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This class of acne medication falls under the category of a comedolytic agent. This means that it helps to fight and get rid of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads).

How they work
Retinoids work by entering the cells and binding to certain receptors where they help to change the way the skin is turning over. In doing so, retinoids decrease the amount of "stickiness" that the skin has making it less likely to block a pore.

It used to be thought that retinoids were only good for comedones, but more recent evidence shows that they are also very successful at fighting inflammatory lesions as well (pimples, etc.). As such, retinoids are considered first line for most patients with acne.

Types of retinoids
Prescription retinoids include Differin, Retin-a, Avita, and Tazorac.

Potential side effects
The main side effects of retinoids are dryness and irritation. This is mostly seen early in
treatment and continued use usually resutls in more tolerance.

Ways to decrease side effects
Beacuse retinoids typically cause most of their irritation early in treatment, it may help to start slowly. Rather than starting every night, it may be best to start every other night or even every third night. Once you tolerate this for a week or so, you can gradually increase the frequency of use until the can tolerate daily application.

Irritation can also be decreased by applying the retinoid about 20-30 minutes after washing the face with cool water. Warm or hot water may open your pores more increasing the liklihood of irritation. In addition, topical medications tend to penetrate better on wet skin, so allowing your skin to completely dry will decrease irritation.


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