Topical Retinoid
Reviews
3.4
1969 Reviews
Topical Retinoid
Efficacy
49%
Based on All Available Studies
Strength of Evidence
1
2
3
4
5
Topical Retinoid
Side Effects
Low
Topical Retinoid
Acne.org’s Real World Take
Works about the same as the other two topical retinoids, tazarotene and adapalene, and lands in the middle of those two when it comes to side effects. Should provide partial clearing, but comes with sensitivity when you first start using it. It probably won’t be a total game changer but it should help reduce acne.
Topical Retinoid
How to Get It
Have a dermatologist? Make an appointment to get this medication.

Don't have a dermatologist? See The American Academy of Dermatology Physician Database to find one.
Read All About Tretinoin
5
22.1%
4
31.9%
3
21.6%
2
14.8%
1
9.4%

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January 8, 2023
Topical Retinoid
Great acne product
Been using it for 2 weeks and so far minimal side effects. Only thing I’ve noticed is my skin feeling dry.
March 18, 2019
Topical Retinoid
You need a full year to TRULY know!

Been using retin-A cream for mild but stubborn acne that I still struggle with after accutane (accutane completely got rid of my moderate to severe level of acne, and since then I only get mild but stubborn whiteheads/blackheads that are small but persistent). Best advice I have is STICK with it to AT LEAST the 6-month mark - yes, 6 months!

BE patient and give your skin time. Slow and steady. IF you're dealing with beyond mild acne and have moderate to severe, I HIGHLY recommend accutane FIRST to get rid of the severe acne, because nothing beats accutane. 

For Retin-A I have JUST reached the 6-month mark and have been using it nightly for the entire time. After the intial purge, I go through consistent cycles of breakouts and then they clear - but over the 6 months I CAN confirm that EACH cycle is less severe and heals FASTER.

I know a lot of people use the 8 to 12-week rule of thumb for topicals but honestly that is NOT enough time to tell. If by 6-months you see ZERO improvement in severity then of course revist your derm/doctor. But do not expect clear skin in 8-12 weeks. Everyone's skin and acne are different so please be patient.

At 6 months I STILL get the same cycle of breakouts and then it clears but like I said, each cycle has been less severe AND heals faster. If you think about it, I'm still only HALFWAY until I reach 1-year of every day use, so I can't wait to see how it progresses.

Be VERY patient. For me, the lowest possible dose (0.01) has worked best - I'd rather slow and steady and avoided the initial irritation of redness/flaking/peeling nightmare etc. 

*My derm prescribed me the lowest dose 0.01 and said try to stick with it for a full YEAR to really tell if I can rely on this topical to maintain clear skin and get rid of the mild/stubborn acne

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March 8, 2019
Topical Retinoid
The only thing that's helped me through my teen to early twenty years

I did a review of retin-a five years ago when I was 15 years old. I didn't know a thing about skin care - barely washed my face once a day up until i started breaking out in cysts and clusters one summer. A dermatologist prescribed me retin a cream 0.05% and clindamycin for a initial 6 weeks - and to say the least the first couple weeks were pure hell. Breakout after breakout, more redness, more embarrassment, and my self esteem was at an all time low. However, I stayed with it by reading this forum and got clear by week 15. I was so clear that my doctor slowly got me off topicals that I ended up stop using it totally by the next summer. I stayed clear all the way until I turned 18 and started college, probably because my horrible lifestyle - eating crappy foods, partying all weekend, and stressing over exams. My breakout in college really was my worst ever during finals week, and I had to visit my dermatologist again. This time he gave me Differin gel, which only made my skin worse over a course of 12 weeks. I was breaking out in cysts everywhere, my nose, chin, cheeks, and eyebrows. I realized differin wasn't for me and took a tube of retin-a i had from a refill a couple years ago. 

I knew what I was getting myself into by starting Retin-A again, and was desperate to clear my skin because my self-esteem and confidence was so low. I couldn't go out to see my friends, always stayed in my room, and couldn't even look anyone in the eye fearing of them judging my pepperoni pizza-like skin. I started in September 2018, and by December 2018 I was much clearer. It wasn't all rainbows of course, I still had the purging phase, redness, and flakiness period that is normal with Retin-a. I've been on the 0.05% cream for about 6 months now and still breakout, but my acne is very much at bay now. All I can say is that Retin-a is a miracle in a bottle. I understand how tough it is to have acne and depressing it can be to know that there are people walking around without a blemish, while people like you have to worry about what others are thinking of your zits. If you're struggling to find that one product that will clear you up, give Retin-A a try. It truly has saved my life and self esteem. And if you end up trying it, stay strong and push through, I promise it gets better ^_^

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February 5, 2019
Topical Retinoid
Wish I'd used it sooner

Until I started using tetinoin creams my face was horrible, and I wonder why no doctor recommended to me sooner. I've been on antibiotics and I've used so many over the counter treatments but tretinoin really did it for me. I still have acne, but it took it from severe to moderate and now I can chip away at it with other tools. I used this brand and it was great, however they have stopped making it and went I needed a refill I got given a differently branded one, which I mean really it acts in the same way just doesn't feel as nice. 

January 13, 2019
Topical Retinoid
NOT BETTER THAN B.P

i'm sure this is not better than b.p for sensitive skin

it's so irritating and it makes skin more sensitive

 

August 23, 2018
Topical Retinoid
Totally cleared up my acne
I'm a 21 year old female and I've had moderate acne on my face, chest and back and have been struggling with it ever since I was 12/13, there aren't any huge cysts but a lot of white heads and under the surface red bumps. I have used almost every acne treatment accept for roaccutane but for some reason never tried a retinoid. Going on the pill did help a little bit with keeping the acne under control but it didn't clear my skin up completely. I started used a 0,05% tretinoin cream on my back half a year ago before summer (as you can't go into the sun with it) and it worked like a miracle. It did make my skin peal a lot in the beginning but cleared it up super fast and also got rid of the scarring which is always a big problem for me. I stopped using it when it was cleared up (after 1,5 month even maybe) and summer started and it hasn't really come back again! I also tried it on my face but stopped really soon as it made my skin peal like crazy and I was really dependent on make up at that time which made my skin look flaky. I have now learned to not wear make up as much and I thought it might be time to try the tretinoin on my face now. When using it on my back I used quite a lot of the cream because the skin on my back is a lot less sensitive, it pealed but didn't get irritated. I also didn't really mind that it looked bad at that time because I could just hide my back with clothes, which I already did anyway because of the acne. With my face I am taking it a bit slower with the dosage and have been using a pea size every other night. In the beginning my skin did peal a little bit but it didn't look too bad if I just applied a lot of moisturizer (I use an aloe vera gel myself) and not wore make up (as this made the dry flakes more obvious). After doing this for three weeks my skin is slowly becoming less flaky and I am able to wear make up again without it looking dry. I am very perfectionistic with my skin but people in my surroundings have commented on how much better my skin looks and I have noticed a difference in the acne (even though it's not gone yet), I definitely have less pimples and I feel like my scars are fading. I do have high hopes for it though as it did clear up by back completely! I would really recommend using this but to be careful and patient.
June 29, 2018
Topical Retinoid
This product is life-changing!
I am a 23 year old female, a year out of college, and I have struggled with acne since my early teen years. I saw a dermatologist and tried many different medications, even went on birth control, and any success I had was always short lived. Within the past year or two I feel that my acne flared up worse than it had in a long time. I'd just started dating someone new and I was embarrassed to be around him without makeup. I would even sleep in foundation- who wants to deal with that?? About 3 months ago I'd had enough and had my PCP prescribe me this product. I won't lie, the first several weeks were ROUGH. The trenitoin purge is real, folks. I was so dried out and even broke out worse than before! But I read the reviews and stuck with it. All of this subsided around week 8, and for another couple weeks, I had minimal progress and was feeling discouraged. It wasn't until around week 12 for me, but one day I looked in the mirror and realized that MY SKIN IS CLEAR! I have gotten so many compliments and feel more confident than I have in many years. I rarely wear makeup anymore, unless I just feel like it, but I don't feel like I NEED it. Not only is my acne essentially gone (still the occasional pimple, but it's gone within about a day), but my skin tone is becoming more even and my skin just all around feels smoother. The process is long, and it will be different for everyone, but I assure you that this product is worth it!
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May 23, 2018
Topical Retinoid
Great treatment
I (a ginger, pale skinned Irish man) have found both Tretinoin and Isotretinoin excellent at both reducing breakouts and smoothing over the surface of my skin. Being very pale I always found that red marks stood out on me and these drugs have been excellent at improving the appearance of these marks. I found both of these drugs less aggressive on my skin than other retinoids that I've tried (Adapalene) - Tretinoin was less corrosive than Isotretinoin but neither caused any problem that wasn't manageable. I highly recommend these to anybody who is wasting their time with tetracyclines.
May 22, 2018
Topical Retinoid
on week 3
i just wanted to post something here at the moment in order to track my progress and help others just in case it helps. I have had acne since I was about 14, and it's always been mild. I used differin when I was a teenager, however I do feel like it didn't clear my acne completely but rather made me dependant on it. I have tried almost everything, from becoming vegetarian to every kind of cream etc. I get facials every month so my acne was never out of control, but it was getting tiresome and didn't seem like a long term solution. My mom then said something to me, my brother's acne had gone away after using retin-a. So when i was on vacation in vietnam i picked some up OTC at the pharmacy. $10. Week 1 - I bought my locacid cream which is 0.05% Started using it with paula's choice salicylic acid 2% toner. Morning toner, Night cream. I started purging out this small white heads, so i got a facial and and had A LOT of them taken out rather painlessly. I have maybe like 3 normal pimples on my face. Week 2 - I have started to get dry skin. I use a sheet mask every other day now to boost the water content in skin. Have noticed that the mask helps to bring the heads to the surface, and yes, I do pop them. I do notice it helps the pimple heal faster, but yes, there will be a mark. If I don't pop the pimple it does not seem to go away. My skin at this point in time is still reasonably clear maybe, 2-3 pimples. Key take away - Use sheet masks every other day. Will help comedones come out. Week 3 - My skin is now starting to get a little bit more dry than tolerable. If i open my mouth wide the sides are cracking a bit. Tried to let my skin peel to get the full effect, but it seems like the retin-a works better with moisturised skin. I am starting to get this weird under the skin pimples, some come out some do not. If you moisturise, they're more like to come out. My skin looks blotchy and raw. Alot of the pimples that are coming out, are coming out from the old acne pigmentation, but as soon as they're out, the pigmentation seems to lighten and peel off. I'm assuming this means that theres stuff inside of the hyper-pigmentation that is getting pushed out. Is this the purge? The beginning of the week and brutal. Looked terrible. But, on the bright side, everything seems to be flattening out at the end of this week. I have been getting some pimples on my chin which, but very small ones here and there. Still tolerable.I am starting to moisturise my skin daily, and my skin is reacting well to serums, but not coconut oil. Will try almond oil with vitamin e next week. Skin is starting to look better, but I'm not 100% sure the purging is done. Key take aways this week - DO exfoiliate, it will help get rid of the small bumps and loosen plugs. I use the salicylic 1% pads in the morning before moisturising with argan oil. That's all for now, going away to india for a yoga retreat for 3 weeks. Will update on week 7. Fingers crossed!
July 1, 2019

Just wanted to do an update, the locacid cream didn't work. it caused my skin to get worse.

 

however about a year later i tried a different brand of trentinoin, same strength, and it works with no purging. 

 

My personal opinion is if there's purging and you can't tell whether it's purging or just irritation it is irritation. maybe try a different brand on trentinoin. another generic brand of trentinoin did the trick for me! I also took anti parasite medicine. 

May 11, 2018
Topical Retinoid
Went from mild to severe
I wish I did my research before putting it on my face! My derm prescribed me this and didn't really tell me much about it other than to use sunscreen. I have never had acne this bad before, I'm eating all the right things... I cut out everything like (dairy, meat, gluten, anything you can think of that causes acne) all I eat is vegetables and fruits with salads and salmon w beans. Still wonder why I get really bad cysts, and pimples in places I never had before such as my neck and forehead. My skin is so sensitive to the sun now! And it's super red. With summer around the corner I decided to stop using it. Hope this diet calms my active acne. Good luck to those who are using this. Not for me.

Finding a Doctor

The right dermatologist can make a big difference to your patient experience and the success of your acne treatment plan. Here are the steps to find a dermatologist who is a good fit:

  1. Use the search feature on the American Academy of Dermatology website to look for board-certified dermatologists in your area, and filter the search results for doctors with a special interest in treating acne.
  2. Read online patient reviews of any dermatologists you are considering and ask people you know whether they have any experience with these dermatologists.
  3. Do your research and go to your first appointment with questions prepared.
  4. Listen to what your gut feeling tells you once you see a dermatologist in person. If you are not completely comfortable, try a different dermatologist.

Finding a Doctor

Only a select few plastic surgeons specialize in acne scar revision surgery. Be certain to find a provider who specializes in acne scar repair and who is passionate and experienced in this area.

Be sure to:

  • Look at before and after photos, the more the better, especially patients with similar scarring to your own.
  • Be realistic about results. Look for improvement, not a cure.

Questions to ask a potential scar revision specialist:

  • Are you board certified? Be certain that they are board certified.
  • How long have you been performing these procedures? Normally, the more experience the better, however, some younger surgeons may be more on top of the latest procedures.
  • Can I speak to some of your other patients? Ask for references for several patients who had similar scarring and speak to them about the process and their satisfaction with results.

Red flags:

  • Their story changes: As you discuss different treatment options, if they tend to change their mind easily, or agree with whatever you say, consider this a red flag. A confident, experienced surgeon will possess strong, unwavering opinions.
  • Your gut tells you "no": Trust your gut. If you just don't feel that the doctor is the right fit, trust that and move on. On the other hand, if you feel they are the perfect specialist for you, trust that feeling.