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What is Retin-A (tretinoin)?
Retin-A (tretinoin) is a derivative of vitamin A used on the skin (topically) to treat mild to moderate acne, fine wrinkles, and dark spots (hyperpigmentation) on skin that has been damaged by excessive exposure to the sun.
Retin-A irritates the skin and causes the cells of the skin to grow (divide) and die more rapidly, increasing the turnover of cells. The number of layers of cells in the skin actually is reduced. In patients with acne, new cells replace the cells of existing pimples, and the rapid turnover of cells prevents new pimples from forming.
Common side effects of Retin-A include:
- local skin inflammation,
- mild stinging or a sensation of warmth,
- excessive dryness,
- itching, and
Other side effects of Retin-A include:
- increased sun sensitivity,
- darkening or lightening of the skin, and
- initial acne flare-up.
Drug interactions of Retin-A include other topical acne medications (for example, salicylic acid), which if used with Retin-A, may lead to excessive skin irritation. Use of abrasive soaps or cleansers, astringents, skin waxes, and other products that irritate the skin may add to Retin-A-induced skin irritation.
Medications that cause sun sensitivity (for example, tetracycline) should not be combined with Retin-A because of additive sun sensitivity.
There are no adequate studies of topical Retin-A use during pregnancy. Physicians must weigh the potential risks and benefits before prescribing Retin-A during pregnancy.
It is unknown if Retin-A is secreted into breast milk. It also is unknown if topically applied Retin-A accumulates to an extent sufficient to be of concern in the infant. Since oral tretinoin is not recommended during lactation, it probably is prudent to avoid breastfeeding during treatment with topical Retin-A.
What are the important side effects of Retin-A (tretinoin)?
Following the application of tretinoin to the skin, there often is local inflammation. This reaction disappears when treatment is stopped. Mild stinging or a sensation of warmth also can occur when applying tretinoin.
The common side effects of tretinoin are:
- Excessive dryness
Other side effects of tretinoin include:
- Increased sun sensitivity
- Darkening or lightening of the skin
- Initial acne flare-up
Retin-A (tretinoin) side effects list for healthcare professionals
The skin of certain sensitive individuals may become excessively red, edematous, blistered, or crusted. If these effects occur, the medication should either be discontinued until the integrity of the skin is restored, or the medication should be adjusted to a level the patient can tolerate.
True contact allergy to topical tretinoin is rarely encountered. Temporary hyper- or hypopigmentation has been reported with repeated application of Retin-A. Some individuals have been reported to have heightened susceptibility to sunlight while under treatment with Retin-A.
To date, all adverse effects of Retin-A have been reversible upon discontinuance of therapy.
What drugs interact with Retin-A (tretinoin)?
- Concomitant topical medication, medicated or abrasive soaps and cleansers, soaps and cosmetics that have a strong drying effect, and products with high concentrations of alcohol, astringents, spices or lime should be used with caution because of possible interaction with tretinoin.
- Particular caution should be exercised in using preparations containing sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid with Retin-A.
- It also is advisable to “rest” a patient's skin until the effects of such preparations subside before use of Retin-A is begun.
Retin-A (tretinoin) is a derivative of vitamin A used on the skin (topically) to treat mild to moderate acne, fine wrinkles, and dark spots (hyperpigmentation) on skin that has been damaged by excessive exposure to the sun. Common side effects of Retin-A include local skin inflammation, mild stinging or a sensation of warmth, excessive dryness, scaling, itching, and redness. There are no adequate studies of topical Retin-A use during pregnancy. It is unknown if Retin-A is secreted into breast milk or if topically applied Retin-A accumulates to an extent sufficient to be of concern in the infant.
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Second Source WebMD Medical Reference
Acne is a localized skin inflammation as a result of overactivity of oil glands at the base of hair follicles. This inflammation, depending on its location, can take the form of a superficial pustule (contains pus), a pimple, a deeper cyst, congested pores, whiteheads, or blackheads. Treatments vary depending on the severity of the acne.
Wrinkles, whether they be fine line or deep furrows, typically appear on areas of the body that receive a high amount of exposure to the sun. Smoking, light skin type, hairstyle, the way you dress, your occupational and recreational habits, and heredity are all factors that promote wrinkling. Medical treatments for wrinkles include antioxidants, moisturizers, alpha-hydroxy acids, and vitamin A acid. Cosmetic procedures that treat wrinkles include dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, glycolic acid peels, laser resurfacing, Botox, and fillers.
Cystic acne is distinguised by painful nodules on the chest, face, neck, and back. This form of acne is known to scar. Treatment may incorporate the use of hormonal therapies, oral antibiotics, and prescription medications.
Hidradenitis Suppurativa (Acne Inversa)
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS or acne inversa) is a chronic skin condition that causes painful red abscesses in the groin and armpits that may drain foul-smelling pus. Treatment options include weight loss, smoking cessation, topical antibiotics, and avoidance of tight-fitting underwear. Finasteride and adalimumab may be helpful for those with resistant cases of HS.
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Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Professional side effects and drug interactions sections courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.