Tretinoin For Under Eye Circles & Wrinkles: What to Know

How to Use Tretinoin For Under-Eye Circles & Wrinkles
How to Use Tretinoin For Under-Eye Circles & Wrinkles

Tretinoin, also known as Retinoic Acid, is the generic name for the synthetic version of Vitamin A. It is much more potent than retinol and should not be mistaken for the same thing.

It is most often used to treat acne and sun-damaged skin. While it cannot erase fine lines and wrinkles, it can help to minimize their appearance on the skin.

However, the question of the day is, how safe is it to use tretinoin for under-eye circles & wrinkles?

Can You Use Tretinoin For Under-Eye Circles & Wrinkles

Tretinoin can be used under the eyes for dark circles and wrinkles, but very cautiously. It is only available by prescription. 

Tretinoin is very potent and can easily irritate sensitive skin. You should be very careful when applying this topical treatment anywhere that you have thin skin, especially in the under-eye area. 

Some dermatologists recommend avoiding the under-eye area altogether. However, others recommend using a very small amount and spreading it 5mm or more away from the lower lash line. Make sure that you avoid the upper lids entirely, and make sure that you avoid getting them into your eyes.

Some milder and gentler ways to treat wrinkles and dark circles under the eyes:

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Niacinamide for Dark Spots & Wrinkles Under the Eyes

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How to use Honey for Under Eye Wrinkles & Dark Circles

How Does Tretinoin Work For Under-Eye Wrinkles

Tretinoin speeds up the rate at which your skin cells are renewed and also increases the production of collagen. 

In your under-eye area, this will be more intense since the skin there is much thinner. This is why very little product will go a very long way. 

The increased cell turnover rate and increased collagen production will resurface the skin and tighten it, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

To explore your options to lighten dark circles check out my article on The 10 Medical & Home Remedies For Under Eye Dark Circles

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How Does Tretinoin Work For Dark Circles Under The Eyes

Tretinoin will help to remove the melanin-containing skin cells from the skin around the eyes while boosting collagen production to tighten the area. 

As the melanin-containing cells are removed faster than normal, the area will become lighter. More cells will be replaced faster than melanin can be deposited. 

The increase in collagen production will tighten the area, preventing that familiar sunken appearance. 

Did you know you can use Toothpaste For Dark Under-Eye Circles & Wrinkles, click here to learn more.

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Benefits Of Using Tretinoin For Under-Eye Circles & Wrinkles

Tretinoin, once used correctly, can have many benefits for the under-eyes.

1- Even Skin Tone

Tretinoin gets rid of melanated skin cells by increasing the rate of skin cell turnover, producing more even-toned cells.

2- Improves Skin Texture

The resurfacing of the skin and increase in collagen production make the skin more supple and elastic, getting rid of fine lines and texture.

Related Article – Using Ice For Under-Eye Circles: Is it Safe, Pros & Cons 

3- Improves Collagen Production

This improves skin elasticity and firmness which gives the skin a healthier look and feel. It also makes it more resistant to easy damage.

Related Article – Lemon for Under-Eye Circles & Wrinkles – Benefits & Risks

4- Makes the Skin Healthier

By increasing the production of new skin cells, increasing collagen production, and tightening the skin, the overall result is stronger, healthier skin.

Some natural ways that can help lighten your under-eyes are:

Using Potatoes For Under-Eye Dark Circles & Wrinkles

Cucumbers On Eyes: Benefits & Side Effects- What to Know

5- Helps to Heal Sun Damaged Skin

Your skin can become very sun-damaged, especially as you get older. Resurfacing the skin helps to get rid of sun-damaged cells and improve the overall appearance of the area.

Risks Of Using Tretinoin For Under-Eye Circles & Wrinkles

Tretinoin is a potent treatment and is associated with a few side effects. 

1- Irritation

Tretinoin can irritate sensitive and even normal skin, especially when you are first starting it. It can also be irritating if used in a concentration that is too strong for your skin. You should be very careful when using this treatment around your eyes and other sensitive areas. 

The most common presentation of irritation may include:

  • A feeling of warmth or stinging
  • Skin that is red, tender, flaky, or burning
  • increased outbreaks of acne for a short while
  • Changes to the tone of your skin (darkening)

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2- Hyperpigmentation

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people with darker skin tones can have a negative reaction to tretinoin and other retinoids that increase melanin in their skin rather than lessen it.

It is recommended that you see a dermatologist before using this treatment on your skin. 

Did you know that you can use Tretinoin for Oily Skin – click here to learn How to Use, Benefits & Risks

3- Photosensitivity

Tretinoin and other retinoids will make your skin more sensitive to UV rays and sun damage. Therefore, it is better to always use sun protection and try to avoid exposure as much as possible when using this treatment. 

Related Article – How to Use Vitamin C for Under Eye Circles & Wrinkles

4- Pregnancy Risks

If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, you should not be using topical tretinoin or other retinoids. This can have negative effects on your pregnancy and unborn child. 

Related Article – How to Use Kojic Acid for Under-Eye Circles & Wrinkles

How To Apply Tretinoin Around Your Under-Eyes

Tretinoin should only be used after consulting with your dermatologist and obtaining a prescription. 

Your dermatologist will discuss:

  • The condition of your skin
  • What could be causing your wrinkles and dark circles
  • How suitable tretinoin is for your skin
  • What concentration of tretinoin will be right for you
  • How you should start using it and how to safely apply it
  • Side effects and how to manage them
  • What changes you can expect and how soon
  • How often you need to return for a follow-up visit to check the progress of your skin

However, most dermatologists recommend that you:

  • Start with the lowest strength
  • Start by using it 1-2 times per week at first and then gradually increase the frequency
  • Only apply under your eyes, leaving at least 5 mm between your lower lid or lash line and the application of the cream
  • Mix it with your moisturizer if you need to
  • Avoid the upper eyelids entirely
  • Avoid getting it into your eyes

Related Article – How to Moisturize When Using Tretinoin – What to Do & Use

How often should you use tretinoin under your eyes?

If your skin can tolerate tretinoin in a suitable concentration, you can use it daily. 

However, it is recommended that you begin by only using it 1-2 times per week at first. When your skin has gotten accustomed to the treatment, you can gradually increase the frequency. You should also not use it in the mornings, but rather only at night. 

This will help to prevent irritation and side effects.

How long should you leave tretinoin on the skin under your eyes?

Tretinoin can be left on your skin for as long as 12 hours as long as your skin can tolerate it. 

Tretinoin is usually applied at night, during your skincare routine before bed. It is usually washed off in the morning when you cleanse your face. 

Leaving it on longer will risk irritation and exposure to sunlight which will damage your skin. 

How to Chose the Right Concentration Of Tretinoin For Under-Eye Circles & Wrinkles

Tretinoin is available in prescription strengths that range from .01% to .1%. 

The majority of anti-aging research reveals that low to moderate-strength tretinoin creams, such as those containing.025% – 0.05%, typically produce the best outcomes.

However, the right concentration for you will ultimately depend on how well your skin can tolerate the treatment. 

If tretinoin is recommended for you, your doctor will collaborate with you to select a concentration that provides the best compromise between desired outcomes and side effects.

Tips To Follow When Using Tretinoin On Your Under-Eyes

  • Use it consistently – even if you do not see the effects right away, you will eventually see the long-term benefits. 
  • Use sunscreen religiously – protect yourself from harmful UV exposure which can cause more damage to skin that has been treated with tretinoin. Use an SPF of 30+ daily or multiple times a day. 
  • Understand what the side effects are – discuss the side effects with your doctor so that you understand what is happening to your skin and how best you can manage them. Mismanagement may damage your skin. 
  • Tailor your skincare routine – tretinoin is very potent and cannot be used with all other skincare ingredients, especially actives. Talk to your doctor about what your skincare routine should look like now that you are using tretinoin. 
  • Only use it at night – Tretinoin makes your skin more prone to sun damage. Therefore, it is best to use this at night when your skin is safe from exposure and resting. Wash it off in the morning before you go about your day. 
  • Mix it with a moisturizer if needed– this will dilute the treatment but it can help to reduce side effects and irritation or dryness. 
  • Do not get it in your eyes – if you do, wash your eyes and seek medical attention immediately. 
  • Consider an alternative – if your skin, especially your under-eyes, cannot tolerate even the lowest concentration of tretinoin, know when to call it quits. Look at safer alternatives for your skin. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How soon should you expect results from tretinoin treatment?

On average, it will take about 8-24 weeks of treatment with tretinoin to see marked differences in your wrinkles and dark circles. 

However, this will depend on just how thin your undereye skin is, how bad your wrinkles and dark circles are, and how well your skin reacts to the treatment. 

Can using tretinoin for under-eye circles & wrinkles make them worse?

If used correctly, tretinoin should not make your dark circles and wrinkles worse. 

However, if used incorrectly (the wrong concentration, too often, or with ingredients that are not compatible) it can make your skin condition worse. 

Related Articles:

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Tretinoin – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf 

Tretinoin Cream: Skin Benefits, How to Use, Side Effects 

Where to Apply Tretinoin – The Skin Lab 

Tretinoin (Topical Route) Description and Brand Names – Mayo Clinic 

Retinol vs. Tretinoin: Benefits, Side Effects, Uses, More 

How to Use Tretinoin for Wrinkles and Skin Aging | Apostrophe 

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