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Alternatives to Retin-A

author image Jared Paventi
Jared Paventi is the communications director for a disease-related nonprofit in the Northeast. He holds a master's degree from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication and a bachelor's degree from St. Bonaventure University. He also writes a food appreciation blog: Al Dente.
Alternatives to Retin-A
Retin-A is used to treat facial wrinkles and acne. Photo Credit: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

The topical cream Retin-A, also known by its generic name tretinoin, is used for a variety of skin conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, Retin-A is manufactured by Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals and prescribed as a treatment for severe acne, skin discoloration and as a wrinkle reducer. Its active ingredient, vitamin A, draws dead skin cells to the surface and stimulates the growth of new skin cells. This improves the texture and firmness of skin while preventing pore-clogging acne. People with sensitive skin find Retin-A's side effects--peeling, extreme dryness, painful skin--too much. As a result, a market for alternatives to the cream has flourished.

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Made by Spear Pharmaceuticals, Refissa is a Retin-A alternative made with tretinoin. Its chemical construction stimulates the body's production of the connective tissues in the facial area, tightening and firming the skin. As a result, pores push dead skins to the surface and the skin's finer lines disappear. Refissa also has a emollient-based moisturizer that absorbs water from the air to minimize skin dryness.


Renova was created by the same company that manufactures Retin-A. Clinically, it has the same chemical constitution as its competitor Refissa, according to Spear Pharmaceuticals. Tretinoin firms skin, reducing lines and acne. The emollient moisturizes and reduces redness.


Valeant Pharmaceuticals' Atralin gel works much like Refissa and Renova, in that it delivers a dosage of tretinoin with a moisturizer to reduce dryness. Although the others use an emollient, Atralin's moisturizer is a glycerine-based humectant. Humectant moisturizers act as a sealant, preventing moisture from escaping the skin.


The Avita cream, made by Mylan Bertek Pharmaceuticals, is less potent than its competitors. Atralin, Refissa, Renova and Retin-A each deliver a 0.05 percent dose of tretinoin; Avita has a 0.025 percent concentration. The topical cream is approved for the treatment of mild to moderate acne and, as a result of its potency, causes less of the dryness and peeling associated with tretinoin use.

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