Treating Acne with Tazorac (Tazarotene)

Acne Treatments
Treating acne with Tazorac. Jamie Grill / Getty Images


Tazorac, otherwise known as tazarotene, is a topical retinoid used to treat mild to moderate acne. It is also used to treat psoriasis.

Tazorac can be used by both teens and adults. It's good for whiteheads and blackheads, as well as inflamed papules and pimples. This medication comes in cream and gel forms.

You will need a prescription from your doctor, though. There is no over-the-counter alternative.

Other Names for Tazorac

Tazarotene. Tazorac is the brand name; tazarotene is the name of the active ingredient.

How Tazarotene Works

Similar to other retinoids, Tazorac works by speeding up cell turnover rates and keeping pores free from blockages. Because skin cells aren’t hanging around in the pore as long, comedones and other blemishes are reduced.

Common Usage Directions

Your doctor will probably instruct you to use this medication once daily. Gently rub Tazorac into the skin over all acne-prone areas.

Just a pea-sized amount is enough for the whole face. Although this seems like a tiny amount of medication, using more isn’t necessary.

Results are usually seen within four to 12 weeks.

Possible Side Effects:

You knew there had to be some. But don’t worry, the possible side effects of Tazorac are similar to other topical retinoids. When using Tazorac, you may notice:

  • Dryness
  • Itching
  • Burning or stinging
  • Redness
  • Peeling
  • Increased sensitivity to the sun (photosensitivity)
  • General skin irritation

Although more serious side effects aren’t as common, be on the lookout for:

  • Skin rash and/or hives
  • Cracking or bleeding skin
  • Skin discoloration

Most importantly, don’t use Tazorac if you’re pregnant. Tazorac is a FDA Pregnancy Category X drug, which means it can cause birth defects if used during pregnancy.

Birth control must be used while you’re taking Tazorac. Ladies, your doctor may have you take a pregnancy test two weeks before starting Tazorac and/or will have you start using the medication during your period.

Tazorac also passes ​into breast milk, although we don’t know how it affects a nursing infant. Obviously, you’ll also want to discuss this with your doctor if you are breastfeeding.


Kakita L. "Tazarotene versus tretinoin or adapalene in the treatment of acne vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2000; 43(2):51-54.

"Prescription Medications for Treating Acne." AcneNet. 2008. American Academy of Dermatology, Web. 9 Nov 2009. <>.

Zoler ML. "Daily Tazarotene Cream Improved Acne, Hyperpigmentation." Family Practice News, 15 Dec 2003; 33(24):16.