What is Tretinoin Gel?

Tretinoin is a powerful prescription medication that promotes your body’s natural process of creating new skin cells. It can help improve acne, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. It is available as a gel or cream, and should be stored at room temperature. The gel preparation is flammable.

It can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and sunlamps, so it is important to wear sunscreen and cover with clothing when outdoors.

How to Use

Tretinoin enhances skin renewal to reduce wrinkles and dark spots from sun damage, as well as improve acne breakouts. It’s generally safe to use, but may irritate the skin at first.

When starting tretinoin, it’s important to follow your doctor or dermatologist’s instructions exactly. It’s also essential to avoid direct sun exposure during the initial weeks of treatment. It’s recommended to use a high-quality sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.

It’s also important to avoid using other topical products that might cause irritation on the same area of the face. This includes acne treatments containing benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, or salicylic acid; hair removal products (such as waxes); and other topical medications or skincare products that increase sensitivity to the sun. Lastly, you should always wash your hands before and after applying tretinoin gel. If you experience severe itching, hives, or swelling of the mouth or throat, get emergency medical attention immediately. These symptoms could be a sign of a serious reaction to tretinoin.

Side Effects

Compared to oral retinoids, topical tretinoin has a very good safety record and the side effects associated with this medication usually fade within two weeks of use.

It is normal to experience some skin redness, dryness, flaking, itching and mild burning. These effects are caused by the active ingredients in tretinoin speeding up your body’s natural process of creating new skin cells. These new cells replace the old, dead skin cells that accumulate on the surface of your face. This is the cause of acne pimples that often occur during the first 3 to 6 weeks of tretinoin usage.

Using moisturizers frequently can help reduce the dryness and irritation. You should also avoid abrasive skin cleansers, hair perming products, strong scented soaps, and other medications that may cause skin irritation or drying. Sunscreen and a hat should be worn whenever going outside as this medication can make the skin very sensitive to sunlight. Wind or cold weather may also irritate the skin.


Depending on your dermatologist’s recommendation, you may use tretinoin gel in different concentrations. You should start at the lowest strength and gradually increase it as your skin gets used to it. It can take weeks to months of continuous treatment before you see results.

Your doctor may suggest starting with a microsphere gel formulation, such as Retin-A Micro (DailyMed, 2017). It has less of an irritating effect than the original tretinoin cream.

You should avoid using other skin products that can cause irritation, such as hair perming solutions, astringents, harsh cleansers or peels, and perfumed makeup. It’s also important to protect your skin from the sun, by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and covering it with clothing when possible.

It’s normal for your acne to get worse during the first 3 to 6 weeks as tretinoin begins working. However, if it becomes too bothersome, let your dermatologist know. They can give you a lower dose or recommend other treatments to control the irritation.


Tretinoin can cause sun sensitivity, so it is best to avoid sunlight or use a strong sunscreen. It can also make you more sensitive to hair removers, abrasives (such as shaving lotion), and other skin treatments that might sting or burn. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions about using these other medications.

This medication should not be used by women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. It can harm a developing baby. If you become pregnant while using tretinoin, tell your doctor immediately. Effective contraception must be used during treatment and for a month after the medication is stopped. Ask your doctor for a negative pregnancy test within 1 week before starting therapy and have it repeated monthly.

This medication is usually stored at room temperature. It can be flammable, so keep it away from heat or open flame. If you have a storage container that isn’t airtight, be sure to seal it tightly after each use. Do not throw this medication in wastewater or household garbage. Ask your pharmacist about a safe way to dispose of this medication. tretinoin gel

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