Topical Retinoids for the Treatment of Acne

NYC Dermatologist Dr Jeff Ellis

By Jeffrey Ellis, MD

Hicksville, New York 11801

Physician (MD, DO), Dermatology


Most patients with acne will benefit from a topical retinoids. It is one of the few medications we prescribe topically that helps to prevent new pimples from forming.

Retinoids do not help patients overnight, but in the long run they can make acne much better. It is important for patients to continue using the medication — even if they don’t think it is helping. It often takes weeks or months to realize how helpful the product is.

When starting a topical retinoid, it is important to use only a small amount. If used too aggressively, the medication can irritate the skin — and discourage the patient. However, slow and steady use will result in reliable improvement of acne.”

Visit Dr. Ellis’ website at Belaray Dermatology.

About Topical Retinoids

Topical retinoids are a standard component of acne treatment. They are useful for the management of both comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads) and inflammatory acne.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) published Acne Management Guidelines that stated “topical retinoids are important in acne treatment” and the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne , published the findings of its acne experts in May 2009 that looked at acne as a chronic skin disease that requires long-term management.

In addition to generic tretinoin, there are several commonly prescribed brands of topical retinoids, including Differin™, Retin A Micro™, Tazorac™ and generic tretinoin. There are also newer brands that combine a topical retinoid with another acne medication, such as Epiduo™ (adapalene combined with benzoyl peroxide) and Ziana™ (tretinoin combined with clindamycin).

Topical retinoids may be prescribed alone, particularly for cases of mild acne, or in combination with other topical or oral acne medications. They may also be prescribed for long-term use after the acne lesions have cleared to provide long-term acne control.