How do you tell the difference between an allergic or irritant reaction to a product like tretinoin?

Hello Doctor. I want to ask two questions: how to differentiate between allergic reaction or irritation from using tretinoin cream? Have you ever met a patient that had an allergic reaction from using tretinoin cream even in the smallest concentration (for example tretinoin 0.01 percent). Thanks you so much for your attention.

I’m glad you asked this because I think a lot of people are confused about this.  Basically, an allergic reaction is your immune system’s unpleasant reaction to something.  These are usually fairly bold, red, and often itchy.   Please don’t diagnose for yourself though – see your doctor!!  You can be allergic to very, very tiny amounts of something – yes, even tretinoin.  

 An irritant reaction is often more subtle and often occurs more gradually with time.  Again, please don’t diagose yourself – see you dermatologist!!   These often look more varied – sometimes just dry looking, sometimes a little pink and bumpy, sometimes like eczema, sometimes just a little itchy, etc.    More on irritation and tretinoin on these blogs.  Dr. I


Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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