Skin Care

Does Tretinoin Help With Acne Scars? 

Explore the effectiveness of tretinoin in skincare and find the answer to this common query.

Written by Priyanka Sonkushre

On Feb 5, 2024 – 7 minutes read

Does Tretinoin Help With Acne Scars

One of the commonly prescribed drugs for the treatment of hyperpigmentation and acne scars is tretinoin. But does tretinoin help with acne scars, for sure? Absolutely! It does. When over-the-counter treatments fail to deliver the desired results, dermatologists often resort to tretinoin to improve the appearance and texture of skin affected by acne scarring. 

For a better perspective, let’s dive deep into this subject and discuss various aspects related to tretinoin and its effectiveness in treating acne scars. 

What Is Tretinoin?

Does Tretinoin Help With Hyperpigmentation

Tretinoin is the active ingredient present in branded medications like Retin-A, Tretin-X, and Avita. It belongs to the group of “topical retinoids,” which are derived from vitamin A, and is a popular choice for treating skin conditions like acne, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and acne scars. 

The drug is available in the form of gels, creams, and lotions for topical use, which means you can apply it directly to the affected areas of your skin. 

As tretinoin is a prescription medication, it is not available over the counter, and you must obtain a doctor’s prescription to be able to purchase it from your local pharmacy. 

How Does It Work For Acne Scars?

Sure, the answer to “Does tretinoin help with acne scars?” is yes, but how does this medication actually work? 

Tretinoin helps improve the appearance of acne scars via a three-step process. The first step involves exfoliation, wherein the medication speeds up the skin cell turnover. It unclogs pores, helps shed old and dead skin cells, and cures acne problems like chest acne

Then it boosts collagen production, which is essential for maintaining skin elasticity and smooth texture. And finally, it facilitates the replacement of scarred tissue with new, healthy cells, making the skin appear smoother and rejuvenated. 

How To Use Tretinoin For Acne Scars And Dark Spots? 

You will receive specific instructions from your dermatologist on how to use tretinoin(1) cream and the quantity to be applied. Make sure you follow your doctor’s advice and try not to experiment on your own. The general guidelines on how to use tretinoin for acne scars are as follows:

  1. At bedtime, wash the affected area with mild soap and warm water to get rid of dirt and sweat. 
  2. Pat dry using a fresh towel and leave it for 20–30 minutes so the skin gets completely dry. 
  3. Then, wash your hands with soap, wipe them dry, and take a pea-sized quantity of tretinoin on one of your fingertips. 
  4. Apply the medication and spread it gently, forming a thin film on the affected area. Leave it overnight. 

When using potent medications like tretinoin, always use sunscreen when stepping out to protect your skin from sun damage. And moisturize your skin well throughout the day to relieve dry skin associated with its use. 

Benefits Of Tretinoin

Tretinoin has not one but many benefits for the skin. When used as suggested by the doctor, you can expect:

Tretinoin Acne Scars Before & After

Tretinoin Price

When it comes to pricing, tretinoin can cost anywhere from $25 to over $100. This difference in price is attributed to the type of formulation, the quantity of product, the strength of the medication, and the pharmacy you are getting it from. When used responsibly, a tube of tretinoin will last for quite some time, bringing down your per-month cost of the medication. 

Side Effects Of Tretinoin

Although tretinoin is an approved drug, you may experience some mild side effects, especially when you begin the treatment. Commonly occurring side effects include:

  • Itching
  • Redness 
  • Skin peeling
  • Excessive dryness
  • Stinging or burning sensation 
  • Skin feels unusually warm to the touch
  • Lighter skin tone at the site of application 

These side effects normally subside after a few days when your body gets used to the new medication. It is, therefore, important to start with low-strength tretinoin and then move to higher-strength if needed. But this must be done only after consulting your dermatologist. 

In some cases, people may develop an allergic reaction if they are sensitive to tretinoin. Be extra vigilant when you use this medication. Stop use immediately and reach out to your doctor if you notice any side effects or develop any unusual and concerning signs after beginning its use. 

Does Tretinoin Help With Wrinkles And Dark Scars?

Tretinoin can improve the appearance of relatively new acne scars and fine wrinkles that appear on the skin. However, it does not help in getting rid of them completely. 

Does Tretinoin Help With All Types Of Dark Spots Or Just Acne Scars?

In addition to acne scars, tretinoin may help in the treatment of dark spots, especially those caused by the damaging effects of the sun. Your doctor is the right person to determine if this medication will work for you or not. 

Does Tretinoin Help With Stretch Marks?

Yes. Studies reveal that tretinoin can significantly improve the appearance of stretch marks if they were formed not very long ago.  

Does Tretinoin Help With Hyperpigmentation And Melasma?

Yes, again! Clinical evidence suggests that tretinoin is effective in treating melasma(2) and hyperpigmentation. However, the results are not immediate and may take some time to appear. 

Does Tretinoin Help With Old Scars?

Tretinoin is more effective on new scars as compared to old ones. Using the medication may improve the look of old scars over time. But be mindful that it may not get you the results you were hoping for. 

Other Treatments For Acne Scars And Dark Spots

In case tretinoin does not suit you or is not getting you the desired results, you might think of trying out something else for treating your acne scars. OTC products containing AHAs, vitamin C, or salicylic acid can be of some help here. 

But in case you are looking for professional skincare treatments, your dermatologist might suggest chemical peels, dermal fillers, or laser therapy if they think you are the right candidate to benefit from them.  


1. How long does tretinoin take to work on acne scars?

Experts say that it can take a few weeks to several months of consistent use for tretinoin to bring about visible improvement in the appearance of acne scars. 

2. Which is better for acne scars – tretinoin or retinol?

As tretinoin is more potent than retinol, it is considered a better choice by many dermatologists for acne scar treatment. 

3. Is tretinoin good for pimple marks?

Yes, tretinoin is good for acne-related marks on the skin. Whether you have had chest acne, neck acne, or pimples on your face, tretinoin can fade the marks and improve the overall appearance of your skin. 

4. Will tretinoin remove dark spots?

Tretinoin may not remove dark spots completely, but it can fade them and make your skin look better. 

5. What happens if you stop using tretinoin?

You may again experience breakouts if you stop using tretinoin. This happens because your pores start to clog again, resulting in new acne and subsequent scarring.

6. What percentage of tretinoin is best for acne scars?

Your skincare specialist is the best person to answer what percentage of tretinoin will best suit you. You can expect to start with low-strength formulations of 0.01%–0.025% and later shift to a higher strength based on your specific needs. 

7. What kind of acne is tretinoin best for?

Tretinoin is suited for mild to moderate acne but is also used for severe conditions like cystic acne. 

8. Why do I get pimples with tretinoin?

Pimples are often the result of “tretinoin purging,” when your skin learns to get used to the medication and undergoes a cleansing process. But this phase is temporary and usually gets better in a few weeks. 

9. Does tretinoin help with scars and dark spots on the body?

Yes, tretinoin can improve scars and dark spots present in other areas of the body as well. 

10. Should I use tretinoin every night?

You can use the medication every night once your skin gets used to it. Until then, stick to your established skincare regimen and make the switch only after consulting your doctor. 

11. How do I know if tretinoin is working?

Be patient and apply tretinoin religiously. You will notice smoother and even skin after a few weeks once your skin stops purging and begins to repair effectively.

Does Tretinoin Help With Acne Scars?: The Conclusion

Tretinoin is an effective prescription medication for the treatment of acne scars. It is as popular as hydrocortisone for acne treatment. When used as directed, tretinoin can significantly fade acne scarring and make way for smooth, clear skin. 

However, it is important to note that tretinoin may not work for everyone. But before you jump to another alternative, give it some time to work on your skin. Stay consistent, and you will get the desired results sooner or later.

  1. National Library of Medicine. (n.d).Tretinoin. [Online] Available at:
  2. MedlinePlus. (n.d).Melasma. [Online] Available at:

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Priyanka is a women’s health advisor with a wealth of knowledge and experience in the medical field. She has long been a trusted source of guidance for women seeking comprehensive healthcare solutions.

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