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What does tazarotene do to your skin?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Jan 24, 2023.

Official answer


Tazarotene improves the look and feel of your skin. It is used to treat skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis. It may also reduce fine lines, wrinkles and patches of skin discoloration. This topical medication is in the class of drugs known as retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A.

Tazarotene works in different ways to treat these skin conditions. With acne and psoriasis, it slows the overgrowth of skin cells and decreases inflammation. To reduce wrinkles and improve skin discoloration, tazarotene boosts collagen production to increase the thickness of the outer layers of skin. (Collagen is a protein that is the main building block of skin and other connective tissues.)

Tazarotene is also a potential treatment for basal cell skin cancer and basal cell nevus syndrome, a condition characterized by a very high risk of developing basal cell skin cancer and certain noncancerous tumors. Tazarotene is sometimes used off-label to treat other conditions as well.

Tazarotene is available as a lotion, cream, foam and gel in different strengths. It is a prescription drug, although other types of retinoids are available over-the-counter.

Most people see a 50% reduction in psoriasis symptoms after 1 to 4 weeks of using tazarotene. These improvements will likely last up to 3 months. Acne symptoms usually improve after using tazarotene for about a month. Your dose may be adjusted, depending on whether you see improvements or have side effects.

Side effects of tazarotene include:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Stinging
  • Dryness
  • Irritation

When used to treat psoriasis, tazarotene is often prescribed with a corticosteroid to reduce the skin irritation that sometimes develops from using only a retinoid. This medication also increases sun sensitivity. Wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen is recommended. Follow instructions on the label to minimize the risk of side effects.

Tazarotene should not be used during pregnancy because it may cause birth defects.

  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Tazarotene topical. June 15, 2019. Available at: [Accessed January 19, 2021].
  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Psoriasis treatment: a retinoid you apply to your skin. Undated. Available at: [Accessed January 19, 2021].
  3. National Cancer Institute. Tazarotene. Undated. Available at: [Accessed January 19, 2021].
  4. National Cancer Institute. Basal cell nevus syndrome. Undated. Available at: [Accessed January 19, 2021]

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