Retinoic Acid

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor

Generic Name: Retinoic Acid Brand Name(s): Generics only. No brands available.


What is Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin) used for?

Retinoic Acid® is used to treat acne. It promotes peeling of affected skin areas and unclogs pores. Retinoic Acid® controls acne but does not cure it.

How should I take Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin)?

Apply on affected skin.

If you are to apply any form of Retinoic Acid®, follow these steps:

  • Wash your hands and affected skin area thoroughly with mild, bland soap (not medicated or abrasive soap or soap that dries the skin) and water. To be sure that your skin is thoroughly dry, wait 20-30 minutes before applying Retinoic Acid®.
  • Use clean fingertips, a gauze pad, or a cotton swab to apply Retinoic Acid®.
  • Use enough Retinoic Acid® to cover the affected area lightly. Do not oversaturate the gauze pad or cotton swab.
  • Apply Retinoic Acid® to the affected skin area only (e.g., skin with acne sores).

How do I store Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin)?

Retinoic Acid® is best stored at room temperature away from direct light and moisture. To prevent drug damage, you should not store Retinoic Acid® in the bathroom or the freezer. There may be different brands of Retinoic Acid® that may have different storage needs. It is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

You should not flush Retinoic Acid® down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. It is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.


Precautions & warnings

What should I know before using Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin)?

Use only non-medicated cosmetics on cleansed skin. Do not use topical preparations with a lot of alcohol, menthol, spices, or lime (e.g., shaving lotions, astringents, and perfumes); they can sting your skin, especially when you first use Retinoic Acid®.

Do not use any other topical Retinoic Acid®, especially benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid (wart remover), and dandruff shampoos containing sulfur or resorcinol unless your doctor directs you to do so. If you have used any of these topical Retinoic Acid® recently, ask your doctor if you should wait before using Retinoic Acid®.

Before using Retinoic Acid®, tell your doctor if:

  • You are allergic to Retinoic Acid® or any other drugs.
  • You are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

Plan to avoid unnecessary or prolonged exposure to sunlight and to wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Retinoic Acid® may make your skin sensitive to sunlight.

Do not let Retinoic Acid® get into your eyes, the corner of your nose, or mouth, or any broken skin, and do not swallow it. Do not apply dressings, bandages, cosmetics, lotions, or other skin Retinoic Acid® to the area being treated unless your doctor tells you.

Tell your doctor if your skin condition gets worse or does not go away.

Is it safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding?

There isn’t enough information about the safety of using Retinoic Acid® during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Please always consult with your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before taking Retinoic Acid®.


Side effects

What side effects can occur from Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin)?

Retinoic Acid® may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • Warmth or slight stinging of the skin
  • Lightening or darkening of the skin
  • Red, scaling skin
  • Increase in acne sores
  • Swelling, blistering, or crusting of the skin

Not everyone experiences these side effects. There may be some side effects not listed above. If you have any concerns about a side-effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.


What drugs may interact with Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin)?

Retinoic Acid® may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects. To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. For your safety, do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any drugs without your doctor’s approval.

Does food or alcohol interact with Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin)?

Retinoic Acid® may interact with food or alcohol by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food or alcohol interactions before using this drug.

What health conditions may interact with Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin)?

Retinoic Acid® may interact with your health condition. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. It is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have.


The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. You should ALWAYS consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using Retinoic Acid®.

What is the dose of Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin) for an adult?

Retinoic Acid® comes in topical liquid, cream, and gel. Retinoic Acid® usually is used daily at bedtime or once every 2 or 3 days. Use Retinoic Acid® exactly as directed. Do not use more or less of it or use it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Your acne probably will get worse (red, scaling skin and an increase in acne sores) during the first 7-10 days that you use Retinoic Acid®. Nevertheless, continue to use it; the acne sores should disappear. Usually 2-3 weeks (and sometimes more than 6 weeks) of regular use of Retinoic Acid® is required before improvement is seen.

What is the dose of Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin) for a child?

The dosage has not been established in pediatric patients. It may be unsafe for your child. It is always important to fully understand the safety of the drug before using. Please consult with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

How is Retinoic Acid® (tretinoin) available?

Retinoic Acid® is available in the following dosage forms and strengths:

  • Topical liquid 0,05%, cream 0,05%, and gel 0,05%

What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services or go to your nearest emergency room.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of Retinoic Acid®, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: December 29, 2016 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019

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