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Tretinoin topical

Generic Name: tretinoin topical (TRET in oin)
Brand Name: Atralin, Avita, Refissa, Renova, Retin-A, Tretinoin Emollient Topical, ...show all 18 brand names

Medically reviewed on April 2, 2018.

What is tretinoin topical?

Tretinoin is a form of vitamin A that helps the skin renew itself.

Tretinoin topical (for the skin) is used to treat acne, to smooth rough facial skin, and to reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles and mottled skin discoloration.

Tretinoin topical may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

Avoid getting this medication in your eyes, mouth, vagina, or in the creases of your nose.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use tretinoin topical if you are allergic to it.

Do not give this medicine to a child without medical advice. Some brands of tretinoin topical are not approved for use in anyone under 18.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • eczema; or

  • an allergy to fish (the gel may contain ingredients derived from fish).

It is not known whether tretinoin topical will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant.

It may not be safe to breast-feed a baby while you are using this medicine. Ask your doctor about any risks.

How should I use tretinoin topical?

Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Use the medicine exactly as directed.

Using more medicine or applying it more often than prescribed will not make it work any faster, and may increase side effects.

Do not take by mouth. Topical medicine is for use only on the skin. Do not use on sunburned skin, or skin affected by eczema.

Read and carefully follow any Instructions for Use provided with your medicine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you do not understand these instructions.

Wash your hands before and after applying tretinoin topical. Before applying, clean and dry the skin area to be treated. Applying tretinoin topical to wet skin may cause skin irritation.

Do not wash the treated area or apply other skin products for at least 1 hour after applying tretinoin topical.

Tretinoin topical should be used as part of a complete skin care program that includes avoiding sunlight and using an effective sunscreen and protective clothing.

It may take up to several weeks before your skin improves. Keep using the medication as directed and tell your doctor if your symptoms do not improve. If you are using tretinoin topical to treat acne, your condition may get slightly worse for a short time.

Call your doctor if skin irritation becomes severe or if your acne does not improve within 8 to 12 weeks.

Use this medicine for the full prescribed length of time, even if you think it is not working.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Keep the bottle tightly closed when not in use.

Tretinoin topical gel is flammable. Do not use near high heat or open flame. Do not smoke until the gel has completely dried on your skin.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Use the medicine as soon as you can, but skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not use two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while using tretinoin topical?

Avoid exposure to sunlight or tanning beds. Tretinoin topical can make you sunburn more easily. Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) when you are outdoors, even on a cloudy day.

Avoid getting this medication in your eyes, mouth, vagina, or in the creases of your nose.

Avoid using skin products that can cause irritation, such as harsh soaps, shampoos, hair coloring or permanent chemicals, hair removers or waxes, or skin products with alcohol, spices, astringents, or lime.

Avoid using other medications on the areas you treat with tretinoin topical unless your doctor tells you to.

Tretinoin topical side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe burning, stinging, or irritation of treated skin;

  • severe skin dryness; or

  • severe redness, swelling, blistering, peeling, or crusting.

Your skin may be more sensitive to weather extremes such as cold and wind while using this medicine.

Common side effects may include:

  • skin pain, redness, burning, itching, or irritation;

  • sore throat;

  • mild warmth or stinging where the medicine was applied; or

  • changes in color of treated skin.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

Tretinoin topical dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Acne:

Recommended dose: Apply a thin layer to the entire affected area once a day at bedtime

Comments:
-Excessive amounts of the gel formulation will result in "pilling" or "caking," which prevents over-application.
-Warmth and/or stinging may occur after application.
-An apparent exacerbation of acne may occur during the first weeks of treatment, and should not be a reason to discontinue treatment.
-Patients with and without acne reported that the gel formulation was less irritating than the cream formulation.

Use: Treatment of acne vulgaris

Usual Adult Dose for Dermatoheliosis:

Recommended dose: Apply a pea-sized amount to the entire affected area once a day at bedtime
Duration of therapy: 48 weeks (0.05% cream/emollient cream) and 52 weeks (0.02% cream)

Comments:
-Approximately 20 to 30 minutes prior to application, patients should wash their faces with a mild soap and pat the skin dry.
-Warmth and/or stinging may occur after application.
-Improvement in fine wrinkling may not be observed for up to 6 months.

Use: Adjunctive agent for the mitigation of fine facial wrinkles in patients with comprehensive skin care and sunlight avoidance programs

Usual Pediatric Dose for Acne:

12 years and older:
-Recommended dose: Apply a thin layer to the affected area once a day at bedtime

Comments:
-Excessive amounts of the gel formulation will result in "pilling" or "caking," which prevents over-application.
-Warmth and/or stinging may occur after application.
-An apparent exacerbation of acne may occur during the first weeks of treatment, and should not be a reason to discontinue treatment.
-Patients with and without acne reported that the gel formulation was less irritating than the cream formulation.

Use: Treatment of acne vulgaris

What other drugs will affect tretinoin topical?

Do not use skin products that contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid unless otherwise directed by your doctor. These products can cause severe skin irritation if used with tretinoin topical.

Medicine used on the skin is not likely to be affected by other drugs you use. But many drugs can interact with each other. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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