Tretinoin prescriptions online for more radiant skin

Tretinoin is a prescription-strength topical cream or gel used in dermatology to treat acne, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and sun damage, commonly sold under the brand name Retin-A. Enjoy the convenience of a treatment plan tailored just for you, and have your tretinoin prescription sent directly to your local pharmacy: no more waiting rooms or long lines. One of our board-certified primary care physicians will take your complete medical history and decide if tretinoin (Retin-A) is right for you.

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Enhances overall skin texture, making it smoother and softer

Effectively treats acne and reduces fine lines and wrinkles

Discuss skin concerns and receive a prescription from the privacy of your home*

*Please note that PlushCare does not have dermatologists, but our primary care physicians can prescribe and refill most medications for your skin concerns. Prescriptions are provided at the doctor’s discretion. Learn more about our controlled substances policy and how you can save up to 80% with our prescription discount card.

Buying tretinoin online

Our virtual doctors appointments make getting a tretinoin online prescription accessible and easy. A consultation with one of our doctors is important to help them understand your skin history and, if prescribed, choose the right strength for your skin. Getting a tretinoin (Retin-A) prescription from one of our top-rated primary care doctors ensures you will receive the proper strength and directions to use it safely. This is a convenient way to address your skincare needs without leaving your home or waiting for a referral appointment.

Tretinoin brand names


Generic tretinoin is sold under different brand names and is available as a lotion, cream, or topical gel. Like the brand name Retin-A, generic tretinoin has various strengths, from mild to strong. 

Some of the other brand names for tretinoin include Altinac®, Altreno®, Atralin®, Avita®, Refissa®, Renova®, and Tretin X®. It is also found in combination skin care products such as Solage (containing mequinol and tretinoin), Veltin® (clindamycin and tretinoin), Ziana® (clindamycin and tretinoin), and Tri-Luma (fluocinolone, hydroquinone, and tretinoin).

Benefits of tretinoin

  • What does Retin-A do?

    Retin-A is the most common and widely prescribed name for the brand of tretinoin. Retin-A’s active ingredient, tretinoin, was initially developed and approved by the FDA as an acne treatment in 1971. It works by increasing the turnover of skin cells, which helps decrease the number of skin lesions and pimples forming. It also reduces the size of oil glands to minimize the risk of clogged pores and hair follicles.

    It promotes new collagen formation and belongs to a family of compounds known as retinoids derived from Vitamin A. This contributes to its effectiveness in addressing various skin concerns, from inflammation to stretch marks. 

    Since the mid-1980s, it has also been proven to be an effective treatment for photoaging, sun damage, and other signs of skin aging, like collagen loss. With Retin-A, you can achieve a more radiant and youthful appearance. However, it’s important to note that Retin-A can cause dryness, irritation, and increased sun sensitivity, especially at the beginning of its use.

  • Tretinoin for wrinkles and anti-aging

    By increasing collagen production and cell turnover, tretinoin reduces the visible signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. Tretinoin also promotes new blood vessel formation, improving skin color and providing a healthier overall complexion.

    However, visible wrinkle improvements typically take three to six months of consistent use, with optimal results often seen after six to twelve months. To manage potential dryness and irritation, your doctor may recommend starting with every-other-day application and gradually increasing frequency.

  • Tretinoin for acne

    Tretinoin effectively reduces acne and acne scars by helping to unclog pores and promote the growth of acne-free skin. Tretinoin's effectiveness lies in its dual action: preventing the formation of new acne lesions while promoting the healing of existing ones. It works by reducing the amount of oil, called sebum, produced by sebaceous glands in the skin, which helps reduce the amount of oil buildup that can cause acne to form. This potent medication isn't limited to facial acne; it can also combat breakouts on other body parts like the back. Ask one of our doctors if tretinoin is right for you, and get started on acne treatment online.

  • Tretinoin for rosacea relief

    While topical tretinoin effectively treats acne and improves skin texture, it may not be the best choice for people with certain types of rosacea (a skin condition causing redness and visible blood vessels). Tretinoin’s ability to exfoliate skin can be harsh on sensitive skin and potentially worsen rosacea symptoms, especially redness and irritation from skin dryness.

    It’s crucial to consult with your doctor before using tretinoin if you have rosacea. They can assess your skin condition and recommend personalized alternatives, such as topical antibiotics, azelaic acid, or laser treatment while developing a safe and effective treatment plan to manage your rosacea without causing further irritation.

  • Tretinoin to help reduce stretch marks

    While eliminating stretch marks can be challenging, tretinoin can significantly improve the appearance of stretch marks on the skin. Stretch marks can occur from rapid skin stretching and growth, often leaving visible scars in the affected tissue. Tretinoin’s ability to boost collagen production and cellular renewal helps repair the skin and smooth out the scar tissue. 

    This improvement happens gradually with consistent use as new, healthier skin replaces the affected area. However, tretinoin's effectiveness may vary depending on the type and age of the stretch marks. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist about the results you expect to determine if tretinoin is the right approach for your concerns.

  • Tretinoin may help treat hyperpigmentation 

    Tretinoin can also help treat hyperpigmentation, including dark and age spots. Tretinoin tackles this by regulating melanin production. Its ability to promote skin cell turnover and exfoliation further helps faded hyperpigmented areas reveal new, healthier skin cells underneath, contributing to a more even skin tone. However, individual responses to tretinoin for hyperpigmentation can vary depending on age and skin tone.

    Consult your doctor to determine if it's the right approach for your specific type of hyperpigmentation and develop a safe and effective treatment plan. Remember, fading hyperpigmentation takes time and consistent use, often several months. While tretinoin offers significant benefits, be aware of potential side effects like increased sun sensitivity and initial inflammation, especially for darker skin tones.

  • Scar reduction with tretinoin treatment

    While complete scar removal is rare, tretinoin can significantly improve the appearance of various scars, including those from acne, injuries, and even stretch marks. Its ability to promote skin cell turnover and renewal encourages the growth of new, healthy skin cells, boosts collagen production, and enhances overall skin elasticity. 

    These combined effects help flatten and reduce the visibility of certain types of scars. However, individual results and effectiveness may vary depending on the type and age of the scar. As for some of the conditions above, long-term use may be necessary to achieve results. Consulting your doctor can help determine if tretinoin is the right approach for your specific scar concerns and provide a realistic timeline and expectations for improvement.

  • Tretinoin can help improve skin texture and skin tone

    Tretinoin can significantly improve skin texture by promoting a healthy renewal process. Shedding away dull, dead skin cells and hyperpigmented areas encourages the growth of fresh, healthier cells. This results in a smoother and more even texture. Boosting collagen production, a protein that plumps the skin and fills in fine lines, enhances overall skin texture.

    Tretinoin can also be a valuable tool for improving skin tone. By influencing cell turnover, it reveals newer, more evenly pigmented skin underneath. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with hyperpigmentation like dark spots, sun damage, or unevenness caused by age or acne scars.

    Remember that individual responses vary based on pigmentation type and skin tone severity.

How to use tretinoin, strengths, and forms

  • To achieve the best results, following your doctor’s recommended instructions is essential, as tretinoin can have harmful side effects when overused. Consult your doctor about the best tretinoin strength and form for your skin concern.

    General instructions may include the following:

    • Applying tretinoin before bedtime is often recommended to avoid potential sunlight sensitivity during the day (sunburn).

    • You should apply sunscreen during the day, as tretinoin heightens skin sensitivity to sunlight. 

    • First, cleanse your skin thoroughly and ensure all cleanser has been washed away.

    • Lightly pat your skin with a towel or cloth until it is damp.

    • Apply a pea-sized amount of tretinoin to your fingers to gently massage it into your skin.

    • During application, avoid sensitive areas like the eyes, mouth, and mucous membranes around your nose.

    • Once it’s massaged into your skin, apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer to the entire face or area of application to help mitigate dryness and maintain skin hydration.

    • There is no need to wash off tretinoin in the morning, but you may wash your face if your skin is not irritated.


    Consistency is vital in this process, as tretinoin may take several weeks or months for visible improvements. Consulting with your doctor will ensure you have the most personalized guidance on the application for your skin type.

    Tretinoin comes with various strengths. Your doctor will help determine the correct dose for your skin concerns.

  • Tretinoin cream 0.025%

    Tretinoin cream 0.025% is a lower-concentration formulation recommended for beginners and those with sensitive skin. It contains 0.025% tretinoin and is often the starting point for training regimens. This gentle strength helps gradually introduce the skin to tretinoin’s effects and minimizes the risk of potential irritation. It’s usually prescribed to people with mild concerns like fine lines, uneven skin tone, and mild acne.

  • Tretinoin cream 0.05%

    Tretinoin cream 0.05% has a quicker and more noticeable effect than the 0.025% strength cream. It’s still a moderate-strength formulation and is ideal for tackling advanced signs of aging, moderate acne, and stubborn hyperpigmentation. 

    While potential side effects like dryness and irritation are more likely at a higher dose, proper use as instructed by your doctor will help you reap the benefits of this effective strength while minimizing unwanted reactions.

  • Tretinoin 0.1% cream

    Tretinoin 0.1% cream, containing a concentration of 0.1% tretinoin, is considered a high-strength formulation. This strength is typically prescribed for people needing more intensive treatment to see results with more severe skin concerns, such as very pronounced signs of aging, deep-set wrinkles, or resistant acne.

    When considering tretinoin cream 0.1%, consult your doctor or dermatologist to ensure this strength won’t cause adverse side effects based on your skin type and medical history.

  • Retin-A Microgel

    Retin-A Micro, available in a gel formulation, is a prescription medication containing tretinoin with a unique microsphere delivery system that can be a gentler approach to tackling acne than standard tretinoin. This innovative gel formulation releases tretinoin gradually, which helps to minimize irritation while also enhancing your skin’s tolerability. It’s an excellent alternative for people with sensitive skin or those with adverse reactions to higher strengths of tretinoin.

    The microspheres also offer potential benefits beyond reduced irritation and have been shown to improve absorption and the effectiveness of tretinoin in some people. While the 0.1% strength in Retin-A Micro is a higher concentration than some other tretinoin products, your doctor may still recommend it if you have more severe acne, like inflammatory papules or pustules.

  • Tretinoin strength chart

    Tretinoin cream 0.025% (low strength)
    • Suitable for beginners or those with sensitive skin

    • Offers a mild concentration for general skin maintenance

    • It may be used to address early signs of aging



    Tretinoin cream 0.05% (medium strength)
    • A step-up in concentration for enhanced efficacy

    • Addresses moderate acne concerns

    • Suitable for individuals looking for more significant skin benefits



    Tretinoin cream 0.1% (high strength)
    • It is considered a potent formulation for specific skin issues

    • Targets severe acne, stubborn dark spots, and more advanced signs of aging

    • Requires careful monitoring due to increased strength



    Retin-A Micro gel 0.1%
    • Utilizes microsphere technology for controlled release

    • Provides a higher-strength option for addressing various skin concerns

    • Suitable for individuals with more resistant skin conditions

  • Tretinoin gel vs. cream

    Tretinoin gel is a lighter, water-based formulation, which makes it a popular choice for oily or acne-prone skin. Its quick absorption rate is ideal for those who prefer a non-greasy feel. Using a gel instead of a cream can also help prevent clogged pores in people sensitive to cream products. The thicker cream offers additional hydration and barrier support for drier or sensitive skin types. 

    Both gel and cream can be equally gentle, but when choosing between them, consider your skin type, desired hydration level, and specific areas of concern. Consulting your dermatologist for personalized recommendations based on your needs is crucial for maximizing the benefits of tretinoin.

Tretinoin compared to other topical retinoids

  • Tretinoin vs. retinol: Tretinoin is a prescription-strength medication and is much more potent than over-the-counter retinol. Unlike retinol, tretinoin is already in the active form for the body to use. As a result, it starts working on your skin immediately. On average, tretinoin is approximately 20 times stronger than retinol, leading to a more pronounced effect on your skin. However, it is worth noting that tretinoin may also cause more side effects. While tretinoin requires a prescription from a doctor, retinol can be obtained over the counter and found in hundreds of skincare products.

  • Adapalene (Differin) vs. tretinoin: Adapalene (Differin) is tolerable and is often considered milder than tretinoin. It is particularly effective in treating acne and has a lower risk of irritation.

  • Tazarotene (Arazlo) vs. tretinoin: Tazarotene is recognized for treating acne and psoriasis. Tretinoin is more effective for psoriasis treatment when combined with another corticosteroid. It is more potent than tretinoin and may cause more irritation than at higher concentrations.

  • Isotretinoin vs. tretinoin: Isotretinoin is another type of retinoic acid, but it is an oral medication primarily used for severe acne, while tretinoin is a topical treatment. It does not improve signs of aging or hyperpigmentation.

  • Trifarotene (Akleif) vs. tretinoin: Trifarotene (Akleif) is a newer retinoid that can target more specific retinoic acid receptors in the body. It tends to be more tolerable than tretinoin because of this. Still, it is also much more expensive as no approved generic version is currently available in the United States.


In choosing between these retinoids, factors such as skin sensitivity, the severity of skin concerns, and individual preferences play a crucial role. You should always consult with your doctor to determine the most suitable option for your particular skincare regimen.

Pros and cons of tretinoin (Retin-A)

Tretinoin (Retin-A)

Pros

  • Effective acne treatment: Tretinoin has been proven effective for treating acne since 1971. It targets both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions, which provides comprehensive relief for people dealing with various forms of acne on the face and body.

  • Anti-aging benefits: Since the 1980s, tretinoin has been proven effective in reducing the signs of photoaging by diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. Its skin cell turnover effects have been shown to promote collagen production and promote a more youthful appearance. 

  • Improves skin texture: Tretinoin can help smooth skin texture by fostering cellular turnover and reducing skin lesions caused by acne.

  • Treats hyperpigmentation: Tretinoin is beneficial for addressing hyperpigmentation concerns, including dark spots, sun damage, and melasma. Its ability to increase skin cell turnover helps the older, darker, damaged skin cells shed and be replaced with new cells.

  • Minimizes pore size: Tretinoin helps reduce the size of enlarged pores caused by excess sebum production. Tretinoin helps reduce the size of sebaceous glands, which lowers the level of sebum production.

  • Prevents and clears blackheads and whiteheads: Tretinoin effectively prevents and removes both open and closed blackheads and whiteheads by helping unclog pores.

Cons

  • Initial irritation and dryness: Common side effects during the initial stages of tretinoin use include irritation, redness, and dryness. These effects are often part of the adjustment period known as tretinoin purge.

  • Photosensitivity: Tretinoin increases your skin's sensitivity to sunlight, and it’s essential to use sun protection throughout the day. You should be especially careful to apply sunscreen every two hours if exposed to direct sunlight to minimize the risk of sun-related issues.

  • May cause peeling: Some people may experience skin peeling, particularly in the early stages of tretinoin use. This is a common reaction as your skin undergoes the renewal process of skin cell turnover.

  • Requires gradual introduction: A gradual introduction of tretinoin is necessary to acclimate your skin and minimize adverse reactions. Abrupt use or high concentrations can increase irritation and sometimes harmful side effects.

  • Potential for hyperpigmentation in darker skin tones: Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from using tretinoin is possible in individuals with darker skin tones. To reduce your risk, you should carefully monitor this with your doctor or dermatologist.

  • Not safe during pregnancy: If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid tretinoin due to potential risks to the baby’s development. If you have plans to become pregnant and are using tretinoin, you must consult with your doctor about tretinoin alternatives.

Tretinoin side effects and risks and how to manage them

  • Tretinoin purge

    After starting on tretinoin, your skin may appear to worsen before it starts improving. As covered above, this is known as "purging." You may experience increased acne breakouts during this period as your skin adjusts to the medication. It's important to understand that this initial setback is temporary, and your skin typically exhibits positive changes with continued use.

    The tretinoin purge typically lasts two to six weeks, but its duration and intensity vary significantly. Monitoring with your doctor is crucial, and they might recommend temporary adjustments or medication breaks if needed.

    Managing side effects can help you navigate the purge smoothly. Start with a low tretinoin dose, and only begin increasing it under your doctor's guidance. Applying it at night and using a hydrating moisturizer can alleviate dryness and peeling. Always use sunscreen of at least 30 SPF daily and reapply every two hours when exposed to direct sunlight. If you experience persistent irritation, consider consulting your doctor about adjusting your dosage or retinoid alternatives.

    Even though it can be discouraging if your skin looks worse than before starting treatment, remember that the purge signifies your skin is actively renewing itself.

  • Common side effects

    Once you start to see improvement from the initial purge, there are still potential side effects with continued use of tretinoin. These can include:

    • Continuous skin peeling

    • Redness

    • Burning

    • Skin dryness


    Due to possible skin dryness, it’s important to use a moisturizer to help maintain skin hydration. You should avoid harsh skincare products, such as those containing alcohol or strong acids, as these can exacerbate skin dryness and cause more irritation.

    You should continue to check in with your doctor or dermatologist and discuss the severity of your side effects. You may need to lower your dosage or application frequency if you have more severe skin dryness and peeling.

  • Precautions and interactions

    Before starting with tretinoin, you should tell your doctor about any medication you are currently taking to avoid potential drug interactions. You should also inform them about any over-the-counter skincare products you are now using, as certain products may worsen the side effects of tretinoin. You should never apply tretinoin to irritated or broken skin because it can worsen inflammation and sensitivity.

    For pregnant women or those planning pregnancy, you should avoid using tretinoin as there are potential risks to the developing fetus. Please consult your doctor to discuss the safety and alternative options during this crucial time.

    As mentioned above, skin conditions like severe eczema or active rosacea may not be compatible with tretinoin. Always seek professional advice to determine the most appropriate course of action for your skin needs and ensure safe and effective tretinoin use tailored to your circumstances.

  • Using tretinoin (Retin-A) with other skincare products

    Your doctor will guide you on how to use other skincare products with tretinoin. This may include:

    • Tretinoin and benzoyl peroxide: You should avoid using tretinoin and benzoyl peroxide simultaneously as they may increase the risk of skin irritation. Consider using benzoyl peroxide in the morning and tretinoin in the evening.

    • Salicylic acid and tretinoin: Using salicylic acid alongside tretinoin can enhance both benefits. However, you will want to introduce them gradually to avoid excessive irritation, as they can cause skin dryness and irritation. A cleanser with salicylic acid before applying tretinoin is a good start.

    • Hyaluronic acid and tretinoin: Hyaluronic acid is a great companion to tretinoin because it is a ceramide that helps to fight skin dryness by protecting the skin barrier from water loss. 

    • Tretinoin and vitamin C: While both tretinoin and vitamin C offer skin benefits, using them together may increase sensitivity. Consider applying vitamin C in the morning and tretinoin in the evening.

    • Niacinamide and tretinoin: Niacinamide is another great ceramide that helps to keep your skin hydrated. Lots of high-quality moisturizers include niacinamide as an ingredient, and you can use these moisturizers to hydrate and protect the skin after applying tretinoin.

Tretinoin (Retin-A) FAQs

  • Does tretinoin expire?

    Yes, like most medications, tretinoin does have an expiration date. It's essential to check the packaging for the expiration date and avoid using expired products.

  • Does tretinoin help with acne scars?

    Tretinoin is effective in promoting skin renewal and may help reduce the appearance of acne scars over time. Consistent use is vital for noticeable results.

  • Does tretinoin help with acne?

    Yes, tretinoin is commonly prescribed to treat acne. It works by unclogging pores, promoting normal sebum flow, and increasing skin cell turnover, which helps prevent and treat acne.

  • How long does it take for tretinoin to work?

    The time it takes for tretinoin to show noticeable results can vary, but improvement in skin texture and reduction in acne may be seen within a few weeks to months. Patience is crucial.

  • Can I use tretinoin every night?

    The frequency of tretinoin use depends on your skin’s tolerance to the medication. It's often recommended to start with less frequent applications and gradually increase as your skin adjusts. Consult your doctor to determine the best treatment plan based on your skin type.

  • How long should I leave tretinoin on my face?

    You should apply tretinoin at night after washing your face. It is commonly left on the skin overnight, but you should discuss the specific duration with your doctor.

  • Is tretinoin the same as retinol?

    No, tretinoin and retinol are different. Tretinoin is a prescription-strength retinoid, while retinol is available over-the-counter. Tretinoin is generally more potent and requires medical supervision.

  • Is Retin-A safe?

    Retin-A has been used by doctors and dermatologists to treat acne since the 1970s and is considered safe. However, it may cause side effects, and it's important to follow recommended guidelines from your doctor or dermatologist.

  • Is tretinoin compatible with chemical peel treatments?

    Tretinoin may increase skin sensitivity, so you should be cautious when considering cosmetic procedures like waxing, laser treatments, or chemical peels. It's crucial to inform your esthetician or specialist about your tretinoin use before undergoing such treatments.

How to get tretinoin online

Step 1

Book an appointment to discuss tretinoin.

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Step 2

Talk to your doctor about your skin concerns online.

Visit with a doctor on your smartphone or computer.

Step 3

Pick up your tretinoin medication, if prescribed.

Prescriptions are provided at the doctor’s discretion. We can send prescriptions to any local pharmacy.

Tretinoin pricing details

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Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

  1. FDA. Accessed on December 21, 2023 at https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2002/16921s21s22s25lbl.pdf

  2. DailyMed. Accessed on December 21, 2023 at https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/fda/fdaDrugXsl.cfm?setid=9556d73d-c573-4e0a-9feb-764ce2d1107b&type=display

  3. Harvard Health Publishing. “Do retinoids really reduce wrinkles?” Accessed on December 21, 2023 at https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/do-retinoids-really-reduce-wrinkles

  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Accessed on December 21, 2023 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557478/

  5. MedlinePlus. Accessed on December 21, 2023 at  https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a608032.html

  6. JAMA. Accessed on December 26, 2023 at https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/555647

  7. Advances in Therapy. Accessed on December 26, 2023 at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12325-022-02319-7

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