Topical tretinoin has been a standard treatment for acne vulgaris for more than 4 decades. While tretinoin has demonstrated proven efficacy in the treatment of acne lesions, it also is associated with the potential for skin irritation. Newer formulations have been designed to optimize both the drug concentration and the delivery vehicle with the aim to enable clinicians to provide increasingly effective acne treatment that minimizes irritation. These therapies include formulations with varying concentrations of tretinoin and vehicles that utilize a microsponge delivery system, hydrogels and micronized tretinoin, or propolymers. The purpose of this review is to evaluate different formulations and combinations of tretinoin in the treatment of acne vulgaris. While these advanced formulations were designed for controlled release of active ingredient, and have the potential to reduce cutaneous irritation relative to standard tretinoin cream and gel formulations, there is a need for comparative studies to evaluate the relative benefits of each of these advanced tretinoin formulations in optimizing acne treatment.