Report on Retin-A Side Effects and Usage by AskDocWeb

About Retin A

Picture of Retin A

What is Retin A?

Retin-A (pronounced Ret-in-A) and Renova (pronounced Re-NO-va) are brand names of the generic drug Tretinoin (TRET-i-noyn).

Retin-A is used in the treatment of acne. It is prescribed to treat acne vulgaris on facial skin.

Retin A is made from vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that is absorbed through the intestines and stored in the liver. Vitamin A is important to maintaining healthy skin, mucous membranes, the intestinal lining, organs, immune system and the suppression of tumor growth.

How does Retin A work?

Apply at bedtime. Before you use this medicine, wash with a mild soap and dry the area gently. Wait 20 or 30 minutes before applying. Apply a thin film to the affected and surrounding area. Rub it in gently and wash your hands immediately afterward. Be sure to keep it away from your eyes, mouth, nose, and mucous membranes.

In the skin, it affects the depletion and dispersion of melanin as well as thickening and strengthening the tissues. Retin A increases blood vessel development and cell nutrition, decreases clogged pores and makes cells divide faster.

What side effects do users of Retin A report?

An unusual darkening of the skin or lack of color of the skin may occur temporarily with repeated application of Avita or Retin-A.

The side effects of Retin-A are generally not severe and may include burning, dry skin, itching, peeling, redness, and stinging.

If you have eczema (skin inflammation consisting of itching and small blisters that ooze and crust over) or other chronic skin conditions, use with extreme caution, as they may cause severe irritation.

Rare: Temporary hyper- or hypopigmentation has been reported with repeated application of Retin-A. (Source)

If you have sensitive skin, the use of Retin-A may cause your skin to become excessively red, puffy, blistered, or crusted. If this happens, notify your doctor, who may recommend that you discontinue the medication until your skin returns to normal, or adjust the medication to a level that you can tolerate.

What are the symptoms of overdose?

If it causes an abnormal irritation, redness, blistering, or peeling of the skin, notify your doctor. He may suggest that you use the medication less frequently, discontinue use temporarily, or discontinue use altogether. If a severe sensitivity reaction or chemical irritation occurs, you will probably need to stop using the drug and notify your doctor.

If you miss a dose of Retin A

If you miss a dose… Resume your regular schedule the next night.

Conditions you should tell your Doctor about before taking Retin A:

It is not known whether the drug appears in breast milk. Use with caution when breast feeding.

Contraindications: Retin-A is contraindicated in individuals with a history of sensitivity reactions to any of its components. It should be discontinued if hypersensitivity to any of its ingredients is noted.

Tell Your Doctor if you’re taking any of the following medicines:

Do not use Retin-A if you are taking other drugs that increase sensitivity to sunlight. These include:

Certain antibiotics, including Cipro, Noroxin, and tetracycline
Major tranquilizers such as Thorazine and Mellaril
Sulfa drugs such as Bactrim and Septra
Thiazide drugs (water pills) such as Diuril and HydroDIURIL

If these medications are used with certain other drugs, the effects could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your doctor before combining Retin-A with the following:
Preparations containing benzoyl peroxide, such as BenzaClin, Benzac AC Wash 5, Benzshave Desquam-E, PanOxyl
Preparations containing sulfur (ointments and other preparations used to treat skin disorders and infections)
Resorcinol (a drug, used in ointments to treat acne, that causes skin to peel)
Salicylic acid (a drug that kills bacteria and fungi and causes skin to peel).

Caution should be exercised when using Retin-A in combination with other topical medications:
Medicated or abrasive soaps and cleansers
Soaps and cosmetics that have a strong drying effect
Products with high concentrations of alcohol
Spices or lime (especially the peel)
Permanent wave solutions
Hair depilatories or waxes
Other preparations that may dry or irritate the skin.

Storing Retin A

Store at ordinary room temperature, away from the reach of children. Do not freeze.

General Notes

“Resting” your skin is recommended between use of the above preparations and treatment with Retin-A.

During the early weeks of acne therapy, a worsening of the condition may occur due to the action of Avita or Retin-A on deep, previously unseen areas of inflammation. This is not a reason to discontinue therapy, but do notify your doctor if it occurs.

You should begin to notice results after 2 to 3 weeks of treatment. More than 6 or 7 weeks of treatment may be needed before consistent beneficial effects appear.

Applying Retin-A excessively will not produce faster or better results, and marked redness, peeling, or discomfort could occur.

Once acne has responded satisfactorily, it may be possible to maintain the improvement with less frequent applications or other dosage forms. Any change in formulation, drug concentration, or dose frequency should be closely monitored by your doctor. This is to determine your tolerance and response.

While using Retin-A, keep exposure to sunlight, including sun lamps, to a minimum. If you have a sunburn, do not use the medication until you have fully recovered. Use of sunscreen products (at least SPF 15) and protective clothing over treated areas is recommended when exposure to the sun cannot be avoided. Weather extremes, such as wind and cold, may be irritating and should also be avoided while using these products.

Retin-A should be applied once a day, at bedtime, to the skin where acne appears, using enough to lightly cover the affected area. The liquid form may be applied using a fingertip, gauze pad, or cotton swab. If you use gauze or cotton, avoid over saturation, which might cause the liquid to run into areas where treatment is not intended.

You may use cosmetics while being treated, however, you should thoroughly cleanse the areas to be treated before applying the medication.

If your skin becomes too dry, you may want to use petroleum jelly or another emollient during the day.

If there is no immediate improvement, or new blemishes appear, don’t get discouraged. It takes weeks for the medicine to take effect. Continue applying the prescribed amount. (Do not increase the dosage; it may irritate your skin.)

Do not stop treatment when improvement finally occurs. You must continue therapy to maintain the beneficial effect.

Retin-A gel and Avita are flammable and should be kept away from heat and flame.

Retin A is an important part of the treatment of annoying skin color disorders in breast cancer patients. It offers improved skin pigmentation when used in a very specific physician supervised program with hydroquinone and glycolics.

Retin A is used to rebuild sun-damaged skin (damage from years of tanning), reduce or eliminate liver spots, wrinkles, brown or gray growths and even precancerous lesions.

Some plastic surgeons report an “overwhelming high degree of satisfaction” when using Retin A as part of preparation for laser and facial cosmetic surgery.

Common Misspellings for Retin-A

Retin-A is often misspelled, as many people hear the word verbally, write it down and spell it incorrectly. Here are a few of the most common misspellings for Retin-A: retin a, Retna-A, Retin, Retin Microb, and Retan A.

Retin-a Feedback

If you’ve used Retin-A, please help others by sharing your experience with side effects. What would you tell your best friend about this product? Please remember that we do not give medical advice. That is for your local health care provider, who is familiar with your medical history. You can use the form below to add your comments, feedback or Retin-a review.

Use of retin-a

I stopped using retin-a about three weeks ago because I thought it was making my skin worse, this was after I had used it for about six months. It turned out that I think I have an allergic reaction to strawberries. Well, to make a long story short, I started to use Dr. Hauschka’s products on my face a couple of weeks ago and I am starting to use retin-a again. I was wondering if it was alright to mix the two.

I use the cleanser day and night and during the day I use the moisturizer. I got these from a health food store. Thanks for you help.


AskDocWeb: Sorry, we’re not familiar with Hauschka’s products other than that they are in the faith-based skin care category.

Feedback Retin-a

I have been using generic tretinoin on my face for three or four weeks. This past three days, I awoke in the morning with skin so flaky it appeared I’d been rolled face-down in bran. There has been some mild irritation as well; at present I just try to moisturize. (I see that the product, tretinoin, is flammable; I’m inclined to keep my flaky face away from lit matches anyway, but reading the warning doubles my resolve.)


Personal experience regarding the usage of Retin-A:

I’ve been using Retin-A for over 4 years. I first started using it, along with Accutane, under my dermatologist’s supervision to get rid of my acne and acne scars. It worked well, with only very minor peeling and redness and a marked improvement on my skin’s condition. After my 6-month course of Accutane was over (which completely eliminated my acne problems), I continued using Retin-A as a means to even out my skin tone and lessen hyperpigmentation, and this is where the problem developed.

I started noticing that the cycle of my skin renewal process has changed in that the redness resulting from the application of Retin-A is much more severe and prolonged, but the desired effects of an evened skin tone are much diminished. I did not realize that this was due to Retin-A and thought that my acne had come back, which prompted my mistake of continuing to use the drug for a few more months, only to make my face so red and irritated that enlarged blood vessels were clearly visible. I stopped using the drug completely, but the redness was still so persistent that 6 months later my condition has barely improved at all. I have since consulted my dermatologist and is now under laser skin surgery to reduce the blood vessel size and lessen the redness.

My dermatologist told me that, in very rare cases, patients may develop adverse effects to Retin-A after prolonged usage, even if the drug did seem effective in the early stages. Apparently I’m one of them, and I’m writing this in the hope of alerting prospective Retin-A users about this possible side effect. My face ended up looking much worse than it would have, if I hadn’t touched the drug at all. My advice is that, once you notice the functioning cycle of the drug has changed for the worse, stop using it completely and talk to a dermatologist.


Date: 9/3/2003

I was told that the pill form of Retin-A Micro is associated with 100% chance of birth defects if you become pregnant while taking it. What about the topical cream form of Retin-A? Are there any such defects associated with this form of application? Should I be on birth control while using this medicaton?


AskDocWeb: When you say the pill form of Retin-a Micro, I think you may be referring to Accutane. It has been referred to as “like a pill form of Rein-A Micro” but it is a different product. Women taking Accutane must not get pregnant because of the nearly 100% chance of birth defects. Use birth control while taking Accutane.

The Retin-A cream is a different product and appears to be safe. Several studies of Retin-A on pregnancy have shown no increase in birth defects above the normal rate. When using the Retin-A cream, less than 10% of Retin-A passes into your bloodstream. Using it on broken skin, using more than is needed, or use on a large area will cause more of the Retin-A to pass through the skin.

Side Note: Women who live in the United States have about a 3 percent chance of having a baby with a birth defect.

Higher dosage?
Date: 10/22/2003

I have been using Retin A .025% for cosmetic reasons for about 2 weeks. (Reducing fine lines and repairing sun-damaged skin.) I have seen improvement in my skin already and was wondering if I were to use a higher dose such as .1% would it benefit me?


AskDocWeb: If you try the higher dosage, please keep in mind there is increased risk of side effects, both in number and severity.

Date: 11/8/2003

I’ve been using retin a micro for about 6 weeks now starting on my seventh. My skin is looking terrible and it’s dry and some parts are crusty. I haven’t noticed any improvements so far and I’ve noticed some parts with blood. It is very sick and I’m really hating this medicine.


Liver spots
Date: 11/9/2003

A few years ago I was using retin-a for my acne – it did help but I noticed that I began to get dark spots from the sun – could this have been caused by the retin-a? I want to use it again because I hear that it is helpful for liver spots and brown sun spots – should I try it again – or is there something better for the dark brown spots?


AskDocWeb: Open question: Does anyone have something better than Retin-a for those dark brown spots?

Read more feedback

Most recent post: April 16, 2017

If you find this page useful share it with others. If you have used Retin-A, use the form below to add your review of Retin-A, feedback or suggestions that may help others. Please note that all addresses are held confidential.
The following advertisement helps pay for the cost of publishing this information:

Drug Test got you worried? CLICK HEREAd