Are there severe side effects of using Tretinoin cream?Acne & Scars
hi Dr Ethan,
Thank you for writing in simple layman terms of your personal experiences for e various procedures you have done personally,
Being unaffiliated to the clinics / doctors in the blogs also give readers, like myself, confidence that e reviews are more neutral hence trustworthy.
Went to the polyclinic to request for Tretinoin cream and the doctor seemed reluctant to prescribe them to me.
She said that I have to go to a skin specialist to assess if its suitable for me.
And she cautioned me that it has severe side effects, including genetic mutations which freaked me out slightly (as am trying for a baby with my wife currently).
May I know are the side effects that severe?
As Dr Ethan correctly mentioned, topical tretinoin cream causes no severe side effects, even if you and your wife are trying for a baby. It is generally safe for use.
Common side-effects include:
- Skin irritation, especially when they are first used. This is more likely in those with sensitive skin, resulting in stinging. Excessive use results in redness, swelling, peeling and blistering in treated areas. It may cause or aggravate eczema.
- By peeling off the top layer of skin, they may increase the chance of sunburn.
- Some people have reported a flare of acne in the first few weeks of treatment. This usually settles with continued use.
Hope that this helps!
Dr Justin Boey
Thanks for your kind comments! Yes, the goal of this website is indeed to offer an unaffiliated medical perspective.
In answer to your question:
No, topical tretinoin cream causes no severe side effects, even if you and your wife are trying for a baby. In men, the only side effect is some skin sensitivity to sunlight. It definitely does not cause genetic mutations in men, or potentially your baby, if you are currently trying for a baby with your wife (ie teratogenic). This is because the skin absorption rate of tretinoin cream into your blood is way too low.
In women, even though there’s also no evidence to show it causes mutations, dermatologists and other doctors would recommend NOT to use topical tretinoin if they were trying for a baby.
You can check out a recent 2016 study on topical tretinoin, supporting what I’ve explained here:
Having said that, doctors tend to err on the side of caution when it’s a drug or medicine that they are not familiar with (myself included!). When I asked my own polyclinic friend, she also said that she would not prescribe tretinoin cream!
Both myself and a consultant dermatologist friend I double checked with would have no qualms about prescribing it, especially for men. Perhaps the polyclinic doctor was also concerned that your wife may start using it?
My guess is that if you either go to a private clinic which sees a lot of skin patients, or the NSC – you’d be much more likely to get your tretinoin cream prescription!