If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from oily skin or acne, chances are you’ve tried dozens of products to clear up your skin and keep it clear. Retin-A just might do the trick. With careful application, this prescription cream can unclog pores, prevent acne, and help diminish the signs of aging.


Retin-A, or Retin-A Micro, is a topical cream or gel that only a doctor can prescribe. It’s a form of retinoid, or a vitamin A derivative known as tretinoin. In the 1960s, tretinoin became the first acne medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although it was originally prescribed as a treatment for acne, dermatologists noticed that their patients using Retin-A also had clearer, softer, brighter, younger-looking skin, so doctors began prescribing it for wrinkle prevention, according to Jenny Bailly, author of “Your Skin’s New Best Friend.”


Pimples, whiteheads and blackheads are caused by dead skin cells and excess oil that become trapped in your pores. Retin-A is a powerful exfoliator, which means that it removes dead skin cells and stimulates the growth of new cells. Eliminating dead skin cells helps prevent blemishes. Retin-A dries up excess oil and gradually unclogs your pores, keeping them clear as long as you use it. Clear pores help prevent whiteheads and blackheads from forming.


Over time, Retin-A has been shown to reduce fine lines and wrinkles because it boosts skin’s collagen levels. According to Bailly, it also speeds cell turnover, which helps to even out skin discoloration and smooth the skin. Retin-A’s exfoliation powers help improve the skin’s texture. All this means that the same product you use to keep your skin clear of blemishes can also keep your skin looking young and healthy. You get more bang for your buck and one less skin care step to follow every night.


According to the University of Iowa Facial Plastic Surgery center, Retin-A can help diminish hyperpigmentation, also known as age spots, sunspots, or freckles that result from years of sun exposure. Retin-A can also be used to prepare patients’ skin for procedures such as laser resurfacing and facial surgeries, as well as aid in recovery following the procedures. Retin-A might also reduce the risk of some skin cancers when used regularly.


Since Retin-A, like all retinoids, can dry out your skin and cause redness or flaking. Retin-A should only be used every third night on the sensitive skin around your eyes and mouth. It may take two to seven weeks before you see results with Retin-A. Some products, such as benzoyl peroxide, actually deactivate retinoids. Retin-A may make your skin more sensitive to the sun so always wear sunscreen during the day. Never use Retin-A if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.