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Is Tazorac the same as Retin-A?

Medically reviewed by Philip Thornton, DipPharm. Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

Official answer


No, Tazorac (tazarotene) and Retin-A (tretinoin, all-trans retinoic acid) are not the same, but they do belong to the same class or group of drugs known as retinoids. Retinoids are derived from vitamin A (retinol) or have a structure and/or function similar to vitamin A.

Tazorac and Retin-A are both topical (applied to the skin) retinoids used to treat acne. Tazorac is also used to treat plaque psoriasis.

Tazorac and Retin-A work about the same when used to treat acne and are also similar in terms of the side effects they produce. They are recommended for the treatment of mild-to-moderate acne (for use alone and in combination with other acne products) by the American Academy of Dermatology.

What is the difference between Tazorac and Retin-A?

Retin-A is a first-generation retinoid and was the first topical retinoid to be developed. Tazorac, on the other hand, is a third-generation retinoid. A key difference between Tazorac and Retin-A is that they have different chemical structures.

Their different structures mean that they target and activate a different pattern of receptors in the body in order to work. Retin-A directly activates all three retinoic acid receptors (RARs) and indirectly activates retinoid X receptors (RXRs), whereas Tazorac only binds to RAR-beta and RAR-gamma, but not RAR-alpha and RXRs.

Key features of Tazorac and Retin-A compared
Tazorac Retin-A
Company Allergan Bausch
Type of drug Retinoid - third-generation (poly-aromatic) Retinoid - first-generation (non-aromatic)
How it comes (formulations)
  • Cream 0.05% and 0.1%
  • Gel 0.05% and 0.1%
  • Cream 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.1%
  • Gel 0.025% and 0.01%
  • Gel microspheres (Retin-A Micro) 0.04%, 0.06%, 0.08% and 0.1%
  • Mild-to-moderate facial acne vulgaris
  • Plaque psoriasis (with up to 20% body surface area involvement when gel used)
  • Acne

Other branded and generic formulations of topical tazarotene and tretinoin are also available, including products that are also approved for minimizing facial wrinkles and other signs of aging and sun damage.

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