Renova discontinued. Where to get a good, reasonable retinoid?

I have been using Renova for years... approx 20. It has been prescribed for my acne/Rosacea. It now comes in a pump. It is very expensive and not covered by my insurance. Do you happen to know if any insurance RX policy covers this topical medication? Last refill was approx $290 with a coupon. Crazy. Lasts about 4 months per tube. Is there a generic equivalent? I do not seem to be able to find one on the net. Any ideas are appreciated as to how to get this script with a smaller price tag. Thank you.

I know!! And I’m as mad as all of you about it. Having used Renova for about that many years also, it’s now super expensive or impossible to find. I will never understand the workings of big pharma execs minds on many things. Retinoids in dermatology are just creams that are based on the vitamin A molecule, but with slight changes.  Call them vitamin A cousins. Tretinoin is the main prescription form, and retinol is the main non prescription  (OTC – over the counter) form. There are others like Tazorac which is very drying and used for acne. And Differin (adapalene) which is now OTC and comes in a gel. There are more.

Here’s what you need to know to figure this out:

  • The generic name for Renova is tretinoin. And tretinoin is available still with a prescription in a number of strengths.
  • The biggest difference between the different forms of tretinoin, for example, Renova, Retin A, Refissa, etc. is the base that tretinoin is put in.
  • The base makes a BIG difference in how irritating it is. Many of us really like the Renova because it was in a moisturizing base, but not too greasy, like Refissa. Hence not as irritating.
  • Ask your dermatologist or pharmacist which tretinoin comes in the most moisturizing base they have available. Then ask your doc to prescribe it.
  • Watch out for propylene glycol in the base, if you have that allergy.
  • Remember the companies who make these creams can change the base at any time… and not tell you. If it seems different, it may BE different.

Some good general info about retinoids:

  1. If you have oily skin and/or acne the OTC Differin may work well for you.  For most over 40, it’s too drying (read irritating).
  2. Retinols are a great option for most of us. You don’t NEED a prescription. Retinol is converted into tretinoin by your skin cells.
  3. Retinol is approximately 10 times LESS strong than tretinoin, but most of us don’t need this extra strength. See below.
  4. For mild to moderate sun damage, and prevention purposes, an OTC retinol, used regularly, will do the job! Look for a retinol 0.25-0.1 % from a good company.
  5. If you have multiple skin cancers, precancerous spots (actinic keratoses), or moderate to severe acne, stick with the prescription form, or Differin OTC. Discuss with your doctor or derm!!

Hope this helps,

Dr. Brandith Irwin


Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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