A dermatologist weighs in on the myth that retinoids thin the skin over time

Alright, alright, alright — there’s a skin care issue that needs to be put to rest once and for all. And no, we’re not talking about super painful peel-off masks or even the right kind of sunscreen you should be wearing (note: you are wearing sunscreen daily, right?!). We’re talking about retinoids, and whether their long-term use will thin your skin (because internet myths have convinced us that they do!).

Retinoids can include a tretinoin prescription you can get from a doctor or the over-the-counter retinol that is found in many anti-aging beauty products.

Once and for all, we can confirm that retinoids *do not* thin your skin. As a matter of fact, there’s plenty of evidence that they do just the opposite.


“There seems to be much misinformation out on the internet that topical retinoids thin the skin, coming from ‘skin experts’ that are not dermatologists,” Dr. Julia Tzu, founder and medical director of Wall Street Dermatology, told HelloGiggles. “Most dermatologists will agree that topical retinoids do not thin the skin, but in fact, thicken the skin and reverse photodamage.”

A cursory online search will find many desperate inquiries like the following, that are just NOT TRUE.


What’s more, Dr. Tzu points out the fact that quite a few peer-reviewed journals have demonstrated the thickening of skin with long-term retinoid use, versus skin that’s not subject to a retinoid regimen. AKA, this myth is the exact *opposite* of what these miraculous anti-aging Vitamin A-based chemical compounds can do.

“Retinoids have been known (through scientific data) to increase collagen formation and decrease collagen breakdown, which is the reason for its anti-aging effects,” Dr. Tzu continued.

Ohhh, so that’s where the myth must come from, duh!

Now even with all the validation, some may still ask: will using a retinoid cream long-term, say, starting in your twenties, harm your skin after years of prolonged use? The short answer is: nope!

“Your skin will not only be okay but will be better in texture and tone with regular retinoid usage.” Dr. Tzu assured us. “Combined with sun protection, after decades of use, it will be very apparent that your skin will be significantly better than others in your age group who did not use a retinoid and did not practice adequate sun protection.”

Okay, so if you weren’t convinced before, well, be convinced now: retinoid creams (with proper usage) can work anti-aging wonders for your skin. They’ll ward off adult acne and simultaneously prevent wrinkles without wearing down your skin. And if you aren’t using one as part of your skin care regimen already, we’ve got a few suggestions for you.