What is tretinoin cream, USP? Well, this is just the technical term for the product. The “USP” simply specifies that it is a moisturizer and emollient. This vitamin-A based formulation is used to treat aging signs and/or acne. Tretinoin is sold under the brands Retin A Micro, Obagi, Renova skin cream, and others. This active ingredient is the only externally-applied at home product in existence which is classified by the FDA as being effective for treating some signs of aging. The other great benefit is it’s also very affordable.
This product comes in different strengths, such as tretinoin cream USP 0.05 and 0.1. Some strengths may be available under one brand name, but not another. For example, Retin A Micro comes in a 0.04% concentration, which you don’t see from many other manufacturers. People who use these creams are usually instructed to start with the lowest concentration because the side effects of skin irritation can be harsh.
All of the gels and creams out there are extremely similar in that they use the same active ingredient, which is also known as trans retinoic acid. This is a basically a form of vitamin A which changes the way your skin works when applied regularly. It speeds up the frequency that your epidermis grows new cells to replace the old ones. Usually in adults this process naturally takes place about once every 30 to 40 days. However in your youth, it may occur around ever every two weeks. So it’s a process that slows as you get older. Using tretinoin cream USP can help to speed it up.
Gel or Cream?
One question I often hear is what is the difference between tretinoin gel and the cream based versions? Well, they both contain the same active ingredient, the only difference is the substance used to deliver them. And because the tretinoin is often in concentrations of 1/10th of one percent or less, that means that over 99.9% of the product is a neutral cream or gel (the delivery vehicle).
Unless you’re a chemist, you probably won’t understand what makes up this so-called delivery vehicle. But skin care manufacturers each have their own proprietary formulation for these substances. Some claim their gel is superior because it helps to moisturize the skin and soothe the irritation. Others may claim that a cream is better because it is absorbed better.
The honest truth is that they are both very effective. They wouldn’t be approved if they didn’t work. Personally I have used both, and I prefer the gel. Not because I think it’s necessarily better, but because I think it sticks to my face better when I sleep. You see I am a side sleeper so my face is rubbed into the pillow all night long. I feel the gel stays on my face better than when I used tretinoin cream USP but that is just my personal opinion.
Whatever one you and your doctor choose, you can rest assured that you are choosing a substance which has been heavily tested and found to actually work. The only drawback I can think of is that because these products are considered cosmetic in nature, insurance doesn’t cover them. So you have to pay for a doctors visit plus the prescription costs.