Retin-A Side Effects
Generic Name: tretinoin topical
Note: This page contains side effects data for the generic drug tretinoin topical. It is possible that some of the dosage forms included below may not apply to the brand name Retin-A.
More frequent side effects include: exfoliation of skin, stinging of the skin, localized warm feeling, and mild erythema. See below for a comprehensive list of adverse effects.
For the Consumer
Applies to tretinoin topical: topical cream, topical gel/jelly, topical liquid, topical solution
In some animal studies, tretinoin has been shown to cause skin tumors to develop faster when the treated area is exposed to ultraviolet light (sunlight or artificial sunlight from a sunlamp). Other studies have not shown the same result and more studies need to be done. It is not known if tretinoin causes skin tumors to develop faster in humans.
As well as its needed effects, tretinoin topical (the active ingredient contained in Retin-A) may cause unwanted side effects that require medical attention.
If any of the following side effects occur while taking tretinoin topical, check with your doctor or nurse as soon as possible:More common:
- Burning feeling or stinging skin (severe)
- lightening of skin of treated area, unexpected
- peeling of skin (severe)
- redness of skin (severe)
- unusual dryness of skin (severe)
- Darkening of treated skin
Minor Side Effects
Some tretinoin topical side effects may not need any medical attention. As your body gets used to the medicine these side effects may disappear. Your health care professional may be able to help you prevent or reduce these side effects, but do check with them if any of the following side effects continue, or if you are concerned about them:More common:
- Burning feeling, stinging, or tingling of skin (mild)—lasting for a short time after first applying the medicine
- chapping or slight peeling of skin (mild)
- redness of skin (mild)
- unusual dryness of skin (mild)
- unusually warm skin (mild)
The side effects will go away after you stop using tretinoin. On the rare chance that your skin color changes, this effect may last for several months before your skin color returns to normal.
For Healthcare Professionals
Applies to tretinoin topical: topical cream, topical gel, topical kit, topical liquid
Very common (10% or more): Severe skin irritation (Up to 32%)
Frequency not reported: Mild irritation, peeling/skin exfoliation, erythema, pruritus, blistering, pain, crusting, tenderness, dry skin, burning/warmth/stinging, photosensitivity/increased sensitivity to light
Postmarketing reports: Temporary hyper/hypopigmentation, rash, skin atrophy
Very common (10% or more): Dry skin (Up to 16%), peeling/scaling/flaking skin (Up to 12%)
Common (1% to 10%): Burning sensation, erythema, pruritus, skin pain, sunburn
Frequency not reported: Blistering/crusting skin
Postmarketing reports: Temporary hypo/hyperpigmentation, increased susceptibility to sunlight
Common (1% to 10%): Skin irritation, skin burning, erythema, dermatitis
Frequency not reported: Peeling, dryness, stinging, itching
Postmarketing reports: Temporary hypo/hyperpigmentation[Ref]
Erythema, peeling, dryness, burning/stinging, and/or itching occurred most frequently during the first 2 weeks of therapy.
Most of the dermatologic side effects were mild in severity (approximately 63%), and approximately 34% were of moderate severity.
Dry, peeling, scaling, and/or flaking skin occurred most often in the gel formulation.[Ref]
Frequency not reported: Reversible liver function test changes (bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, ALT, AST)[Ref]
Frequency not reported: Thymol turbidity elevations, increased flocculation[Ref]
Postmarketing reports: Edema/swelling of application site[Ref]
Frequency not reported: Allergic contact dermatitis
Postmarketing reports: Allergic reaction[Ref]
1. Cerner Multum, Inc. "Australian Product Information." O 0
2. "Product Information. Retin-A (tretinoin)." Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation, Raritan, NJ.
3. "Product Information. Renova (tretinoin topical)." Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Titusville, NJ.
4. "Product Information. Avita (tretinoin topical)." Penederm Inc, Foster City, CA.
It is possible that some side effects of Retin-A may not have been reported. These can be reported to the FDA here. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.
More about Retin-A (tretinoin topical)
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- Generic Availability
- Drug class: topical acne agents
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