Tretinoin Topical 

(tret' i noyn)

WHY is this medicine prescribed?

Tretinoin is used to treat acne. It promotes peeling of affected skin areas and unclogs pores. Tretinoin controls acne but does not cure it.

This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

HOW should this medicine be used?

Tretinoin comes in topical liquid, cream, and gel. Tretinoin usually is used daily at bedtime or once every 2 or 3 days. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Use tretinoin exactly as directed. Do not use more or less of it or use it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Your acne probably will get worse (red, scaling skin and an increase in acne sores) during the first 7-10 days that you use this medication. Nevertheless, continue to use it; the acne sores should disappear. Usually 2-3 weeks (and sometimes more than 6 weeks) of regular use of tretinoin is required before improvement is seen.

Use only nonmedicated cosmetics on cleansed skin. Do not use topical preparations with a lot of alcohol, menthol, spices, or lime (e.g., shaving lotions, astringents, and perfumes); they can sting your skin, especially when you first use tretinoin.

Do not use any other topical medications, especially benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid (wart remover), and dandruff shampoos containing sulfur or resorcinol unless your doctor directs you to do so. If you have used any of these topical medications recently, ask your doctor if you should wait before using tretinoin.

If you are to apply any form of tretinoin, follow these steps:

  • Wash your hands and affected skin area thoroughly with mild, bland soap (not medicated or abrasive soap or soap that dries the skin) and water. To be sure that your skin is thoroughly dry, wait 20-30 minutes before applying tretinoin.
  • Use clean fingertips, a gauze pad, or a cotton swab to apply the medication.
  • Use enough medication to cover the affected area lightly. Do not oversaturate the gauze pad or cotton swab.
  • Apply the medication to the affected skin area only (e.g., skin with acne sores).

    What SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS should I follow?

    Before using tretinoin,

    • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to tretinoin or any other drugs.
    • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, including vitamins.
    • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while using tretinoin, call your doctor.
    • plan to avoid unnecessary or prolonged exposure to sunlight and to wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Tretinoin may make your skin sensitive to sunlight.

    What should I do IF I FORGET to take a dose?

    If you use tretinoin once a day, skip the missed dose completely. Do not use this medication more often than once a day. If you use tretinoin every 2 or 3 days and remember a missed dose within 12 hours of the time when you should have applied it, apply the missed dose immediately. Otherwise, skip the missed dose; do not apply a double dose.

    What SIDE EFFECTS can this medicine cause?

    Tretinoin may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

    • warmth or slight stinging of the skin
    • lightening or darkening of the skin
    • red, scaling skin
    • increase in acne sores
    • swelling, blistering, or crusting of the skin

    What should I know about STORAGE and DISPOSAL of this medication?

    Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.

    What OTHER INFORMATION should I know?

    Keep all appointments with your doctor. Tretinoin is for external use only. Do not let tretinoin get into your eyes, the corner of your nose, or mouth, or any broken skin, and do not swallow it. Do not apply dressings, bandages, cosmetics, lotions, or other skin medications to the area being treated unless your doctor tells you.

    Do not let anyone else use your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.

    Tell your doctor if your skin condition gets worse or does not go away.

    It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.

    Brand Names
    • Altinac®
    • Atralin®
    • Avita®
    • Refissa®[¶]
    • Renova®
    • Retin-A®
    • Tretin X®
    • Solage® (as a combination product containing Mequinol, Tretinoin)
    • Tri-Luma® (as a combination product containing Fluocinolone, Hydroquinone, Tretinoin)
    • Ziana® (as a combination product containing Clindamycin, Tretinoin)
    • Also available generically

    This branded product is no longer on the market. Generic alternatives may be available.

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