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Rosacea Friendly or Bust: Tretinoin & Rosacea

When you have rosacea, you've got to be careful with what you use on your skin. So if you're rosacea-prone and wondering if it's okay to use the mighty tretinoin -- keep scrolling to find out.

Read on

So, you’ve heard about the great benefits of tretinoin for anti-aging and stubborn acne, and wonder if rosacea-prone folks can benefit too. Well, if you’re excited about the rewards of this popular retinoid, you might not like the answer. If you, like 14 million other Americans, are trying to keep rosacea symptoms under control, then tretinoin is definitely something you’ll want to avoid. 

In this article, we’ll get into why those who are rosacea-prone should avoid tretinoin (and the brand name Retin-A). This article is part of our series called Rosacea-Friendly or Bust where we cover what ingredients are rosacea-friendly and which are likely to cause a flare-up. 

Keep scrolling to learn more about why you should avoid tretinoin if you deal with rosacea. 


Tretinoin and Rosacea aren’t a great mix

Don’t get us wrong, tretinoin is great. We are sort of obsessed with it. 

It helps boost collagen production, speeds up skin cell turnover rate, smooths over wrinkles, and is considered a great treatment for acne. We’d be lying if we said tretinoin was bad (there’s so much to love).

But, at Strut Health, we do not recommend tretinoin for those with rosacea. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends steering clear of all resurfacing acids like glycolic, lactic, salicylic, and malic acid. Tretinoin is another powerful surfacing agent. 

Read more: Rosacea-Friendly or Bust: Salicylic Acid & Rosacea

For those without rosacea, tretinoin can initially cause redness, irritation, dryness, peeling, flaking, itchiness, and irritation of the face. These are symptoms those with rosacea try very hard to combat. 

Simply put, tretinoin may worsen rosacea symptoms. 


Tretinoin and the rosacea-prone skin barrier

Using tretinoin can worsen rosacea simply because it’s just too harsh. Even for some without rosacea, tretinoin can prove to be too powerful. 

One concern with using tretinoin with rosacea, and any resurfacing product, is the effect it may have on the delicate skin barrier. Studies have shown that those with rosacea have profoundly compromised skin barrier function. Which makes harsh exfoliation with rosacea a bad idea. 

Learn more: Skin Barrier Function & Repair: It's Essential For Healthy Skin

Over-exfoliation, with acids, scrubs, or antioxidants, can weaken the skin barrier function of anyone. Imagine how it may affect someone with a skin barrier that is already weakened. 

When your skin barrier function is compromised, the very last thing you’ll want to do is exfoliate using harsh chemicals. This is a big reason why tretinoin does not mix well with rosacea-prone skin. 


So, is tretinoin bad for rosacea?

Well, it’s not good for it. Those with rosacea should stay away from harsh soaps, harsh chemicals, and intense exfoliation. Tretinoin certainly falls into the “avoid” category. 

Tretinoin is a very powerful product that can cause redness, irritation, and peeling on those with the toughest skin. 

Rosacea often causes sensitive skin that’s reactive to various external triggers. If a sunscreen could trigger a flare-up, tretinoin is definitely something to be wary of. 

Tretinoin, simply because of its powerful nature and resurfacing abilities, could be considered a trigger. 


But, you’ve heard of tretinoin being used for rosacea subtype 2  

We know, the internet can be a confusing place. 

It’s true that some doctors will use tretinoin to help reduce acne-like breakouts in rosacea subtype 2. This will likely only happen when antibiotics or other treatments fail. Studies are pretty limited when it comes to the efficacy of tretinoin and rosacea.

Read more: The Top Rosacea Medications: The Latest in Rosacea Treatments

When mingling tretinoin and rosacea, the good comes with the bad. 

Tretinoin may improve the number of pustules over time, but it can worsen all other rosacea symptoms. Tretinoin may worsen redness, flushing, dryness, irritation, and the appearance of broken capillaries veins. 

Tretinoin has been used for rosacea, but it’s not a recommended treatment path. There are anti-inflammatory properties to tretinoin, but it’s not usually the first option.

But, of course, if your doctor has you on tretinoin, and you have rosacea, they have likely weighed the pros and cons and are closely monitoring your progress. Never start, stop, or change a treatment without consulting with your doctor first.

If you deal with subtype 2 breakouts, it may be best to consider rosacea-friendly ingredients like azelaic acid and metronidazole. 

Learn more about Azelaic Acid for rosacea

Learn more about Metronidazole for rosacea


Strut Health creates custom compound rosacea prescription creams

If you’ve been considering prescription rosacea solutions to reduce pesky flare-ups -- check out our custom formulas. Here at Strut Health, we focus on rosacea-friendly ingredients to pinpoint symptoms for subtypes 1 and 2.  

If you want a bespoke rosacea cream, simply complete a questionnaire-based online doctor's consultation to see if our treatments are right for you. 

If our doctors find this is a good fit for you, we’ll ship your custom prescription to your doorstep.



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