Penn State Hershey Medical Center home Penn State Hershey Medical Center home Penn State Hershey: Patient Care home Penn State Hershey: Education home Penn State Hershey: Research home Penn State Hershey: Community home
Penn State Hershey Health Information Library
  Library Home
  Find A Physician
  Find A Practice
  Request An Appointment
  Search Clinical Studies
  Classes and Support Groups
  Ask A Health Librarian
  Subscribe to eNewsletters


Penn State Hershey Health Information Centers
  Bone and Joint
  Cancer
  Children
  Heart
  Men
  Neurology
  Pregnancy
  Seniors
  Women

        Follow Us

Tretinoin (On the skin)

Tretinoin (TRET-i-noin)

Treats acne and other skin conditions. Renova® may reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles and rough skin.

Brand Name(s):

Altreno, Atralin, Avita, Refissa, Renova, Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, Tretin-X

There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

This medicine is not right for everyone. Do not use it if you had an allergic reaction to tretinoin.

How to Use This Medicine:

Cream, Gel/Jelly, Liquid, Lotion

  • Your doctor will tell you how much medicine to use. Do not use more than directed.
  • This medicine is for use on the skin only. Do not get it into your eyes, mouth, nose, or the creases alongside your nose. Do not use on skin areas that have cuts or scrapes. If it does get on these areas, rinse it off right away.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after you use this medicine. Allow your skin to dry for 20 to 30 minutes before applying this medicine.
  • Do not wash your face or put on make-up for at least 1 hour after applying this medicine. You may need to apply a skin moisturizer in the morning.
  • You may need to use this medicine for several weeks or months before your skin starts to look better. Applying extra medicine will not make it work faster.
  • For the cream, gel, or lotion, apply a thin layer to the affected skin area. Rub it in gently. The medicine should become invisible right away. After about a minute, if you can still see the medicine or if the medicine dries and flakes off, then you are using too much.
  • Apply the liquid using your fingertip, gauze pad, or cotton swab. Carefully pour out the liquid. Avoid getting it on other skin areas.
  • Read and follow the patient instructions that come with this medicine. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
  • Missed dose: Apply a dose as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then and apply a regular dose. Do not apply extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.
  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Do not freeze.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Some medicines may affect how tretinoin works. Tell your doctor if you are using any of the following:
    • Diuretic (water pill)
    • Medicine to treat infection (including tetracycline, sulfa drug)
    • Phenothiazine medicine
  • Do not use any other medicines or acne treatments on the treated skin areas without first asking your doctor. Avoid using any skin care products that can dry or irritate your skin, including rough skin cleansers or products that contain alcohol, spices, or lime.
  • Do not use lotion, wax, electrolysis, or laser treatment to remove hair on any treated skin areas. Avoid medicated shampoo (including dandruff shampoo) and chemical hair treatments (including perms or dye).

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have a fish allergy, eczema, sunburn, or other skin problems.
  • This medicine may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, wind, and cold weather. Use a sunscreen when you are outdoors. Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds. You may need to wear protective clothing, including long sleeves and a hat.
  • The gel form of this medicine is flammable. Do not smoke while you are using this medicine. Always keep it away from fire, flames, or high heat.
  • Do not use this medicine to treat a skin problem your doctor has not examined.
  • Your doctor will check your progress and the effects of this medicine at regular visits. Keep all appointments. During the first 3 to 6 weeks of using this medicine, your acne may seem to get worse. This means the medicine is working, and it is important that you keep using it.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Severe or ongoing skin redness, peeling, itching, blistering, crusting, or swelling

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Changes in the color of your treated skin
  • Mild skin dryness, itching, peeling, or redness
  • Skin warmth, stinging, or burning that continues or gets worse

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088


Last Updated: 6/18/2019

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.

All rights reserved

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and chrome browser.