Retin-A treats acne. Can increase your chances of getting sunburned, so use sunscreens and wear protective clothing during treatment.

Retin-A Overview


Retin-A is a prescription medication used to control acne. Retin-A belongs to a group of drugs called retinoids. These work by promoting peeling of affected skin areas and unclogging pores. 

Retin-A  comes in cream, gel, and topical solution forms and is applied to the face once a day.

Common side effects of Retin-A include peeling, dry skin, and redness of the skin.

Patient Ratings for Retin-A

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What are you taking Retin-A for?

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  • Other
  • Acne Vulgaris
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute

How long have you been taking it?

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  • Less than a week
  • A couple weeks
  • A month or so
  • A few months
  • A year or so
  • Two years or more

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Retin-A Cautionary Labels


Uses of Retin-A

Retin-A is a prescription medication used to control acne, but does it cure acne.

This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.


Retin-A Drug Class

Retin-A is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Retin-A

Common side effects of Retin-A include peeling, dry skin, redness of the skin, burning, stinging, and itching.

This is not a complete list of Retin-A side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Retin-A Interactions

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take:

  • thiazide diuretics
  • tetracycline antibiotics such as demeclocycline (Declomycin), doxycycline (Monodox, Vibramycin, others), minocycline (Minocin), oxytetracycline (Terramycin), and tetracycline (Sumycin, Tetrex, others)
  • fluoroquinolone antibiotics
  • ketoconazole (Nizoral)
  • phenothiazine medications
  • sulfonamide-containing medications
  • aminocaproic acid (Amicar)
  • certain calcium channel blockers such as diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor, Tiazac, others) and verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan)
  • cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Gengraf, Neoral)
  • erythromycin (E.E.S., Erythrocin, E-Mycin)
  • hydroxyurea (Droxia)
  • pentobarbital
  • phenobarbital
  • rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane)
  • oral steroids such as dexamethasone (Decadron, Dexone), methylprednisolone (Medrol), and prednisone (Deltasone)
  • tranexamic acid (Cyklokapron)
  • vitamin A

This is not a complete list of all drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

You should avoid using skin products that can dry or irritate your skin because skin dryness and irritation are increased with Retin-A. Skin products that can dry and irritate your skin include:

  • products that contain alcohol, astringents, or spices
  • acne medicines that contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid
  • medicated soap or skin cleansers

This is not a complete list of all drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Retin-A Precautions

Do not use Retin-A if:

  • you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
  • you are sunburned or your skin is irritated
  • you are highly sensitive to sunlight
  • have eczema or other skin conditions
  • you are allergic to any of the ingredients in Retin-A

Exposure to sunlight (including sunlamps) should be avoided or minimized during use of Retin-A use because of heightened sunburn susceptibility.

Retin-A has been reported to cause severe irritation to patients with eczema and should be used only with caution if you have this particular skin condition.

Avoid contact with the eyes, ears, nostrils, angles of the nose, and mouth. Retin-A may cause severe redness, itching, burning, stinging, and peeling if used on these areas.

Avoid excessive exposure to wind or cold. Extremes of climate tend to dry or burn normal skin. Skin treated with Retin-A may be more vulnerable to these extremes. Your physician can recommend ways to manage your acne treatment under such conditions.

Retin-A Food Interactions

Medications can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. In the case of this medication, there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet.

Inform MD

Before taking Retin-A, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions. Especially tell your doctor if you:

  • are allergic to Retin-A or to any of its ingredients
  • have eczema or other skin conditions
  • have heart problems
  • have elevated cholesterol levels
  • have liver problems
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • are using any other medicines to treat your acne. Do not use other medicines unless they are recommended by your doctor.

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Retin-A and Pregnancy

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
  • The FDA categorizes medications based on safety for use during pregnancy. Five categories - A, B, C, D, and X, are used to classify the possible risks to an unborn baby when a medication is taken during pregnancy.
  • This medication falls into category C. Do not use Retin-A if you are pregnant or attempting to become pregnant. If you become pregnant while using Retin-A, please contact your doctor immediately.

Retin-A and Lactation

Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed.

It is not known if this medication crosses into human milk. Because many medications can cross into human milk and because of the possibility for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants with use of this medication, a choice should be made whether to stop nursing or stop the use of this medication. Your doctor and you will decide if the benefits outweigh the risk of using this medication.


Retin-A Usage

Use other acne medicines only on your doctor's advice and follow your doctor's instructions carefully. The medicines you have used in the past might cause too much redness or peeling.

What should I avoid while using Retin-A?

  • Retin-A can make your treated skin more sensitive to sunlight. Therefore, keep out of the sunlight as much as possible and do not use sunlamps. Avoid as much as possible products that can increase skin irritation, such as:
    • other skin medicines
    • medicated or abrasive (rough) soaps
    • permanent wave solutions
    • chemical hair removers or waxes
    • electrolysis
    • products with alcohol, spices, astringents, or lime
    • cleansers, shampoos, or cosmetics with a strong drying effect
    • other products that may irritate your skin

Follow your doctor's instructions on how to use the Retin-A formulation you were prescribed.

While on Retin-A, avoid frequent washings and harsh scrubbing. Acne isn't caused by dirt, so no matter how hard you scrub, you can't wash it away. Washing too frequently or scrubbing too roughly may at times actually make your acne worse. Wash your skin gently with a mild, bland soap. Two or three times a day should be sufficient. Pat skin dry with a towel. Remember, excessive irritation such as rubbing, too much washing, use of other medications not suggested by your physician, etc., may worsen your acne.

Retin-A (tretinoin cream, gel, or topical solution)

  • Apply medication daily before bedtime, or as directed by your physician. Your physician may advise, especially if your skin is sensitive, that you start your therapy by applying medication every other night.
  • Cream and Gel: Squeeze about a half inch or less of medication onto the fingertip. While that should be enough for your whole face, after you have some experience with the medication you may find you need slightly more or less to do the job. The medication should become invisible almost immediately. If it is still visible, or if dry flaking occurs from the gel within a minute or so, you are using too much. Cover the affected area lightly with cream or gel by first dabbing it on your forehead, chin and both cheeks, then spreading it over the entire affected area. Smooth gently into the skin.
  • Topical Solution: Retin-A topical solution may be applied to the skin where acne lesions appear, spreading the medication over the entire affected area, using a fingertip, gauze pad, or cotton swab. If gauze or cotton is employed, care should be taken not to oversaturate it to the extent that the solution would run into areas where treatment is not intended (such as corners of the mouth, eyes, and nose).

Retin-A Dosage

Follow your doctor's instructions on how to use the Retin-A formulation you were prescribed.

Retin-A (tretinoin) - Use enough to cover the entire affected area lightly.

Retin-A Overdose

If you take too much this medication, call your healthcare provider or local Poison Control Center, or seek emergency medical attention right away.

If this medication is administered by a healthcare provider in a medical setting, it is unlikely that an overdose will occur. However, if overdose is suspected, seek emergency medical attention.

Other Requirements

  • Retin-A: store below 80˚F