Retin-A topical treatment is a commonly used cream for acne and other skin conditions. I used it for years (in the forms of Retin-A cream, Tretinoin gel, and Differin) when I was taking a traditional approach to my acne. Retin-A is reported to help skin by boosting collagen production, exfoliating dead skin cells and stimulating a repair effect on the skin. That may be why some people see improvements in their acne, dark spots, and wrinkles.
This sounds like a wonderful treatment, but as I have experienced with other medications, there may also be side effects. It seems to be worth it to understand both the costs and benefits in deciding if this is a good treatment for you or a loved one. I saw these as “just a cream” that could help clear my skin, so I dove right in without thinking anymore about it, but now I have a very different view.
Topically, I experienced redness, dryness, sun sensitivity and and irritation on my skin. Internally, some say that it can interfere with our body’s ability to use Vitamin A in the many areas where it is intended including our eyes, prenatal development, immune system, bones, skin, cancer fighting, and more. From my understanding, if I am applying Retin-A topically, it is absorbed into my body as a “look-alike” of real vitamin A. When absorbed, it may take the place of real Vitamin A on my necessary Vitamin A receptor sites. The problem is that Retin-A does not behave like Vitamin A so if it takes the place of a vitamin that we need for many functions in our body, but it does not completely act like that vitamin, complications may follow.
When I first got on Retin-A, I saw some initial improvements in my skin but the longer that I was on it, the less improvements I experienced. As time went on and I used it daily, my skin reacted externally (redness, itching, sun sensitivity, flaking) and internally I noticed weaknesses as well. I was sick often and I experienced low energy. Although correlation does not equal causation, I found it interesting that the longer I was on my skin medications, including Retin-A, the worse I seemed to feel. The opposite of this was enlightening when I moved away from my medications, not only did my skin improve, but so did my overall health.
Since I did remember my initial improvements, but I also wanted to move away from medications, I decided to make sure that I was getting adequate, bioavailable (meaning readily absorbable and usable for my body) Vitamin A. I do best getting my Vitamin A from sources including pastured egg yolks, pastured liver, organic sweet potatoes, grass fed butter and organic carrots. Not only does my skin benefit from healthy vitamin A consumption, the rest of my body seems to as well. One other side note.. some people mention that Retin-A boost collagen, so in addition to my Vitamin A rich foods, I add collagen protein into my diet regularly. These two additions seem to work wonders for my skin.