on Retin A therapy, as compared to smokers who were on placebo topical treatment8. So, if you are a smoker, you may consider stopping using tretinoin.
What Happens If You Use Tretinoin For Too Long?
Even though you may think of tretinoin as a short-term treatment, it can be used as a long-term solution. For most people, it is usually consistently used over the course of several months to a few years.
There is a minimum of 3 months, as tretinoin takes from 3 to 6 months to start working, and for you to see some noticeable results9.
Studies have actually shown that tretinoin is safe even for long-term use. However, as this is a prescription medication anyway, your dermatologist will guide you the best.
The purpose of this article is informative and entertaining. It’s not a substitute for medical consultation or medical care. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Safety should be your priority.