Topical Retinoids and Application

Topical retinoids are widely prescribed for a number of skin disorders; of which the most common condition treated is acne vulgaris.

When used as prescribed, the side effects of these drugs can be minimized. Every patient who uses retinoids must know how to apply the drug properly. The following are guidelines for the use of retinoids:

- prior to use of the topical retinoid, the face must be gently washed with a mild soap and dried

- One should not use harsh soaps, detergents or abrasives to cleanse the face. These substances can actually worsen the skin disorder, especially acne.

- The best way to avoid skin irritation is to keep away from the sun. If one is going out after application of a retinoid, one should always wear a sunscreen. Sunscreens with a SPF > 20 are highly recommended. The sunscreen should be worn daily

- Another way to avoid sun exposure is to wear protective clothing. Wide brim hats are recommended to avoid the rays of the sun on the face

- Because topical retinoids can cause skin irritation, one must apply a skin moisturizing agent on a daily basis. The moisturizing agent will not affect the activity of the retinoid. The type of moisturizing agent is not important. Cheaper ones infact are just as good as the more expensive creams

- The retinoid cream should be applied as a thin film and gently rubbed in. More is not always better and one can develop severe skin irritation

- In most cases, there will be a flare up of the acne after the initial application of a topical retinoid. This will subside over the next few days. One should not be discouraged at the first sign of skin flare up

- When starting off with topical retinoid, it is best to apply the topical cream once every other day until there is no more skin irritation.

- The newer topical retinoids like Tazarotene are available for short duration skin treatment. This short acting regimen requires application of the cream anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes and then washing off the drug. If the drug is left for prolonged time, severe skin irritation can occur.

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