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Targretin Gel Side Effects

Generic name: bexarotene topical

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 27, 2022.

Note: This document contains side effect information about bexarotene topical. Some of the dosage forms listed on this page may not apply to the brand name Targretin Gel.


Common side effects of Targretin Gel include: contact dermatitis, disorder of integument, pruritus, and skin rash. Other side effects include: exfoliative dermatitis, and maculopapular rash. See below for a comprehensive list of adverse effects.

For the Consumer

Applies to bexarotene topical: topical gel/jelly

Side effects requiring immediate medical attention

Along with its needed effects, bexarotene topical (the active ingredient contained in Targretin Gel) may cause some unwanted effects. Some side effects will have signs or symptoms that you can see or feel. Your doctor may watch for others by doing certain tests. Since the medication is applied externally to the skin, in general, these side effect are less common. 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 bexarotene topical:

More common

  • Bloating or swelling of face, hands, lower legs and/or feet
  • chills, fever, or general feeling of discomfort or illness
  • decreased urination
  • lack or loss of strength
  • rapid or unusual weight gain
  • skin rash, blisters, redness, or irritation
  • sticky or tacky sensation
  • thickened, scaly skin
  • tingling or “pins and needles” sensation
  • sore throat
  • swollen, painful or tender lymph glands in neck, armpit, or groin
  • unusual bruising
  • unusual tiredness or weakness.

Side effects not requiring immediate medical attention

Some side effects of bexarotene 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:

More Common

  • Abnormal or excessive sweating
  • blistering, burning, crusting, dryness, flaking, itching, scaling, severe redness, soreness, or swelling of skin or lesion
  • headache
  • increased cough
  • lower back or side pain
  • painful or difficult urination

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to bexarotene topical: topical gel


The most common adverse events were rash, pruritus, skin disorder, and pain.[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Rash (72%), pruritus (36%), skin disorders NOS (26%), contact dermatitis (14%)

Common (1% to 10%): Exfoliative dermatitis, sweating, maculopapular rash[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Pain (30%), edema (10%)

Common (1% to 10%): Peripheral edema[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Hyperlipidemia (10%)[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Leukopenia, lymphadenopathy, WBC abnormal[Ref]

Nervous system

Very common (10% or more): Headache (14%)

Common (1% to 10%): Asthenia, paresthesia[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Cough increased, pharyngitis[Ref]


1. "Product Information. Targretin (bexarotene topical)." Stiefel Laboratories Inc (2001):

Further information

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.