“Hydro-what?” All You Need To Know About HYDROQUINONE & TRETINOIN – The Two Big Hitters in Obagi’s NuDerm System

If you saw our recent segment on Go Gorgeous, you heard Jill discuss the importance of two major ingredients in Obagi’s NuDerm system that are MUST products for anyone looking to correct pigmentation and fight aging!! If you haven’t seen the segment, check it out here!

Let’s start with hydroquinone…don’t worry about pronouncing it! Just know that it gradually lightens sun spots, age spots, and other types of discoloration. It’s safe and has been used for over 40 years by physicians to treat a variety of skin disorders. It’s recognized by the FDA and doctors around the world for being the gold standard in lightening skin and is safe at a max concentration of 4% under a physicians care. It works by decreasing the production of melanin and and increasing the breakdown of the melanin granules in the skin’s pigment cells. It does this by inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase, the enzyme needed to make melanin.

Hydroquinone can be used on not just the face, but the décolleté, hands, and any area of the skin where there is discoloration. Discoloration can be cause by a number of factors including the use of birth control pills, pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy or even trauma to the skin. Product treatment is recommended for a 6 month period and it’s best to keep out of the sun during treatment or just use a good sunscreen like the Obagi sunscreen that comes with the system. Fall is the perfect time to start this program! After finishing, you can switch to another product that contains lighter ingredients like kojic acid and can always come back to it when needed.

Number 3 in the system, Clear, contains 4% hydroquinone that is used morning and night. While effective usually on its own, hydroquinone is typically more effective when mixed with tretinoin, which is why it’s there is also hydroquinone in Blender, number 5, that you mix with Refissa, Tretinoin with a moisturizing emollient base. This product comes separate as a prescription from Dr. Thompson. The blending mixture is just used at night and packs serious power. Your skin will naturally adapt to both but my be slightly red and irritated during initial use. Obagi created Action, an amazing moisturizing lotion, that helps calm the skin to make the transition a relatively easy one.

So let’s talk more about tretinoin, just because it’s awesome and anyone who cares about their skin should be using it! So tretinoin is basically a retinoic acid (Vitamin A) ointment or cream that is applied to the skin. What is the difference between retinoic acid, retinol, and a million other r words that sounds the same? Well, they definitely aren’t all created equal so check your ingredients. While Retinol may do the same thing, it’s not as strong as retinoic acid and will take longer to give you the same benefits. Deritives called pro-retinols (a.k.a. retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate) are the gentlest and weakest form of retinoic acid and we really don’t know if they ever actually convert to retinoic acid like retinol does.  To this I say, “don’t waste your time and money”!

You got all that? Basically, don’t think that over-the-counter product will work the same because it has retin-something in it. The safest bet is to ask your doctor. You’re likely to get a prescription, like Tri-Luma, or be given a product in the office that will most likely be Obagi’s Refissa. The price difference depends on your insurance but from our experience, Refissa is approximately $15-$20 less than what a prescription will cost you at the pharmacy.

Oh shoot, I haven’t mentioned what retinoic acid actually does yet, have I? Well, let me just tell ya. It is the only Vitamin A derivative proven to alter gene expression and bring about cellular changes in the skin to produce measurable anti-aging results. It’s kind of a big deal in the anti-aging world! Retin-A is the brand name for the first prescription of retinoic acid and was approved back in 1971. Such products boost new collagen production and help with hyperpigmentation as well. It’s completely safe and can be used around the eyes even to attack fine lines and wrinkles. But hang with it because it can take 6 -12 weeks to really see results. But unlike hydroquinone, you can use it as long as you want!

Did you get all that?! Obagi makes the system very simple, provides a plethora of information on their website, and has an awesome program that helps you through the entire process! Check it out:

And of course, we’re here for you at Utah Facial Plastics! It’s “been there, done that” for most of us here so just give us a call! Of course, the best time to call to purchase the product is this Tuesday, between 8 and 9 for 30% off… see details.  Oh, and be careful when seeing discounts from online retailers for this product. These products are often expired or complete knock-offs of the real thing…FYI. It’s best to play it safe and stay under the care of a knowledgeable medical practice that can help you along the way.


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