Retin-A & Acne Scars
Nearly everyone gets acne, usually starting in their early teen years and continuing into their early 20s. But only a minority have lasting scars from their acne lesions. Fortunately, Retin-A has been proven effective in reducing some acne scars.
It's not clear why some people develop scars from acne. Family history appears to play a role: according to the American Academy of Dermatology, if one or both of your parents developed acne scars, you're more likely to develop them too. In addition, severe inflammatory acne requiring a dermatologist's intervention is more likely to result in scarring than mild acne that can be treated with over-the-counter skin care products.
Dermatologists frequently use Retin-A, a form of vitamin A, to treat acne. But the drug also is effective in reducing the appearance of both atrophic acne scars and skin darkening and discoloration from acne. Atrophic scars, the most common type of acne scars, are shallow pits in the skin, and have soft-looking borders.
Retin-A works by increasing collagen formation in the skin, according to dermatologists. In a 1999 study from the University of Vienna Medical School in Austria, 32 patients applied Retin-A two times a week for three months. At the end of treatment, 94 percent of the patients saw improvement in the depth of their acne scars, and some also saw marked increases in collagen formation, the researchers said.
Retin-A does not work instantly to treat acne scars. In most cases, patients will need to apply the medication at least twice a week for several months before they see results. Dermatologists also often combine Retin-A with another type of therapy for acne scars, such as laser resurfacing, to improve results.
Retin-A causes sun sensitivity; many people using the medication find they burn in just a few minutes when exposed to direct sunlight. Dermatologists caution patients to always wear sunscreen and a hat if using Retin-A to treat acne scars. Other possible side effects of Retin-A include redness, burning and tingling, and skin peeling.
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