Doctor's Answers (2)
There are several topical retinoid derivatives which differ in their chemical structures. I assume you are referring to tretinoin, which is the active form of retinoid and is only available by prescription. It has been widely studied over at least 30 years for treating acne and preventing signs of ageing (wrinkles, skin thickness, new collagen formation, pigmentation and age spots). The most common side effect is known as “retinization” - redness, burning or itching sensation, and/or flaky skin. This generally resolves after the first few weeks.
Differin is a newer third-generation retinoid, which works in the same way as tretinoin but with more selective affinity for certain types of retinoic acid receptors in skin cells. Studies comparing the two show that tretinoin has slightly better results for acne than Differin, however Differin is more tolerable with less side effects of skin irritation. There are no studies on Differin for its anti-ageing benefits yet.
You can have lasers while using topical retinoids or Differin. In fact, lasers can complement retinoids to target acne, acne scars, and PIH. The main concern would be increased skin irritation or dryness, so it is advisable to stop its use the night before and day of laser.
As everyone's skin is unique, you can consult a doctor to assess your skin and determine which is more suitable for you.
Jain, S (2004). Topical tretinoin or adapalene in acne vulgaris: an overview. J Dermatological
Differin is actually also a type of retinoid which was formulated to have lesser side effects than Tretinoin.
In terms of acne control (which I assume is what you are using it for as you mentioned oral accutane), both should be effective – I’m not aware of any head-to-head studies comparing the effectiveness of the two. Otherwise, Tretinoin has been out much longer than Differin, and therefore has more studies showing it to be effective at treating wrinkles, crow’s feet, etc.
Most doctors normally recommend stopping topical retinoids 2-3 days before any laser procedures. But you should speak to your doctor about this, as it depends on what kind of lasers you are going for!