Topical retinoids for acne

Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2016 Jun;35(2):50-6. doi: 10.12788/j.sder.2016.024.


Topical retinoids are currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of acne vulgaris in nonpregnant, nonlactating patients 12 years of age and older. Their efficacy, safety, and tolerability are well documented for inflammatory and noninflammatory acne with studies repeatedly demonstrating a decrease in the number of lesions, significant improvement in acne severity, improvement in the cosmetic appearance of acne, and the prevention of acne lesions through microcomedone formation. There is some variability between prescription retinoid products regarding efficacy, safety, and tolerability; with erythema, peeling, and dryness being common, potential side effects. Due to their efficacious and safe profile, topical retinoids remain the first-line treatment for acne vulgaris.

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Adapalene / administration & dosage*
  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Nicotinic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Retinoids / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tretinoin / administration & dosage*


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Nicotinic Acids
  • Retinoids
  • Adapalene
  • Tretinoin
  • tazarotene