Topical Retinoid
1969 Reviews
Topical Retinoid
Based on All Available Studies
Strength of Evidence
Topical Retinoid
Side Effects
Topical Retinoid’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

Used Tretinoin? Rate It:

Choose from 1 to 5 stars
January 8, 2023
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 8, 2019
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 ^_^

This Was Helpful

1 user(s) found this helpful

February 5, 2019
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. 

August 23, 2018
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
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!
This Was Helpful

1 user(s) found this helpful

May 23, 2018
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 9, 2018
Keep Going! IT WORKS
I got an IUD a year ago, and my skin went from completely clear to horrible in a matter of 6 months. The acne I had was hormonal and cystic, and deep beneath my skin. I started Tretinoin 0.025% paired with Spironolactone about two months ago. The first month was HORRIBLE. I felt like things were getting worse instead of better, my skin was so dry and itchy, and I was basically molting every morning, makeup and moisturizer burned to put on (Plain old Cetaphil face/body moisturizer did wonders to help this - it's super gentle but also very rich moisture that is long lasting). During my period, things got to the point where my skin hurt to touch. At a month and a half though, I turned a corner. Things began to calm down, my skin was less dried out, I didn't break out on my period. At two months in, my skin is completely clear. No bumps, nothing beneath the surface, no tiny bumps. I actually think it's clearer than it was before I got my IUD. Just when I thought I couldn't take another day of burning, bumpy skin, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Keep going!
April 11, 2018
3 months in tretinoin 0,025 + clindamycin
I tried Epiduo Forte gel and it left lot of hyperpigmentation and devloped a cystic acne from it. My derm prescribed tretinoin and it works wonders with scarring and getting rid of acne. The biggest change i made in my skin care routine was NOT PUTTING anything besides tretinoin, moisturizer and sunscreen (it is difficult to find one that wont break you out). I know from desperation we tend to buy cleansers, face wash and all those kind of anti-acne products, but tretinoin is already strong so do not put anything harsh on your skin otherwise acne will just worsen from skin irritation (happened to me with epiduo). How to start? At the beggining i put tretinoin during the night for only 10-15 min, next day 30 min, then 1 hour and after that i started putting it maybe three times a week until i built up to every night, the reason why your skin may react bad to it, it`s because you dont let your skin get used to the product. IMPORTANT: I only wash my face with water (as recommended by my derm) and if i am wearing makeup or sunscreen i just put it off with Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water as it is superrr gentle to the skin and then wash with water to put away more impurities. So in the first place you should try to use only tretinoin and whatever helps your skin recover from the strong effect of the medication. If your skin ever feels tight after a product, skip it! The moisture of your skin is the most important thing when in anti acne regimen.
March 20, 2018
I am writing this review after 2 and half years of using a tretinoin .025% cream (not stevia brand, but for some reason would not let me review the general brand. But I wanted to leave a review for anyone out there that may be feeling like nothing is helping like I did for a very long time.) For the first year, I applied the tretinoin cream by itself after waiting 30 minutes to dry and my skin was an absolute disaster. However, I have extremely dry, sensitive skin. So one day I decided to apply moisturizer before the tretinoin and it has worked wonders. Yes, I still break out occasionally, but it is NOTHING like it used to be. I used to have dime-sized, red, inflamed pimples all across my forehead and now when I break out it is tiny and only lasts a couple of days. My advice is to get to know your skin and what it can handle. Obviously mine was becoming way too dry and broke out more as a result, but applying the moisturizer before the tretinoin was the fix. I hope this can help anyone as I know I looked at reviews religiously when my skin was at its worst. Years later, I have nothing but positive things to say about this cream.
December 21, 2017
Tretinoin Gel
I do not usually take the time to write reviews but I felt compelled to as I heavily relied on reviews to make a decision for my skin. I am 27 and although not constant, I would frequently get deep, very swollen, under the skin blemishes that would result in weeks of redness/marks and they would often never come to the surface. Id say this has been going on for about 7 years. I have tried everything but nothing has made this problem better. I, like many of you was worried about the horrible "purge" on tretinoin however, I am in my 3rd week and My skin is more beautiful than ever. I cant say I am even experiencing any dryness or redness. (I am using CeraVe Am moisturizer with sunscreen) I am very happy with the results so far. I will add that I began taking generic Yasmin for birth control at the same time. My doctor said it has an aldactone derivative so, one may experience spiro benefits without having to take spiro alone. I hope this helps someone, I know having bad skin can send you into a very low place. There is hope. :)
This Was Helpful

6 user(s) found this helpful


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.