Retin-A Side Effects
Generic Name: tretinoin topical
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on March 23, 2020.
Note: This document contains side effect information about tretinoin topical. Some of the dosage forms listed on this page 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 of skin. See below for a comprehensive list of adverse effects.
For the Consumer
Applies to tretinoin topical: topical cream, topical gel/jelly, topical lotion
Side effects requiring immediate medical attention
Along with its needed effects, tretinoin topical (the active ingredient contained in Retin-A) may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking tretinoin topical:
- Burning, stinging, peeling, redness, or unusual dryness of the skin (severe)
- Dryness, pain, redness, irritation, or peeling at the application site
Side effects not requiring immediate medical attention
Some side effects of tretinoin topical may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects.
Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- Burning, itching, stinging, scaling, or redness of the skin
- chapping or slight peeling of the skin (mild)
- darkening of the skin
- lightening of normal skin color
- lightening of treated areas of dark skin
- redness of skin (mild)
- unusual dryness of skin (mild)
- unusually warm skin (mild)
For Healthcare Professionals
Applies to tretinoin topical: topical cream, topical gel, topical kit, topical liquid, topical lotion
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]
Frequency not reported: Allergic contact dermatitis
Postmarketing reports: Allergic reaction[Ref]
1. "Product Information. Retin-A (tretinoin)." Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation, Raritan, NJ.
2. Cerner Multum, Inc. "Australian Product Information." O 0
3. "Product Information. Renova (tretinoin topical)." Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Titusville, NJ.
4. "Product Information. Avita (tretinoin topical)." Penederm Inc, Foster City, CA.
Frequently asked questions
More about Retin-A (tretinoin topical)
- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
- Dosage Information
- Drug Interactions
- Compare Alternatives
- Pricing & Coupons
- En Español
- 95 Reviews
- Generic Availability
- Drug class: topical acne agents
- Patient Information
- Retin-A Topical (Advanced Reading)
- Retin-A (Tretinoin Cream)
- Retin-A (Tretinoin Gel)
Related treatment guides
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.