If you’re looking for acne treatment, your doctor may suggest Tazorac (tazarotene) for you.
Tazorac is a prescription medication that’s used to treat acne in adults and in children ages 12 years and older.
Tazorac is a topical medication, which means it’s applied to the affected area of your skin. Typically, you should apply it to your affected skin once a day, at nighttime. For treating acne,* the cream and the gel both come in one strength: 0.1%.
Tazorac’s active ingredient is tazarotene. It belongs to the retinoid drug class. (A drug class is a group of medications that work in a similar way.) Retinoids are similar to vitamin A.
Tazorac cream is also available in a generic form called tazarotene. This generic is available in one strength: 0.1%. (Generics have the same active ingredient as brand-name drugs but typically cost less.)
This article gives details on Tazorac and its use for managing acne. You can also see this in-depth article for more information about Tazorac.
* The Tazorac cream and gel also come in a strength of 0.05%. But that strength is used for plaque psoriasis, not acne.
Tazorac isn’t approved to treat pitted acne scars. But using the Tazorac cream or gel to treat your acne may limit scarring by keeping acne blemishes from forming or getting worse.
Your doctor may prescribe Tazorac
If you have scars from acne, talk with your doctor about the best treatment options for you.
* In this study, people used the 0.01% strength of Tazorac gel. The gel also comes in a strength of 0.05%, but that strength is used for plaque psoriasis, not acne.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about using Tazorac for acne.
Does Tazorac treat cystic acne?
Cystic acne occurs when oil, skin cells, or bacteria get trapped in your hair follicles and pores. This leads to nodules (lumps) under your skin that may become red or discolored, inflamed (swollen), or painful. These lumps are often filled with pus. Cystic acne may also leave pitting or scars after the lumps heal. Cystic acne is more common in people with oily skin or unbalanced hormones.
Although the Tazorac cream can treat cystic acne, it’s not recommended for use by itself. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that topical retinoid drugs (such as Tazorac) be used with other treatments for cystic acne in teens and young adults. (A topical drug is applied to the affected area of your skin.)
If you have cystic acne, talk with your doctor about your treatment options.
Is the Tazorac acne cream or the gel a better option for me?
The Tazorac cream and gel are both effective acne treatments. But you and your doctor may choose one form over the other, depending on your needs.
The cream may be a better option if you:
- Have severe breakouts, such as cystic acne, or have acne in areas other than your face, such as back acne. In these situations, the cream is recommended because the gel form is only meant to be used for mild to moderate acne that affects your face.
- Have dry skin or have side effects, such as flaking or excessive peeling, from using the Tazorac gel. The cream is an oil-based form of Tazorac that’s more moisturizing.
On the other hand, the gel may be a better option if you:
- Have mild to moderate breakouts that only affect your face.
- Have oily skin and would prefer a more easily absorbed, water-based form of Tazorac.
Is Tazorac the same drug as over-the-counter Differin?
No, Tazorac and over-the-counter (OTC) Differin aren’t the same drugs. Tazorac contains the active ingredient tazarotene, and Differin contains adapalene.
Both drugs also come as a cream and gel in different strengths. But you can buy Differin gel OTC without a prescription. Like the Tazorac cream or gel, it’s used to treat acne in adults and in children ages 12 years and older. And typically, you should apply either drug to the affected skin once a day, at nighttime.
Even though Tazorac and Differin are alike, they aren’t exactly the same. Talk with your doctor about whether either of these treatments may be right for you.
Can I use Tazorac with skin products that contain retinol?
Not usually, no. Tazorac contains the active ingredient tazarotene. This is a retinoid drug that’s made from vitamin A. Retinol that’s found in many OTC skin products for wrinkles or aging is also a retinoid drug.
If you apply Tazorac and products containing retinol to the same areas of your skin, it raises your risk for side effects. These side effects could include sun sensitivity and skin that’s peeling, red or discolored, dry, or irritated.
Before using other skin products with Tazorac, talk with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure they’re safe to use together.
In two studies, the Tazorac cream was found to be effective at treating acne that affects the face.
In addition, two studies found Tazorac gel to be effective at treating mild to moderate acne that affects the face.
Also, American Academy of Dermatology guidelines states that retinoid drugs (such as Tazorac) are effective topical treatments for acne. (A topical drug is applied to the affected area of your skin.)
To learn if Tazorac is right for you, talk with your doctor. You can also read Tazorac’s patient brochure to learn more about its effectiveness for acne. The brochure also includes before-and-after photos of people who’ve used Tazorac for acne.
Using Tazorac may cause side effects in some people. These side effects can be mild or serious.
The lists below include some of the main side effects that have been reported in people using Tazorac for acne.* For information about other possible side effects of the drug, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks and reviews side effects of the medication. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Tazorac, visit MedWatch.
* Tazorac is also approved to treat another condition. It’s important to note that side effects from Tazorac may differ depending on the condition it’s being used to treat.
What are Tazorac’s mild side effects?
Like all drugs, Tazorac may cause mild side effects in some people.
Mild side effects that have been reported with Tazorac affect the skin. These include:
- painful, burning, or stinging sensations
- redness or discoloration
- swelling where you applied the drug
In many cases, mild side effects from the drug are temporary. Some side effects may be easy to manage, too. But if side effects last for a longer time, or if they bother you or become severe, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
What are Tazorac’s serious side effects?
Tazorac may cause serious side effects in some people. But serious side effects aren’t common with this drug.
Serious side effects that have been reported with Tazorac include:
- severe skin irritation, such as blisters or severe peeling
- allergic skin reaction, such as hives
- increased risk of sunburn or sun sensitivity
Call your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects while using Tazorac. If the side effects seem life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Acne is a common skin condition that happens when excess oil, dead skin cells, or bacteria clog your hair follicles and pores. Acne can occur anywhere on your body. But it’s more common in these areas:
Anyone can have acne. But teens, young adults, women, and older adults with unbalanced hormones are often more likely to have acne.
What are the symptoms of acne?
Clogged pores from acne can cause many skin symptoms, such as:
- papules (small bumps) or pimples
- cysts (lumps under your skin that may be painful)
Everyone’s acne is different. And your symptoms may change as you age or from other factors. For example, many women have worse breakouts during their menstrual period.
Your acne may look red or discolored, irritated, or swollen. This is called inflammatory acne. It’s often worsened by a bacterium called Propionibacterium acnes that grows inside oil-clogged pores.
Your breakouts may have pus-filled pimples on the surface of your skin. You may also have severe breakouts that form deep, painful cysts under your skin (which are often filled with pus). Or you could have hard nodules (lumps) under your skin without pus.
How is acne treated?
There are many treatment options for acne. But the key to achieving clearer skin is creating a treatment plan with your doctor for your specific type of acne, lifestyle, and skin.
Here are some acne treatment basics:
- Practice a gentle skin care regimen. Harsh soaps or excessive cleansing can actually cause breakouts. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about gentle skin care products for acne-prone skin.
- Stick to oil-free skin products. Oil clogs your pores, which may lead to more acne. Look for sunscreen, makeup, and lotions that say “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic” on their label.
- Don’t pick or squeeze your skin. Try not to pick or squeeze clogged pores or acne lesions. Doing so may spread bacteria, which could cause more swelling and make your acne worse. Plus, picking increases your risk for marks and scars once the blemishes are healed. If you have a bump or nodule that won’t go away, see your doctor instead.
- See a dermatologist for expert care. If you have moderate to severe acne that won’t clear up, see a dermatologist. These doctors are experts in treating skin conditions. They can create the right plan for you to treat your acne and help prevent worse breakouts or scarring. You may need a prescription drug, such as an antibiotic taken by mouth, or a topical acne drug such as Tazorac. (A topical drug is applied to the affected area of your skin.) Your doctor may also suggest a combination of acne drugs to clear your breakouts.
Who is Tazorac is prescribed for?
Tazorac can be used to treat acne in adults and in children ages 12 years and older.
Tazorac may work better for certain types of acne. Talk with your doctor to determine whether Tazorac is right for you.
Note: It’s unknown if Tazorac is effective for treating acne in adults ages 65 years and older.
Tazorac is used to treat acne in adults and in children ages 12 years and older. It’s a topical drug, which means it’s applied to the affected area of your skin.
Tazorac belongs to the retinoid drug class. (A drug class is a group of medications that work in a similar way.)
How does Tazorac work?
Topical retinoids such as Tazorac help treat acne in two ways:
- Help prevent the overgrowth of your skin cells. Retinoids keep your skin cells from building up and clogging your hair follicles and pores, which helps prevent and treats breakouts.
- Reduce swelling and irritation. Retinoids reduce swelling in your skin cells. This helps limit acne symptoms, such as irritated skin and bumps.
When using Tazorac, you should follow your doctor’s or a healthcare professional’s instructions. But below are some general instructions to consider if you’re using Tazorac for acne.
What is the typical dosage for Tazorac?
Tazorac comes as a cream and gel. For treating acne,* both forms come in one strength: 0.1%.
Note: Tazorac has other uses in addition to managing acne. The dosage may be different for these other uses. To learn more, talk with your doctor.
* The Tazorac cream and gel also come in a strength of 0.05%. But that strength is used for plaque psoriasis, not acne.
How do you use Tazorac?
Typically, you should apply a thin layer of Tazorac to your skin once a day, at nighttime.
Only apply the drug to areas of your skin that are affected by acne. Avoid getting Tazorac in your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you get it in your eyes, rinse them well. If you swallow the drug, get emergency medical help right away.
If using Tazorac on your face, gently wash and dry your face before applying the gel or cream. Wash your hands well after applying it, too. Regardless of where you use Tazorac, make sure your skin is completely dry before you apply it.
While using Tazorac, you should shield your skin from the sun with broad-spectrum sunscreen and protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat.
How often should I use Tazorac?
You’ll typically use Tazorac once a day, at nighttime.
If you have irritated skin that becomes severe or that bothers you, talk with your doctor. (Tazorac may cause mild side effects such as dry skin, peeling, or itching.) Your doctor may suggest that you use Tazorac less often or stop for a short time to let your skin heal.
Talk with your doctor before making changes to your acne treatment plan.
Before you use Tazorac, there’s some important information to keep in mind. The drug may not be a safe option for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Some of these are mentioned below.
If any of the following medical conditions or other health factors apply to you, talk with your doctor before using Tazorac.
- if you have a history of sun sensitivity
- if you work outdoors or spend a lot of time exposed to the sun
- if you take certain drugs that may increase your sensitivity to the sun
- if you use topical products or drugs that dry out your skin
- if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant or to breastfeed
- if you’ve had an allergic reaction to Tazorac or any of its ingredients
The price of Tazorac depends on several factors. These can include your treatment plan, your insurance plan, the pharmacy you use, and your location. For estimates of how much Tazorac costs, visit GoodRx.com.
Tazorac is a brand-name drug. The Tazorac cream is also available as a generic called tazarotene. Brand-name drugs usually cost more than generics. To learn about the generic form, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Talk with your doctor about using Tazorac for acne. They can help determine if Tazorac might be a good fit for you.
Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask your doctor:
- If I want to get pregnant, do I need to wait awhile after ending my Tazorac treatment?
- Do I need to stop using Tazorac before having skin procedures, such as photofacials or lasers?
- Which SPF of sunscreen should I apply while using Tazorac?
- Do any of my current medications cause sun sensitivity?
- Can I apply makeup, such as foundation, to skin that’s irritated from Tazorac?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, some topical acne treatments that are generally considered safe to use while pregnant include:
In addition, the American Board of Family Medicine states that certain topical antibiotics are safe for short-term use to treat acne during pregnancy. These antibiotics include clindamycin (Evoclin, Cleocin T, Clindagel) and erythromycin (Erygel). But it’s important to note that long-term use of these drugs during pregnancy hasn’t been studied.
Be sure to talk with your doctor before you use any medication, including a topical acne treatment, during pregnancy. They can discuss the risks and benefits of the medications with you.Alex Brewer, PharmD, MBAAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.