Tretinoin is a prescription-strength derivative of Vitamin A. This is the same family of drugs as your retinoids but the difference is that tretinoin is much stronger.
It is usually prescribed by a dermatologist to treat stubborn dark spots and patches on the body.
However, it is not always recommended for use all over the body. So, the question today is, can we safely use tretinoin for underarms? And if we can, how?
Also, you can check out my article on: Retinol For Dark Underarms: How to Use, Benefits & Effects
Can You Use Tretinoin For Underarms
Yes, you can use tretinoin for dark underarms with the guidance of a dermatologist.
Tretinoin is a concentrated form of vitamin A and it can be associated with specific side effects. You should talk to your dermatologist to know what to expect and how to manage them.
How effective tretinoin will be will also depend on what is causing your underarm darkness and the condition of your skin. Your doctor will need to examine the skin and discuss the cause to determine what concentration of tretinoin will be most suitable and safe for your skin.
Will Tretinoin Help To Lighten Dark Underarms
Yes, tretinoin will help to lighten dark underarms if used correctly.
Tretinoin helps to reduce the amount of melanin in your skin by removing and replacing the melanated skin cells with newer, less pigmented skin cells.
It resurfaces the skin faster than melanin production and deposition can take place, making the skin lighter and smoother over time.
This is especially helpful in underarm conditions like Acanthosis Nigricans. This is the most common skin complication of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, hormonal diseases like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and other medical conditions.
Some other great options to lighten your underarms are:
Benefits Of Using Tretinoin For Underarms
Using tretinoin on your underarms benefits the skin by:
- Decreasing inflammation
- Increasing cell turnover
- Minimizing pore size
- Promoting collagen production
- Reducing skin oil (sebum) production
These effects make the skin healthier and stronger. It smoothes out the texture and keeps the pores clean and tight, giving your skin a more toned and younger appearance.
How To Use Tretinoin For Underarms
Tretinoin is a prescription-only treatment and you will need to see a dermatologist first.
When you visit your dermatologist, you will discuss:
- How long your underarm has been affected
- Whether it has progressively gotten worse
- The things that seem to make the condition better or worse (seasons, timings, periods, pregnancy, etc)
- Other treatments that you have tried and the outcomes
- The general condition and sensitivity of your underarm skin
Your dermatologist will also take a look under your arms to judge the condition of your skin for themselves.
You and your dermatologist will then discuss what concentration of tretinoin would be most suitable for your skin, how you should use it, and what you should combine it with.
Video: Dr. Jenny Liu explains what Acanthosis nigricans is, and how tretinoin can be used to treat it with other topical creams/lotions (and a few other options)
How To Choose The Right Concentration Of Tretinoin For Underarms
Tretinoin is available in strengths that range from 0.01% to 0.1%. You and your dermatologist will decide together which strength will be right for your underarms.
The aim is to maximize the benefits while minimizing the side effects – a delicate balance specific to your skin.
This is very important because if you use a concentration that is too strong for your skin, the side effects may be hard to manage and may even damage your skin more.
While choosing a concentration, you will also choose whether you want to use it as a gel, cream, or lotion. Some people find one kind of preparation to be more tolerable for their skin than others.
How Often Should You Use Tretinoin For Underarms
Tretinoin can be irritating so the general recommendation is to start using it gradually.
Dermatologists recommend that you start by using it once or twice per week for a few weeks at first. This will give your skin a chance to get used to the treatment and keep any side effects to a minimum.
As your skin gets used to the treatment, your doctor will most likely suggest that you increase the frequency of use. This will likely be after a follow-up visit to see how your skin has been responding to the treatment up to that point.
You will keep gradually increasing the frequency of use until you can use it daily or as often as needed to be effective.
How Soon You Can Expect Results When Using Tretinoin
It generally takes several weeks for tretinoin to visibly change your skin.
In the first 2 weeks, you may see more side effects than visible improvements in your skin. However, this does not mean that you should stop using it. You need to stick to the treatment to get to the best part.
During weeks 2-4, the side effects will gradually improve and you should start to see small changes in your skin.
Drastic changes may not be visible until 12-14 weeks after you begin the treatment.
Side Effects Of Using Tretinoin
The following are a few of the side effects of topical tretinoin that are most visible in the first stages of therapy:
- Skin redness
- Dry skin
- Peeling or Flaking
- Burning or stinging sensation
- Increased sensitivity to sunlight and increased risk of sunburns
These side effects can usually be easily managed. However, if they become severe or unbearable, you should see your doctor again as soon as possible or seek emergency medical attention.
Tips To Remember When Using Tretinoin For Underarms
- Always remember to protect your skin from the sun when using tretinoin. Even if it is your underarm, which is generally covered by clothes, you should still apply your SPF.
- Also, always remember to do a patch test on a small area of your skin before you apply the treatment to the entire surface area of your underarms. This will prevent large allergic or sensitivity reactions from occurring.
- Do not use harsh underarm cleansers or soaps, and do not use harsh underarm products (those with alcohols or acids and other active ingredients) on your skin. This will worsen skin irritation.
- Keep your underarms moisturized to minimize any dryness and peeling that may occur.
- Do not try to use scrubs or abrasive underarm exfoliating techniques while using tretinoin. Your skin will be too delicate to handle this and you may make the darkness even worse.