Cosmetic Update

What are the effects of tretinoin and hydroquinone? A cosmetic dermatologist explains the correct usage

Tretinoin and hydroquinone are attracting attention among women who suffer from age spots. It is a hot topic for its ability to improve the appearance of dark spots and its high whitening effect, but if used incorrectly it may worsen the condition of your skin. First, let’s understand the effects of the ingredients and how to use them correctly.

This time, we asked Dr. Mayumi Nomoto, director of Mayumi Nomoto Clinic Ginza, to explain in detail about tretinoin and hydroquinone.

What ingredients are in tretinoin and hydroquinone?

Image of a woman smiling while touching her beautiful skin

Tretinoin: An ingredient that promotes skin renewal and leads to beautiful skin.

Tretinoin is a drug that can only be used at medical institutions . It is a type of vitamin A and has been approved by the American FDA (an agency equivalent to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) as a treatment for acne and wrinkles.

Tretinoin has the effect of promoting “turnover,” the rebirth of the skin, so it can be expected to have the effect of promoting the discharge of melanin pigment, which is the source of age spots, and fading the age spots .

In addition, it is expected to have the effect of improving wrinkles due to its collagen production effect , and the effect of reducing the function of sebaceous glands and peeling off dead skin cells, leading to the improvement of acne and acne scars .

  • Excretes melanin pigment deep within the skin in about 14 days!

When we are young, the epidermis is reborn every 28 days, but as we age, this cycle slows down and is said to take about 45 days on average for people in their 30s and 40s. 

Tretinoin, on the other hand, has the ability to cause epidermal cells to divide and proliferate and activate turnover, allowing the melanin pigment in the basal layer of the skin to be excreted in about 14 days.

Hydroquinone: Ingredient with powerful whitening effect

Hydroquinone has been confirmed to have a high whitening effect on stains and dullness, and is an ingredient that can be expected to have two effects: “ preventing new stains from forming’ ‘ and ` `fading existing stains.”

  • Prevents new stains from forming with two functions

The characteristics of hydroquinone are that it can “suppress the production of melanin pigment, which is the cause of age spots,” and that it can also “reduce the melanocytes themselves,” which produce melanin pigment. These two effects can be expected to prevent new stains from forming.

<Spots for which hydroquinone is effective
Senile pigment spots/inflammatory pigmentation/melasma/freckles
<Spots for which hydroquinone is not effective
Moles, bruises, or ADM (acquired dermal melanocytosis)

Effects of using tretinoin and hydroquinone together

The combination of the two is called “tretinoin/hydroquinone therapy.” Treatment using only hydroquinone is called “skin bleaching,” and it has the effect of whitening both “spots” and “non-spot areas,” but the skin tone may not be uniform.

On the other hand, tretinoin/hydroquinone therapy minimizes the difference between “spots” and “non-spots” to make blemishes less noticeable and create a uniform skin tone.

Therefore, we recommend a combination therapy of tretinoin and hydroquinone for age spots.

Side effects of tretinoin and hydroquinone and how to deal with them

Image of side effects

Tretinoin side effects and how to deal with them

Tretinoin often causes a side effect called retinoid dermatitis (A reaction).

  • redness
  • Peeling
  • tingling sensation
  • itch

etc. are representative. Although there are individual differences in how the reaction occurs, it tends to occur within about 6 weeks after starting use, and if it is mild, it will pass. If the reaction is strong, reduce the frequency of use or adjust the concentration.

Hydroquinone side effects and how to deal with them

Hydroquinone is cytotoxic, so the higher the concentration, the stronger the irritation, and the more likely symptoms such as redness, itching, and stinging will occur. If you use it for a long time, there is a risk of developing vitiligo, where parts of your skin turn white, or ochronosis, where your skin turns black.

In order to use hydroquinone effectively and safely, it is recommended to use it for about 4 to 5 months and then take a break for about 4 to 5 months .

Side effects and precautions for “tretinoin/hydroquinone therapy”

  • side effects

A few days after starting treatment, dead skin cells will begin to fall off. During this period, old keratin is pushed out and the skin begins to be reborn, so in addition to peeling, you may experience tingling and redness. In most cases, the symptoms will subside within 6 weeks after starting use .

<Main side effects>
Peeling, redness, dryness, stinging, tightness, itching, visible wrinkles
, increased hypersensitivity of the dead skin.

  • important point

It is important to proceed with tretinoin/hydroquinone therapy under the examination and guidance of a doctor you trust. During treatment, the dead skin becomes sensitive and susceptible to UV rays, so adequate UV protection is required.

Also, applying topical preparations to the skin can cause stains. It is best to “press” it on the skin without moving it.

For those who are worried about age spots or who are concerned about treatment with medicines

I believe that beauty is not based on health, but rather on the pursuit of health.

When you have skin diseases such as age spots, acne, and dermatitis, treating them will make your skin beautiful. In addition to beauty treatments, what you eat every day The things you apply every day are renewing your skin every day. Let’s pursue “skin health” from the outside and inside.

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