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Tretinoin is topically used to treat acne, smooth rough facial skin, reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles and mottled skin discoloration. It is also used to treat a type of blood problem called acute promyelocytic leukaemia (bone marrow malignancy with an excess of immature cell).

How it works

Tretinoin is a form of vitamin A and belongs to a group of medicines called ‘retinoids’. It helps the skin renew itself and works by slowing the growth of certain types of diseased blood cells.

Common side effects

Burning sensation, Acne, Darkening of skin, Facial swelling, Itching, Blisters on skin, Scaling, Skin redness, Tingling sensation, Infection, Allergic reaction


No medicine available

Expert advice

Do not take tretinoin and tell your doctor:
  • If you are allergic to tretinoin or any of the other ingredients or other ‘retinoid’ medicines (isotretinoin, acitretin and tazarotene) and peanuts or soya (as tretinoin medicines may contain soyabean oil).
  • If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Do not drive or operate or drive machinery while you are taking tretinoin.
  • Avoid becoming pregnant during and within one month (four weeks) after stopping treatment with tretinoin. Consult your doctor for the right method of contraception you can use.
  • Avoid getting tretinoin cream in your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Tretinoin cream may cause you to become sunburned more easily. Take suitable precautions (sun cream, clothing etc.).
  • Do not apply tretinoin cream to sunburned skin.
  • Do not stop using tretinoin if your skin condition appears to worsen for the first 2 to 3 weeks of treatment. This is expected. 
  • Talk with your doctor before you use any other medicines or products on your skin.
  • Tretinoin should be used extreme caution in children younger than 12 years old.

Frequently asked questions


Q. Is tretinoin a steroid/ retin a/ retin a/ a retinoid/retinol?
Tretinoin is not a steroid. It is a form of vitamin A (Retin-A) and belongs to a group of medicines called ‘retinoids’. Tretinoin and retinol are similar but tretinoin tends to be a bit more aggressive than retinol which is a bit more suitable for those with sensitive skin.
Q. Is tretinoin safe/ tretinoin cream safe?
Tretinoin is safe if taken at recommended doses and duration. The gel form should be used with extreme caution in children younger than 12 years.
Q. Does tretinoin cream work/ is tretinoin cream good for acne/acne scars/ lighten skin/ thin the skin/ work on wrinkles/ fade dark spots/clog pores/ cause breakouts?
Tretinoin cream works effectively in most of the patients. It is useful for treating most of the skin related issue like acne, acne scars, skin lightening, removing wrinkles, fade dark spots, clog pores, etc. It does not cause breakouts but helps the skin in healing it.
Q. Is tretinoin available over the counter?
It is available only as per doctor’s prescription.
Q. Does tretinoin stain clothes?
It may stain as it has a preservative in it.

Content on this page was last updated on 28 September, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)