How to use Retin A for wrinkles

How to use Retin A for Wrinkles & Why it Works

Retin A has been clinically proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles in many, many studies. 

But in order to get this benefit you must be using it correctly!

That means you need the right type of Retin A at the right dose and concentration. 

Learn how to use Retin A for wrinkles in this guide: 


Using Retin A to Reduce Wrinkles on your Face

One thing we need to get across right away is that Retin A does indeed work to reduce wrinkles.

In fact it is probably the most well studied and most researched compound and has been proven time and time again to do this in clinical studies.

tretinoin to use before microneedling

But what is Retin A and how does it work?

It turns out that Retin A is really just Vitamin A (as the name suggests) in a very specific form that allows your skin to absorb and utilize this nutrient.

​One thing you need to realize is that in order for Retin A to reduce your fine lines and wrinkles you need to be using the right type of Retin A in the right dosage and for the right length of time. 

What’s even more interesting is that until recently Retin A was only available through a prescription from your Doctor.

Previously if you wanted to get the benefit of Retin A that meant going to your dermatologist or plastic surgeon and asking for Retin A and hoping that your doctor knew how to use it.

Nowadays you can get high quality Retin A over the counter which allows for the same same (in most cases better results) and removes most of the impurities and inactive ingredients found in pharmaceutical tretinoin preparations.

​We will talk about how to use Retin A, where to get it and what strength you need, but first we need to show that it does indeed work! 

​Retin A before and After photos

Below you will find before and after pictures of people who used Retinol products.

Retinol is ​a variation of Retin A and therefore a variation of Vitamin A. 

The best part about Retinol is that you can get the same results using retinol as you can with Retin A but the difference is you don’t get the redness or dry skin that usually accompanies Retin A.

So in essence you get all of the benefits without the negative side effects.

​The first picture is a before and after picture showing how Retinol and Retin a. 

You can see the difference over 24 weeks and includes:

  • Reduction in scarring and uneven texture (Retin A and retinol have been proven to do this)
  • Reduction in uneven pigmentation
  • Smoother surface and texture to the skin
  • Reduced wrinkles surrounding the eyes and peri-orbital area
  • Reduction in poor size and sebum production (noticeable on the nose area)

You can see another before and after on more aged skin and this really outlines the improvement that can be seen around the eyes (crows feet). 

You can see at least a 60-70% reduction in wrinkles around the eye area, again over a period of 24 weeks. ​

Obagi nu derm system before and after with retinol

Both of these before and after pictures were done using Obagi retinol serum which is available over the counter and at a pharmaceutical concentration to provide amazing results (more info below). 

How to use Retin A properly & What strength to start out on

One of the challenges ​of using Retin A and retinol is that Vitamin A is no joke for your skin. 

What this means is that a strong concentration can leave your skin dry and flaky, and a weak concentration will not have the desired effect that you are looking for.

Obagi retinol 0.5obagi retinol 1.0 cream

This means that you need to understand how to properly titrate your retin a to match your skin.

Because this is a big problem I always recommend using Retinol over prescription Retin A.

This allows you to control your concentration better and allows you simply change your strength much easier than using a true prescription.

For instance:

If you find that your ​prescription tretinoin or retin a is too strong then you will have to reschedule another appiontment to reduce the concentration – which will cost you more time and money.

 A better approach is to use retinol which you can start out low and titrate up as you know your body tolerates it. 

I recommend the following guidelines for using Retin A and Retinol…​

Who should start out using Retinol 0.5% strength:

  • Those with very sensitive skin
  • Those who have never used Retin A or Retinol products in the past
  • Those who have tried Retin A or tretinoin and have reacted with redness or flaky skin or a rash

Who should start out using Retinol 1.0% strength:

  • Those people who don’t suffer from sensitive skin (you have tried facial products in the past and you don’t have issues with redness or rashes)
  • Those people who have tried retinol in the past but want even better results
  • Those people who have extremely photodamaged skin
  • Those who are older than 40 years old and want to prevent further wrinkles or sun damage

​Instructions for using Retin A:

  • When in doubt always start at a low concentration and try to find products that contain Retinol in it over Retin A or other Vitamin A derivatives
  • Retin A should always be applied in the evening
  • If you use Retin A make sure you avoid direct sun light as Vitamin A increases your skin turn over and makes your skin more sensitive to the sun
  • Apply only a small amount to provide a light “cover” to your skin (don’t put a thick layer on, a little goes a long way)
  • If you are sensitive to the lowest concentration then try applying it every other day or every third day – this will help reduce any sensitivity
  • Over time you will gain a tolerance and may need to increase the concentration of your Retin A or Retinol
  • Be patient! It may take up to 6-8 weeks of daily use for you to see a big difference, but if it helps you can take before and after pictures to really see the difference (sometimes it’s hard to notice small changes when you look at your face every day)
  • Find a high quality product that does not contain poor inactive ingredients – this will prevent you from reacting negatively to the serum/cream

The Best Retin A serums and products​

​Once you’ve determined you’re ready to start using Retin A the next step is to find a high quality product to get you the results you are looking for. 

My recommendation is to start with high quality over the counter products like Obagi (more info on why below).

Obagi is a brand that was designed for plastic surgeons and dermatologists and so it contains pharmaceutical grade ingredients and concentrations.

Not only this, but it’s also been studied and used effectively by many practices around the US.

In addition Obagi has also gone through several of their own internal studies which show impressive results.

After 4 weeks of use people noticed the following: ​

  • 84% said their skin looked and felt smoother
  • 78% said their face felt rejuvinated
  • 81% said their face appeared firmer
  • 78% said their skin improved in terms of clarity (it looked more clear)
  • 81% said they were satisfied with the overall results of the product

patient satisfaction of obagi 360

These results are actually VERY impressive when you consider that every person reading this has a different skin type and complexion. 

That means that in a perfect world your retin a product or retinol product would be specifically designed to YOUR skin.

Obviously we can’t do that, but with a success rate of about 8 in 10 the odds are in your favor with this product – and this is why it’s one of my favorites. ​

If you don’t know where to start, or want to start with a high quality product I recommend starting with the Obagi Retinol products below: ​

Obagi Retinol 0.5 & 1.0 Review

Overall rating: 

Overall Quality

Very high quality product that comes in different concentrations (0.5% and 1.0%)


Higher price but comparable when compared to prescription tretinoin & retin a

Why I Love it

Works very well with about a 80%-90% success rate among all people

Who should use it: 
  • ​Anyone looking to have younger looking skin (this is one of the best anti-aging skin care products)
  • People with mild to moderate acne
  • People looking to improve their skin texture
  • People (especially women) with early signs of wrinkles around the eyes or around the corners of the mouth
  • People with oily skin looking to reduce sebum production
  • People also undergoing laser therapies, microdermabrasion, microneedling or microdermabrasion
  • Retinol 0.5% or 1.0% (depending on which concentration and strength you choose)
  • Green tea extract (camellia sinensis)
  • Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)
How to use it: 
Why it works
  • Once a day apply a pearl sized amount to your fingers then spread evening throughout your entire face and neck (avoid your eyes)
  • Make sure to apply product in the evening
  • If you experience dryness, redness or flaking then use every other day until your skin acclimates
  • Retinol increases cell turnover and directly stimulates collagen and elastin production in the dermis which results in a reduction in wrinkles. In addition this product contains 20% Vitamin C which further promotes collagen production and stimulates growth in the skin to even skin tones. 
Recommended product: 

obagi retinol review side by side

Obagi 0.5% (start here if you’ve never used Retinol products before)

See more reviews here

Obagi 1.0% (start here if you have used retinol products in the past and/or you don’t have sensitive skin)

See more reviews here

​Retin A Prescription vs OTC products

One question I get a lot is something like this:

Should I use prescription Retin A from my Doctor or should I use an over the counter Retinol product?

The answer is not as simple as it might seem and my general recommendation is to prefer over the counter products over prescription products and here’s why:

Retin a vs obagi retinol

When you get a prescription for Tretinoin (AKA Retin A) you are getting a high quality concentration of Vitamin A, the only problem is that this product is formulated by pharmacies and not companies that focus on skin care. 

What this means to you is that your product contains lots of inactive ingredients and fillers (alcohol derivatives, etc.) to try and increase the absorption of the Vitamin A. 

Unfortunately these inactive fillers often lead to skin reactions, rashes and other undesirable effects. 

When you purchase an over the counter retinol product you are getting the high quality Vitamin A derivative but you are also getting a high quality serum or cream that contains MINIMAL inactive ingredients. 

These companies also formulate their retinol with other precious and valuable skin care ingredients like Vitamin C and green tea which act as anti inflammatory agents and boost the effectiveness of the existing Retinol. 

This means over the counter retinol products cause less side effects like rashes, bumps or flaky skin. ​

This makes over the counter products a better fit for most people. ​

My recommendation is to start with the product mentioned above (at a small dose) and work yourself up in your dosage until you get your desired results – this will only take about 4-8 weeks. ​

​Can you use Retin A around your eyes and around your mouth?

The beautiful part about Retin a is that it can be used pretty much anywhere on your skin.

I personally know people who use it on their chest and on the back of their hands (these are both areas that usually suffer from heavy sun damage).

That means you can also use it around your mouth and around your eyes!

It’s important to realize though that the skin around your eyes is very sensitive and VERY thin.

Some people need to use a higher concentration of Retin A everywhere else, but they may need to use a lower concentration right around their eyes.

It should also go without saying, but please don’t put the Retin A IN your eyes!

You can also use Retin A around your mouth and that shouldn’t cause any issues.

If you notice any dry skin just make sure to apply it every other day instead of daily and you will still get great results. ​

​Will Retin A work for Forehead wrinkles?

Retin A will definitely help with your forehead wrinkles, but you need to understand what that means.

Most people (who use a high quality Retin A product for a long enough time) will experience about a 50-70% reduction in wrinkles.

This means that you will still have SOME wrinkles but the majority will be reduced.

You can combine your retinol with other products like Vitamin C serum or microneedling to enhance your results and reduce wrinkles even further! ​

How long do I have to use Retin A before I see results? 

Most people start to see results in as little as 4 weeks, but it may take as much as 8 weeks for all of the results to set in. 

This is because it takes time for your skin to turn over and to stimulate both collagen and elastin production. 

The important part is to STICK WITH IT while you wait!

Trust the process and trust your product and you will see your results. 

Over to you!

The bottom line is that Retin A can definitely help reduce your wrinkles, but it must be used correctly and at a high enough dose. 

When looking for products make sure you find a high quality product that contains other ingredients like Vitamin A (these help boost retinol effects). 

My recommendation is to stick with the over the counter brands whenever possible.

Are you using Tretinion, Retin A or Retinol? 

Is it help​ with your wrinkles? 

Leave your comment below!​

Kat Rich

Hi! I'm Kat and I write these posts. I'm obsessed with eyebrows, hair and anything related to fitness. Right now I do microblading, 3d brows and semi-permanent eyebrows in Mesa, Arizona as a certified microblading artist. I'm a licensed cosmetologist and have been for over 10 years as well. I love experimenting with new products and love to share my experiences. Have questions? Leave them below!

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