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What Is Retin-A Micro Used for?

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 5/4/2022

If you’re dealing with acne, there are a variety of over-the-counter products you can try, like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. But these over-the-counter skin care products don’t work for everyone. If you’re dealing with tougher skin issues, a product like Retin-A Micro® might be just what the doctor ordered. 

Retin-A Micro is a gel formula that can be applied right on top of acne vulgaris to help diminish blemishes. 

Along with acne, there are a few other uses that Retin-A Micro may be used for. Regardless of what you want to use it for, you should know that it will require a prescription.

Interested in learning more about this type of topical treatment? Let’s start from the beginning.

What Is Retin-A Micro Used For?

Retin-A Micro is a brand-name version of tretinoin, which is in a class of medications called retinoids. These are commonly used to treat acne. 

Retinoids can reduce acne lesions, reduce the shedding of dead skin cells and lower inflammation associated with breakouts.  

Retin-A Micro can be used to treat different types of acne. Some examples of acne types it can treat are blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodular, and cystic

While acne is perhaps the most common thing that Retin-A Micro is used to treat, retinoids may also reduce the signs of damage caused by exposure to sunlight and help with fine lines and wrinkles

You may be more familiar with another form of this prescription skin product called Retin-A®. It comes in a gel and a cream. Retin-A Micro only comes in a gel formula, which comes in strengths of 0.1%, 0.08%, 0.06% and 0.04%. 

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How to Use Retin-A Micro

Retin-A Micro or tretinoin gel is often used at bedtime. This skin care product should only be applied to clean skin. 

To apply this medication, wash both your hands and your face with a mild cleanser. If you use medicated soaps on your face or hands, check with your healthcare provider before mixing the topical application of Retin-A Micro with a medicated cleanser. 

Once you’ve washed your face, let it dry completely — ideally, for about 20 minutes. Then, use clean fingers to dab on the topical treatment. Be sure not to over-apply it by using just enough to cover blemishes with a thin layer of the Retin-A Micro. 

You should also be careful not to get it in your eyes (it could cause eye irritation!). You should also avoid your mouth and the corners of your nose. Once you apply Retin-A Micro, wash your hands thoroughly — you also don’t want to accidentally transfer any to your vaginal area. 

Side Effects of Retin-A Micro

Wondering if there are any side effects associated with the topical application of Retin-A Micro? While not everyone will experience side effects with this prescription topical medication, there are some common adverse effects associated with it. They include:

  • Stinging

  • Red or scaling skin

  • Swelling

  • Skin irritation

  • Increase in acne

  • Blistering

  • Dry skin

  • Peeling

People with sensitive facial skin may be more likely to experience these adverse effects after topical application, including severe skin irritation. If you experience any of these, they should subside as your skin gets used to the medication. If your skin irritation does not subside, you should contact a healthcare professional. 

There are also a few more serious side effects associated with using tretinoin — including itching, hives and pain or discomfort. These are rare, but it’s still good to be aware of them. If you find yourself experiencing severe irritation, contact a medical professional as soon as possible. 

You should also be careful mixing Retin-A Micro with other topical treatments. For example, it is not advised to use it with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid unless you check with a healthcare professional first.

Is Retin-A Micro Effective? 

One of the beneficial effects of Retin-A Micro (aka tretinoin) is that it can be helpful in combating acne. There’s no one cure for everyone — different things work for different people. However, there is evidence to back up the effectiveness of tretinoin via topical application.

Research published in the International Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology found tretinoin to be helpful. When used topically, it has been shown to diminish inflammatory and noninflammatory acne lesions, as well as unclog pores and help with acne scars

As for what strength is most helpful, a range can work. A study of 156 people between the ages of 12 and 41 looked at the efficacy of a tretinoin gel microsphere in two strengths — 0.1% and 0.04%, respectively. It was determined that both strengths reduced acne lesions. However, the 0.1% strength was slightly more effective after just two weeks of use. 

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Treating Acne with Retin-A Micro

When it comes to using the gel form of tretinoin (aka Retin-A Micro), it is often prescribed in the treatment of acne. While it won’t “cure” it, this topical gel can help diminish the appearance of pimples and blemishes. 

The generic name for Retin-A Micro is tretinoin gel. There are different concentrations of tretinoin, including 0.1%, 0.08%, 0.06% and 0.04% — all formulations have been shown to be effective. 

In addition to acne, tretinoin may sometimes be used to treat dark spots (like the kind caused by exposure to sunlight), fine lines and wrinkles. 

There are some common side effects associated with Retin-A Micro — including irritation, dry skin and peeling. These things should go away as your skin gets used to the medication after a few days of treatment (or possibly a few weeks). 

During that time, you may want to avoid using abrasive soaps, as they could further irritate your skin. 

Oh, and if you notice anything, it’s always a good idea to check in with a healthcare provider. 

Health professionals will be able to monitor how you react to Retin-A Micro, determine if you’re having a rare allergic reaction and make adjustments if needed. 

If you’re interested in seeing if Retin-A Micro or another type of prescription skin product could be a good fit for your skin issues, consider scheduling an online consultation with a medical professional. 

5 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Retinoids. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aocd.org/page/Retinoidstopical
  2. Acne. (2020). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12233-acne
  3. Leyden, J., Stein-Gold, L., Weiss, J., (2017). Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay for Therapy for Acne. Dermatology and Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574737/
  4. Khemani, U., Khopkar, U., Nayak. C., (2016). A comparison study of the clinical efficacy and safety of topical adapalene gel (0.1%) and tretinoin cream (0.025%) in the treatment of acne vulgaris. International Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology. Retrieved from https://www.ijbcp.com/index.php/ijbcp/article/view/311
  5. Retin-A Micro®. (n.d.). Bausch Health. https://www.bauschhealth.com/Portals/25/Pdf/PI/Retin-A-Micro-Gel-PI.pdf

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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