Waxing is a popular hair removal method, especially when it comes to shaping and taming our eyebrows. However, if you’re using tretinoin cream for acne treatment or skincare, you may be wondering if waxing is still a safe option.

Here is what you need to know before you try getting a wax on tretinoin. We will explore the effects of tretinoin on the skin, how waxing interacts with tretinoin-treated skin, safer alternatives to waxing, and whether it is advisable to stop tretinoin treatment before waxing. We also know how frustrating it is to deal with unwanted facial hair.

Understanding Tretinoin and its Effects on Skin

Tretinoin, also known as retinol or retinoic acid, is a topical cream commonly prescribed for acne treatment and skincare. It belongs to a group of medications called retinoids, which are derived from Vitamin A.

Tretinoin cream works by increasing skin cell turnover, promoting collagen production, and improving acne, fine lines, and wrinkles. However, as a Curology member, if your tretinoin cream ever gives you side effects, your Curology medical provider is available to help. And if you’re not a Curology member yet, you can sign up for a 30-day trial of custom skincare.

What is Tretinoin?

Tretinoin cream is a prescription-only topical treatment used primarily for acne and skincare. It contains retinoic acid, a type of retinoid, which helps in cell turnover and collagen production. Due to its potency, tretinoin cream may cause redness and irritation, especially when first starting treatment.

How does Tretinoin work on the skin?

Tretinoin cream works by increasing skin cell turnover, which means it helps the skin shed dead cells more quickly, revealing fresh skin cells underneath. This process improves acne, reduces signs of aging, and stimulates collagen production, leading to smoother, firmer skin. However, tretinoin cream can also make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, so it is important to use sun protection while using this cream. Tretinoin stimulates skin cell turnover and helps boost the production of collagen, resulting in the exposure of new skin cells. This is why tretinoin is effective as an anti-aging agent. The new skin cells can be sensitive and easily irritated.

tretinoin key take away infographic

The Impact of Waxing on Tretinoin-Treated Skin

While waxing is an effective hair removal method, it can have unsavory side effects, especially when used on tretinoin-treated skin. Waxing involves applying hot wax to the skin, which is then quickly removed, pulling hair out from the follicle. This process, when combined with the use of topical retinoids, such as tretinoin, can result in skin irritation, redness, and rashes. To protect your skin during this process, you can apply an occlusive ointment like Aquaphor. This will create a barrier between the wax and your skin, helping to minimize irritation and redness. If you experience persistent irritation, it is important to consult with your medical provider.

How does waxing interact with Tretinoin?

Waxing, particularly facial waxing, can be painful, especially on tretinoin-treated skin. Tretinoin treatment may lead to a decrease in the thickness of the skin, making waxing more uncomfortable. Additionally, waxing can disrupt the hair follicle, potentially making hair removal techniques less effective. The increased skin cell turnover caused by tretinoin cream may also interfere with waxing, rendering it less successful in removing hair. Furthermore, the combination of waxing and tretinoin treatment can increase the risk of skin irritation, redness, and rashes.

Possible risks and side effects

Waxing tretinoin-treated skin can cause redness, skin irritation, and rashes. Retin, a type of retinoid, is one of the ingredients that can make the skin more sensitive and increase the risk of side effects from waxing. Tretinoin treatment can also lead to pigment changes in the skin.

The handling of skin during waxing can further irritate tretinoin-treated skin, exacerbating side effects. Therefore, it is recommended to consult with a dermatologist before waxing while using tretinoin cream. Some ingredients that raise a red flag? Retinoids and alpha hydroxy acids, can make skin more sensitive and change the way it reacts.

Safer Alternatives to Waxing While Using Tretinoin

If you’re using tretinoin cream and want to remove unwanted hair, there are gentler alternatives to waxing that you can consider.

Shaving and Dermaplaning

Shaving is a gentler hair removal option that doesn’t involve waxing. It is a good option for tretinoin-treated skin, as it doesn’t irritate the skin or disrupt hair follicles. Another option is dermaplaning, which involves shaving the top layer of skin, removing facial hair without waxing.

Both shaving and dermaplaning can be done at home with proper care, making them convenient alternatives to waxing. Following hair removal, it is important to incorporate effective skin care products, such as hydrating lotions and moisturizers, to maintain the health and appearance of the skin.

Tweezing and Epilation

Tweezing, which involves plucking unwanted hair one at a time, can be a gentler option for tretinoin-treated skin. It allows for precise hair removal, especially in small areas, such as eyebrows. Epilators, hair removal devices, can also be used to remove unwanted hair from small areas, providing another option for tretinoin users.

However, it is recommended to consult with a dermatologist for hair removal tips using tweezing or epilators. Laser hair removal is another effective method for getting rid of unwanted hair. It destroys hair follicles with heat, using light energy converted to heat to damage the hair follicles and stop or delay future hair growth. Electrolysis, a method that uses an electric current to destroy the hair follicle, is considered a permanent hair removal option by the FDA.

Is it advisable to stop Tretinoin treatment before waxing?

To minimize skin irritation, it is advisable to pause tretinoin treatment before waxing. Stopping tretinoin treatment allows the skin to recover and become less sensitive before a waxing treatment, reducing the risk of side effects.

However, the recommended timeframe for stopping tretinoin treatment before waxing may vary, so it is important to consult with your medical provider prescribing the tretinoin or the professional performing the wax if you have any questions about the appropriate timeframe for your skin type and tretinoin treatment.


In conclusion, waxing while using Tretinoin is not recommended. Tretinoin increases skin sensitivity and can cause irritation, redness, and even skin damage. Waxing can further aggravate these side effects and lead to more severe reactions.

It is best to opt for safer alternatives such as shaving or tweezing while using Tretinoin. If you are unsure about the right approach for hair removal, consult with your dermatologist who can provide personalized advice based on your specific needs. Remember, taking care of your skin’s health should always be a priority, and it’s important to make informed decisions to avoid any potential risks or complications.

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