Tazarotene for acne Review

Tazarotene is a derivative of vitamin A that is prescribed as a topical gel to treat acne. The concentration of tazarotene for acne is usually 0.1% or 0.5% in gels or creams such as ‘Tazorac’. It is said to help prevent clogging of pores and therefore aid in the treatment of inflammatory acne.   Another acne product that contains tazarotene is ‘Avage’. There could be other brand names for this medication too.

Topical retinoids such as tazarotene are used in the treatment of mild to moderately severe acne. They help in preventing blackheads and whiteheads. 

How should Tazarotene it be used?

Tazarotene for acne is meant only for external use.  This topical gel, cream or liquid is usually applied at night and you must wash affected areas 20-30 minutes before application.

Apply a thin layer to cover acne lesions alone. It must not be applied on unaffected areas. Wash your hands immediately after use. If you forget a dose and it is time to apply the next one, do so and skip the first. Do not use two doses at once.   The affected areas need not be bandaged unless the doctor recommends it. Your doctor will also tell you how much and how the medicine is to be used. 

Benefits of Tazarotene

Tazarotene is a synthetic retinoid that is prescribed when other medications have failed to clear acne. It is very effective in treating mild to severe acne, blackheads and whiteheads.   It can also help treat acne by influencing skin cell growth. 

Tazarotene works well when combined with topical antibiotics to reduce severity and frequency of acne outbreaks. It helps to unclog pores and this provides easy access to topical antibiotics that can enter the hair follicles and fight the P.acnes bacteria, which causes inflammation and infection. Oral antibiotics or benzoyl peroxide can also be used with tazarotene.

Limitations of Tazarotene

Tazarotene is meant only for certain types of acne. It produces a few side effects that must be carefully monitored. There are also certain precautions, which must be followed for the safe use of topical retinoids. This medication cannot be used unless prescribed by the doctor. Do not share it with anyone else.   Acne symptoms can take time to show an improvement (at least 4 weeks). Sometimes the symptoms could get worse before they improve. 

Possible Side effects

Some minor side effects of tazarotene for acne are:

  • Burning or stinging sensation
  • Skin irritation
  • Dry skin
  • Peeling
  • Itchiness
  • Scaling
  • Skin inflammation

If patients develop an allergic reaction to tazarotene, they can demonstrate the following symptoms:

  • Hives
  • Severe rashes
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, mouth or tongue
  • Very severe itching, burning and redness
  • Swelling of feet or hands

These symptoms rarely occur when using tazarotene. However, you must go to the nearest hospital if you develop these and other severe reactions. 

Precautions with Tazarotene

Tazarotene for acne must not be used if you are allergic to tazarotene or by pregnant women. Women who use tazarotene products acne treatmentmust ensure they use effective birth control to avoid getting pregnant for topical retinoids can harm the unborn fetus. Patients may need to get tested for pregnancy or allowed to start tazarotene immediately after a menstrual period as a further safety measure.   Breastfeeding women must inform their doctor who will decide on safety issues. Tazarotene can cause sensitivity to the sun, cold or windy weather. Protect yourself during such climates and use an adequate sunscreen when going out. You must also avoid tanning beds and sun lamps when using tazarotene to treat acne. 

Drug interaction
Inform your doctor about all medications such as vitamin A supplements, antibiotics, diuretics, sulfa drugs etc., you are using. These also include OTC medications, vitamins and supplements or herbal products. Other topical acne medications or cosmetics must not be used on areas treated by tazarotene for acne. Products, which cause skin irritation or dryness such as hair removal products, exfoliating products, medicated shampoos or soaps or perm solutions, must be avoided.  

Tazarotene must be stored at room temperature away from heat and light and in its original packing. It must be kept away from children or pets. It must not be poured down the drain or flushed out unless the label gives these specific disposal instructions. Properly discard the product once you have finished with it or beyond expiry date. 


Although tazarotene for acne is not recommended for pregnant women, if precautions are followed, it is a very effective treatment of acne. By unclogging pores, it helps other medications like antibiotics to enter the open pores and kill the infection. While 10-30% of patients do develop mild side effects, these disappear quickly. Improvement can be seen within a few weeks.