(Generic version of Retin A)

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Tretinoin is a prescription-strength medication used to treat acne and other skin conditions. Tretinoin for acne comes as a cream which is applied directly to your face (and is sometimes called topical tretinoin). Tretinoin is actually the name of the active ingredient in the medication, which is a type of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), and tretinoin cream is the generic version of the product. It’s also sold under a range of brand names like Retin A.

What does tretinoin cream do?

Tretinoin cream removes dead skin cells and oil from your face, which can block your pores and cause spots, and it can also reduce the inflammation that acne sometimes causes. There’s even evidence tretinoin can reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, scars and dark spots on your skin. It has even been found to heal sun damage and improve the texture and tone of your skin.


Tretinoin promotes the faster growth of new skin cells and the removal of old ones though, which may explain its ability to improve skin quality. Perfect for acne, tretinoin removes old skin cells and natural skin oil (sebum) from your face, both of which can block your pores and cause acne. It can also reduce the inflammation caused by more serious forms of acne and it can even help with acne scaring.

How to use tretinoin cream?

Tretinoin cream is applied directly to your face, usually once a day, and usually at night before you go to bed. You should wash and dry your face beforehand, then apply the cream to the affected areas, dabbing it onto your skin, then smoothing it in gently. The cream should be fully absorbed by your skin and become invisible after a few seconds, if not, you’ve likely used too much. Tretinoin cream should only be used on skin, keep it away from your eyes, mouth, and nostrils. Always use tretinoin cream as prescribed.

Tretinoin can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. You should avoid exposure to the sun, or extreme cold or wind. Make sure you wear protective clothing and use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Do not use tanning beds or sunlamps when using tretinoin.

How to use tretinoin cream with moisturizer?

Tretinoin cream can dry your skin, and even irritate it, so you should use a moisturizer with tretinoin to keep your skin hydrated and fresh. Don’t use it and a moisturizer at the same time, in case the moisturizer stops the tretinoin from working. If you use tretinoin cream at night, moisturize in the morning, and again in the afternoon if you need to. Tretinoin can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so a moisturizer which contains SPF is a double win.

Are there any skin products that I should avoid while using tretinoin?

You should avoid using other topical acne products that contain a peeling agent, for example benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid, or sulfur.

Should I use tretinoin every day?

Generally you may find it more suitable to work your way up to using tretinoin every day. Try applying it once a week to start, then every other night, and gradually increase how often you use it depending on how your skin reacts. Our doctors will advise you on how often to use tretinoin when they prescribe it.

What if I use too much tretinoin?

Using more tretinoin than directed by our doctors will not give you faster or better results, and it may increase the risks of side effects.

How long does it take for tretinoin to work?

This depends on how well you react to tretinoin and how severe your acne is. Sometimes an improvement will occur within two to three weeks of daily use, although between six to eight weeks is more likely. If you’re not seeing any benefits by 12 weeks, speak to our doctors who will be able to advise and may be able to recommend alternative treatments.

Is tretinoin safe for long term use?

Tretinoin is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, meaning it’s judged to be one of the safest and most effective meds used worldwide. Although tretinoin cream is safe for most people to use, like all meds, some people can experience side effects. These tend to be mild and include dryness, redness, peeling, and itchiness. They happen as your skin gets used to the tretinoin and should pass with time.

Can you use tretinoin for acne scars?

Yes, research has shown that tretinoin can improve the appearance of acne scars. Tretinoin speeds up the turnover of skin cells, promoting the shedding of dead cells and their replacement with new ones, including the growth of new skin cells at the site of scaring. Tretinoin cream may not heal your acne scars entirely, but it should improve their appearance.

Can you use tretinoin cream for wrinkles?

Although it’s an effective treatment for acne, possibly the most popular use of tretinoin skin products is to help fight some of the signs of aging. Topical tretinoin has been proven to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Not a bad additional benefit for an acne treatment.

Does tretinoin remove dark spots?

The increased rate of skin cell turnover encouraged by tretinoin has also been shown to reduce the appearance of dark spots or dark areas on the skin.

Is tretinoin a retinoid?

Yes tretinoin is a retinoid. Retinoids are a group of molecules that includes the A vitamins and other chemicals similar to A vitamins. Tretinoin is a type of synthetic vitamin A, so it is a retinoid.

Other retinoids are also used in skin treatments, like retinol, which is a natural form of vitamin A. Retinol products are usually available without prescription but are generally milder and less effective than tretinoin.

Does tretinoin work?

Yes, tretinoin does work. It is an effective treatment for acne and is generally regarded as an essential part of acne care by dermatologists. Studies have repeatedly shown that tretinoin, when applied directly to acne affected skin, can reduce the severity of acne outbreaks, limiting the number of spots and the inflammation that can accompany acne.

What are the possible tretinoin side effects?

Tretinoin can have side effects, although they tend to be mild. You may experience dryness, redness, peeling, itching, and burning of the skin where the cream is applied.

The good news is that they should reduce over the first few weeks of use as your skin gets used to the tretinoin. If this doesn’t happen or if you experience more serious side effects, including swelling and blistering, speak to your doctor immediately.

Why does tretinoin cause breakouts?

When you first start using tretinoin cream, you may get more breakouts of acne. This won’t happen to everyone, but if it does happen to you, it should be temporary and it should pass as your skin becomes used to the cream, usually within two to six weeks.

Why does tretinoin cause peeling?

Tretinoin increases the rate at which your body replaces your skin cells. As new cells emerge, old ones are shed, and this can give your skin a flaky, or even crusty appearance, especially in the first few weeks of use when increased skin shedding happens. In most cases, at around two to six weeks, this peeling should reduce and even disappear.

Is tretinoin stronger than retinol?

The two medications are slightly different. Retinol is a naturally occurring form of vitamin A, which enzymes in your skin must convert into retinoic acid in order for it to be effective. Tretinoin skips this step as it is already a retinoic acid, so it gets to work faster and is considered to be more powerful than retinol products.

What's the difference between Retin A and tretinoin?

They are the same. Retin A is the brand name and tretinoin is the name of the active ingredient in Retin A. Tretinoin because it is a generic medication, is usually much cheaper than Retin A. You can purchase either product FROM MARS if approved for a prescription.

Do I need a prescription for tretinoin?

Yes, tretinoin can only be bought with a prescription. Start an online consultation with FROM MARS and our doctors can determine if tretinoin is suitable for you.

Where to buy tretinoin cream?

Most tretinoin containing products can only be bought with a prescription. You can purchase tretinoin cream here at FROM MARS. Simply fill in our online consultation and a licensed US doctor will review your details. If medically approved, your tretinoin will be shipped to your door for free.

Where can I find more information on tretinoin and acne?

To find out more about acne, please visit our acne page. You’ll also find lots of advice and information about skincare and tretinoin on our blog.

Side Effects

Is tretinoin safe?

Tretinoin cream can have some mild side-effects. But don’t panic. They are usually temporary and disappear with continued treatment. If you experience sudden breathing difficulties, hives, swollen lips, throat or tongue stop taking the product immediately and seek medical advice by contacting us or your doctor. We recommend reading the link below to understand all of the potential benefits and risks of the medication.

Open medical information
Info Leaflets

Before taking tretinoin or any medication, it is important to read the Patient Information Leaflet.

Open Patient Information Leaflet

Other available
treatments for acne

Retin A



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