Home USARetin-A (Tretinoin): How does this medicine work? What are its effects ?

Retin-A (Tretinoin): How does this medicine work? What are its effects ?

Tretinoin is used to treat certain types of acne. Tretinoin decreases acne by accelerating the growth of the outer layer of the skin, which is replaced by new skin cells; this helps to reduce the formation of blackheads, whiteheads, and other acne lesions. It may be several weeks before you experience an improvement in your acne and the full effect of this medication may not be felt for 8 to 10 weeks.

This medicine is available under various brand names or in different presentations. A specific brand of this medication may not be available in all forms or approved for all conditions mentioned here. In addition, some forms of this medicine may not be used against all conditions mentioned in this article.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for a condition not listed in this drug information article. If you have not discussed this with your doctor, or if you are not sure why you are taking this medicine, check it out. Do not stop taking this medicine without first consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medicine to anyone, even someone who has the same symptoms as yours. This medication may be harmful to people for whom it has not been prescribed.

In what forms does this medicine occur?

Each g of cream contains 0.01% tretinoin in a neutral hydrophilic excipient. Nonmedicinal ingredients: sorbic acid, stearic acid, stearyl alcohol, butylhydroxytoluene, purified water, xanthan gum, isopropyl myristate, and polyoxyl 40 stearates.

Each g of cream contains 0.025% tretinoin in a neutral hydrophilic excipient. Nonmedicinal ingredients: sorbic acid, stearic acid, stearyl alcohol, butylhydroxytoluene, purified water, xanthan gum, isopropyl myristate, and polyoxyl 40 stearates.

Each g of cream contains 0.05% tretinoin in a neutral hydrophilic excipient. Nonmedicinal ingredients: sorbic acid, stearic acid, stearyl alcohol, butylhydroxytoluene, purified water, xanthan gum, isopropyl myristate, and polyoxyl 40 stearates.

Each g of cream contains 0.1% tretinoin in a neutral hydrophilic excipient. Nonmedicinal ingredients: sorbic acid, stearic acid, stearyl alcohol, butylhydroxytoluene, purified water, xanthan gum, isopropyl myristate, and polyoxyl 40 stearate.


Each g of gel contains 0.01% tretinoin. Nonmedicinal ingredients: butylhydroxytoluene, undenatured ethanol, and hydroxypropylcellulose.

Each g of gel contains 0.025% tretinoin USP. Nonmedicinal ingredients: butylhydroxytoluene, undenatured ethanol and hydroxypropylcellulose.

How should this medication be used?

Tretinoin is applied once daily at bedtime to slightly cover the treated areas. The application area should first be thoroughly cleaned with mild soap and water, then dried by dabbing with a soft towel. Apply a small amount of the product (about the size of a pea) on the tip of your finger and spread it over the skin where the acne lesions are located. Use just enough medicine to slightly cover the affected areas. Avoid rubbing to get the medicine into your skin.

Avoid contact with areas around the nostrils, mouth, eyes, and easily irritated areas. Avoid applying too much because the medication may reach the eyes and other areas to avoid. Do not put it on a skin with other problems, such as eczema, severe skin inflammation, or open skin lesions. After washing your skin in the morning, it is recommended to apply a moisturizer or moisturizer containing sunscreen that will not aggravate acne.

After 3 to 6 weeks of treatment, you may notice new lesions. Continue using this medication and you will see a gradual improvement of the skin over a period of 8 to 10 weeks.

During treatment, avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, sunlamps, wind, and cold. If it is impossible to avoid the sun, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and wear clothing to protect yourself.

There are several factors that can be considered in determining the dose a person needs: weight, health, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose other than those listed here, do not change the way you use the medicine without first consulting it.

It is very important that this medicine is taken as directed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, do not worry about the missed dose and go back to the usual dosing schedule. Do not apply a double dose to compensate for the omission of a dose. If you are unsure of what to do after you miss a dose, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Store this medicine at room temperature and out of the reach of children. Gel products are flammable and must be kept away from sources of heat or flame.

Do not dispose of medicines in wastewater (eg, in the sink or in the toilet bowl) or with household waste. Ask your pharmacist how to get rid of unused or expired medications.

In which cases is this medicine not recommended?

Anyone with an allergy to tretinoin or any of the ingredients in this medicine should not use it.

What are the possible side effects of this medicine?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an undesirable response to a drug when taken at normal doses. It can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not felt by everyone who takes this medicine. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

At least 1% of people using this drug reported the following side effects. A lot of these side effects can be taken care of and a few can go away on their own with time.

Consult your doctor if you experience these side effects and if they are serious or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to give you advice on what to do if these side effects occur:

  • a temporarily darker or lighter coloration of the skin;
  • rash
  • cracks or slight skin peeling;
  • redness of the skin
  • unusual dryness of the skin
  • a feeling of burning, stinging, heat or tingling of the skin for a short time after application of the product;
  • increased sensitivity of the skin to solar radiation.

Most of the side effects listed below do not occur very often, but they could cause serious problems if you do not see your doctor or if you do not receive medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • pain, burning, tenderness, severe irritation or itchy skin;
  • excessively red skin, swollen, blistered or scabbed.

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if there is an answer such as:

  • signs of a serious allergic reaction (eg, abdominal cramps, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting, or swelling of the face and throat)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Consult your doctor if you notice a symptom that worries you while you are using this medicine.

Are there other precautions or warnings?

Before using any medication, be sure to tell your doctor about any medical conditions or allergies you may have, medications you are using, and other important things about your health. Women should mention if they are pregnant or breastfeeding. These factors may influence how you should use this medicine.

Application: Avoid contact with eyes, eyelids, nose wings, mouth, easily irritated areas or other areas that should not be subjected to this medical treatment. Do not apply tretinoin to a severely inflamed skin or open lesions. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations on the frequency of applications and the amount of medication to use. Not only is the treatment no more effective when you exceed the desired amount, but your skin will become irritated.

Sun Exposure: Exposure to the sun and the use of UV sun lamps can aggravate irritation. Exposure should, therefore, be avoided or limited during treatment with tretinoin. If it is impossible to avoid the sun, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and wear clothing that covers the treated areas. Do not apply this medicine to sunburned skin until it has completely healed.

Skin Irritation: For some people, transient skin irritation may occur, especially during the first few weeks of treatment. If these reactions become excessive, and the skin becomes extremely red, swollen and crusted, treatment with tretinoin should be discontinued, and you should inform your doctor of the situation.

An apparent worsening may develop due to the effect of the drug on deep lesions. This reaction is part of the normal therapeutic effect.

If you use this medicine, you may become more sensitive to exposure to wind and cold.

Skincare: Cosmetics may be used, but areas to be treated must be thoroughly cleaned prior to application of the drug. Avoid oil-based cosmetics. Use oil-less products made with water instead. If your doctor prescribes additional treatment for acne, you should apply it at a different time of the day than tretinoin.

It is advisable to avoid skin products that contain high concentrations of alcohol, spices or limes because they cause a tingling sensation and burns on the treated skin. If possible, avoid using at the same time very abrasive products and other skin treatments, including sunlamps.

Hair removal is allowed (eg by forceps, electrolysis, depilatories) but should be avoided in the evening before tretinoin is applied as it may cause skin irritation.

Permanent solutions, waxing preparations, medicinal soaps and medicated shampoos can sometimes irritate the skin when it is not even treated with this medicine. You must be careful not to put these products in contact with the skin area treated with tretinoin.

Pregnancy: It is recommended not to use this medication during pregnancy. Women who may become pregnant should use effective contraception while taking this medication. If pregnancy occurs while you are taking this medicine, stop taking it and tell your doctor.

Breastfeeding: It is not known if tretinoin passes into breast milk. If you use this medicine while you are breastfeeding, your baby may feel the effects. Consult your doctor to find out if you should continue breastfeeding.

Children: The safety and effectiveness of this medication have not been established for children under 12 years of age. Topical use of tretinoin is not recommended for children of this age.

Can other agents interact with this medicine?

There may be an interaction between tretinoin and any of the following:

  • dibenzoyl peroxide;
  • medicines that increase the sensitivity of the skin to sunlight (eg, isotretinoin, sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, minocycline, ciprofloxacin);
  • medicated or abrasive soaps and cleaners;
  • other drugs applied to the skin;
  • products with a high concentration of alcohol, astringents, spices or lime;
  • skin preparations containing sulfur, resorcinol or salicylic acid;
  • soaps and cosmetics with very drying effects.

If you are taking any of these medicines, consult your doctor or pharmacist. In your case, your doctor may ask you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications
  • replace one of the drugs with another;
  • change the way you take one or both medications
  • do not change anything at all.

Interference of one drug with another does not always result in the interruption of one of them. Ask your doctor what to do in case of drug interactions.

Other medicines than those listed above may interact with this medicine. Tell your doctor about everything you are taking, whether prescription or over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies. Do not forget to mention any supplements you take. If you consume caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or illegal drugs, you should tell your prescribing doctor, as these substances can affect the action of many medicines.