What You Need to Know About Tretinoin Cream

Tretinoin is a topical prescription medication that helps reduce acne pimples, smooth rough skin and uneven skin tone, and fade age spots and hyperpigmentation. It is part of a group of medications called retinoids.

This medication may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Use a sunscreen and wear protective clothing when outdoors.

How to Use

As a powerful skin-boosting ingredient, tretinoin (aka tret) is one of the most important prescription products you can add to your regimen. But, because it’s so potent & complex, many people get it wrong—& don’t reap its full benefits.

Wash your hands before and after applying tretinoin cream, and use only a pea-sized amount of the medication. Then, gently rub it into the affected area, avoiding the eye, mouth, & lip areas. If your doctor gave you specific instructions for application, follow them.

Tretinoin can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so be sure to wear sunscreen daily, even on cloudy days, & avoid sunlamps. You may also need to stop using any other skin products that could irritate it, like scrubs, exfoliants, or acid peels until you can use them again with your dermatologist’s approval. This includes retinol serums & other topical treatments that boost collagen & hyaluronic acid—they can trigger redness, irritation, & even more breakouts if you’re not careful!


If a skin irritation such as peeling or dryness occurs, this is normal and will usually go away as your skin adjusts. This is a result of the retinol helping your skin shed old cells and replace them with new ones, which can lead to some discomfort until this process is complete.

If you experience extreme cracking or blistering, stop using this product and contact your doctor as this may be a sign of an allergic reaction. You should also avoid direct sunlight on treated areas (even when wearing sunscreen) because this medication can make you more sensitive to the sun. This can increase your risk of early skin aging and sunburn.

Tretinoin should not be used during pregnancy because it is known to cause birth defects in an unborn baby. This medication is also known to pass through breast milk. Therefore, it should not be used by nursing mothers. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your doctor immediately.

Side Effects

Tretinoin decreases the production of oil in the skin by stimulating the growth of new cells, which helps reduce acne breakouts. It also minimizes the size of pores and has anti-inflammatory effects to improve the appearance of acne (Leyden, 2017). Tretinoin can decrease hyperpigmentation caused by certain medications or sun exposure and promotes a more even skin tone (Zasada, 2019).

Before using this medication, wash hands well and make sure that the affected area of the skin is free of dirt, oil, and makeup. Apply a thin layer of the medication to the skin. Do not apply this medication to the corners of the mouth or nose, or any cuts or irritated areas of the skin.

This medication is contraindicated in patients with severe allergic reactions to this drug or its ingredients, severe sunburn, and pregnancy. It is also contraindicated in women who are breastfeeding and those who have a genetic marker t(15;17) translocation for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Effective birth control must be used during treatment and for one month after it has been stopped, unless the patient has a hysterectomy.


Tretinoin sits at the top of the topical retinoid pyramid. Unlike retinal and retinol, which have to go through an enzymatic conversion before becoming active, tretinoin is ready to work right away. Dermatologists prescribe it under the names Altreno and Retin-A to treat breakouts, ageing skin and uneven tone.

It’s important to only use tretinoin under the guidance of a dermatologist since it can cause irritation, dryness, redness and sun sensitivity when used incorrectly or with too thick an application. You could also get dermatitis, hyperpigmentation or even scarring if you overdose.

If you do happen to swallow this medication, contact your doctor or poison control center immediately. Do not give this medicine to children under 18 unless you’re certain it’s safe.

This drug interacts with many other medications. Tell your doctor and pharmacist what other medicines you’re taking, including vitamins and herbal products. Do not use other skin products on the same area you’re using tretinoin, especially creams or ointments that contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid.

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