Tazarotene is a newer retinoid that is nevertheless one of the best-researched. Its anti-aging effects include, but is not limited to, improving both fine and deep wrinkles, lightening pigmented spots and smoothing the skin. Tazarotene is also well-known for treating acne and psoriasis.


Grade Level of Evidence
A Multiple double-blind, controlled clinical trials.
B 1 double-blind, controlled clinical trial.
C At least 1 controlled or comparative clinical trial.
D Uncontrolled, observational, animal or in-vitro studies only.
Grade Effect Size of Effect Comments


Wrinkle treatment


Improves fine and coarse wrinkling by increasing collagen synthesis.


Increased skin thickness


Increases the rate of epidermal proliferation and the number of cell layers.


Psoriasis treatment


Therapeutic effect on plaque, palmoplantar and nail psorasis, by restoring normal keratinocyte proliferation and lowering epidermal inflammation.


Acne treatment


Reduces inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesion counts. Also successful in treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.


Skin lightening


Improves mottled pigmentation and lightens lentigines.


Smoother skin


Reduces the number of peaks and valleys on the skin surface, possibly by compacting the basket-weave morphology of the stratum corneum.


Smaller pores


Reduces pore size, presumably by promoting the clearance of comedones and microcomedones.


Tighter skin


12 weeks of treatment with 0.1% tazarotene improves skin laxity by 25%.

Looking to buy skin care products containing Tazarotene?

Buy from Amazon.com.

Scientific Research

Caution: Please read wisderm.com's medical disclaimer.

Table of contents:

1. Sources

Tazarotene is a synthetic compound that is part of the acetylenic retinoids, a non-isomerizable class of retinoic acid receptor (RAR)-specific retinoids.[1][2]

2. Bioavailability

Tazarotene is available in gel, cream and foam formulations.[3] Topical application provides direct delivery of tazarotene into the skin; 10 hours after topical application of tazarotene gel, 4-6% of the dose was found to reside in the stratum corneum and 2% distributed to the viable epidermis and dermis.[4]

Tazarotene is rapidly metabolized in the skin to tazarotenic acid, its primary and active metabolite.[5] The systemic bioavailability of tazarotenic acid is low, approximately 1% after single and multiple topical applications to healthy skin.[4] Experiments show that the maximum average plasma concentrations of tazarotenic acid after topical application of tazarotene cream 0.1% to the face were less than 0.25 µg/L.[6] Dosing with tazarotene gel and foam also leads to low plasma concentrations of tazarotenic acid, though the concentration is significantly higher for gel versus foam.[3]

Tazarotenic acid does not accumulate in adipose tissue, but undergoes further metabolism to its sulfoxide and to other polar metabolites and is rapidly eliminated via both urinary and faecal pathways with a terminal half-life of about 18 hours.[4]

3. Effects on the skin

3.1 Anti-wrinkle effect

Tazarotene has significant anti-wrinkle effects. One large multicenter, randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled parallel comparison of 0.01%, 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.1% tazarotene creams against 0.05% tretinoin emollient cream (Renova) and vehicle cream found that all tazarotene formulations and tretinoin were associated with significantly higher proportions of subjects having at least a 1-grade improvement from baseline versus vehicle cream, for fine wrinkling.[7] This corroborates the results from two later studies, which similarly found that tazarotene treatment led to clinical improvements in both fine and coarse wrinkling.[8][9]

In another study, 0.1% tazarotene gel increased the distribution of plateaus, transitional areas between wrinkles.[10]

Tazarotene's efficacy in reducing wrinkling has been attributed to its induction of transforming growth factor β (TGF-β), which results in the activation of fibroblasts, increasing collagen synthesis.[8] It has also been hypothesized that the increased epidermal thickness brought about by tazarotene may be instrumental in wrinkle effacement.[11]

3.2 Lightening effect

Numerous studies have demonstrated that treatment with 0.1% tazarotene ameliorated mottled pigmentation in individuals with photodamage.[7][8][9][10] Likewise, other studies found that 0.1% tazarotene improved the appearance of irregular depigmentation and lentigines.[8][9][12]

0.1% tazarotene appears to be as efficacious as 0.05% tretinoin in this respect.[9] The adjunctive use of hydroquinone also enhances tazarotene's efficacy in lightening lentigines and mottled hyperpigmentation.[12]

3.3 Smoothing effect

Tazarotene reduces the number of peaks and valleys on the skin surface, thereby smoothing the skin.[10] A number of studies have also consistently shown that treatment with 0.1% tazarotene led to a greater incidence of patients achieving clinical improvement in tactile roughness, supporting this finding.[8][12][13]

Histologically, tazarotene treatment tends to compact the basket-weave morphology of the stratum corneum, which is thought to have led to the observed reduction in skin roughness.[11]

3.4 Reduced pore size

In one controlled, double-blind study of 563 patients, close to 40% treated with 0.1% tazarotene achieved at least a 1-grade improvement in pore size, compared to close to 30% of those treated with vehicle after 24 weeks, with further clinical improvement observed over another 28 weeks of treatment.[8] These results are supported by 2 other double-blind studies, which also found an improvement in the appearance of pore size following treatment with 0.1% tazarotene.[9][13]

This has been hypothesized to be related to tazarotene's anti-acne activity, i.e. its ability to help normalize the differentiation of follicular epithelium, which promotes the clearance of comedones and microcomedones, preventing further follicular buildup. By clearing follicles, tazarotene may allow them to become visibly smaller.[8]

3.5 Increased epidermal thickness

In one study, 0.1% tazarotene gel increased epidermal thickness by 90% over 12 weeks.[10] A second study focusing on the histological effects of tazarotene also discovered a increase in mean epidermal thickness after 24 weeks of treatment, though the magnitude of this effect was smaller (40%).[11]

This effect appears due to an increase in the rate of epidermal proliferation and the greater number of cell layers.[10][11]

3.6 Tightening effect

One early controlled, double-blind trial found that laxity (looseness) was improved in 0.1% tazarotene-treated skin after 12 weeks, compared with baseline.[10]

3.7 Psoriasis treatment

Tazarotene is effective as a treatment for many variants of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition.[14] Although effective as a single agent, evidence is accumulating that combining topical tazarotene with other established antipsoriatic therapies results in enhanced efficacy and reduced adverse events.[15]

The efficacy of tazarotene monotherapy and combination therapies has been thoroughly evaluated with respect to the treatment of plaque psoriasis, the most common form of psoriasis. Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, vehicle-controlled studies have shown that 0.05% or 0.1% tazarotene creams significantly reduce the severity of the clinical signs of psoriasis.[16] 0.1% tazarotene gel has comparable clinical efficacy to crude coal tar ointment[17] and 0.005% calipotriol ointment,[18] but is less effective than 0.05% clobetasol propionate cream.[19]

Tazarotene plus topical corticosteroids as a combination therapy has a greater therapeutic effect than that with tazarotene alone, reduced the irritancy of tazarotene, and decreased the risk of post-treatment disease flare seen with corticosteroids.[20][21][22][23] Tazarotene in combination with phototherapy on the other hand offers a therapeutic option for psoriasis that is faster than phototherapy alone.[24][25][26][27]

Topical tazarotene is also effective in treating psoriasis of the nails (nail psoriasis) and psoriasis of the hands and feet (palmoplantar psoriasis). 0.1% tazarotene gel significantly reduced onycholysis in occluded and nonoccluded nails as well as pitting in occluded nails in one study.[28] Tazarotene formulated as a 0.1% hydrophilic ointment, or as a cream in combination with pulsed dye laser treatment, is similarly efficacious.[29][30] Furthermore, 0.1% tazarotene cream appears to be as effective as clobetasol propionate in treating palmoplantar psoriasis, and is thus a good alternative where hypopigmentation limits the use of clobetasol propionate cream.[31]

Clinical improvements of psoriasis with the topical application of tazarotene is associated with the restoration of normal keratinocyte proliferation and differentation, and a decrease in epidermal inflammation.[32][33]

3.8 Acne vulgaris treatment

Multiple double-blind, vehicle-controlled trials have demonstrated the efficacy of tazarotene gels and creams in reducing both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesion counts.[34][35] Short-contact application of tazarotene gel as well as tazarotene foam, devised to minimize local adverse events, has also been found to be safe and effective methods of acne treatment.[36][37][38] Moreover, 0.1% tazarotene cream successfully treated postinflammatory hyperpigmentation in patients from darker racial ethnic groups.[39]

The efficacy of topical tazarotene has been compared with that of topical adapalene. While some studies have indicated that 0.1% tazarotene had better efficacy than 0.1% or even 0.3% adapalene,[40][41][42] other studies have concluded that tazarotene provided similar efficacy as adapalene.[43][44][45] Studies also differ on the tolerability of tazarotene versus adapalene, with some claiming similar tolerability[40][41][42][44] while others have found adapalene to be better tolerated.[43][46][45]

0.1% tazarotene gel has also been consistently shown to be more efficacious than 0.025% tretinoin gel or 0.1% tretinoin microsponge gel, while having comparable tolerability.[47][48][49] In a more recent study, 0.05% tazarotene cream had equal efficacy, but superior tolerability, compared to 0.04% tretinoin microsphere gel pump in mild to moderate facial acne vulgaris.[50]

Tazarotene together with other anti-acne agents is more effective than tazarotene monotherapy. The adjunctive use of clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide enhances the efficacy of tazarotene, leading to greater reductions in comedo and inflammatory lesion counts.[51][52] This combination is also more effective than tretinoin plus clindamycin.[53] Another promising combination therapy is 0.1% tazarotene cream plus 5% dapsone gel, an anti-inflammatory agent.[54]

4. Side Effects

4.1 Dermatitis

Daily application of tazarotene is associated with minimal local side effects.[55] Adverse events are similar to those induced by other topical retinoids, that is, irritation, erythema, dryness, desquamation and a burning sensation on the treated sites.[9][13]

These tend to be of mild or moderate severity, and occur predominantly in the first few weeks of treatment.[13] Tolerability improves with continued treatment as the skin becomes accommodated to the retinoid.[8] In most cases, the side effects were not serious enough to cause patients to drop-out of the clinical studies.[8][10][13]

Tazarotene foam has also been demonstrated to have low potential for contact sensitization.[56]

Scientific References

  1. Chandraratna RA. Tazarotene--first of a new generation of receptor-selective retinoids. Br J Dermatol. (1996)
  2. Chandraratna RA. Tazarotene: the first receptor-selective topical retinoid for the treatment of psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol. (1997)
  3. Jarratt M, Werner CP, Alió Saenz AB. Tazarotene foam versus tazarotene gel: a randomized relative bioavailability study in acne vulgaris. Clin Drug Investig. (2013)
  4. Tang-Liu DD, Matsumoto RM, Usansky JI. Clinical pharmacokinetics and drug metabolism of tazarotene: a novel topical treatment for acne and psoriasis. Clin Pharmacokinet. (1999)
  5. Duvic M. Pharmacologic profile of tazarotene. Cutis. (1998)
  6. Yu Z, et. al. Pharmacokinetics of tazarotene cream 0.1% after a single dose and after repeat topical applications at clinical or exaggerated application rates in patients with acne vulgaris or photodamaged skin. Clin Pharmacokinet. (2003)
  7. Kang S, et. al. Tazarotene cream for the treatment of facial photodamage: a multicenter, investigator-masked, randomized, vehicle-controlled, parallel comparison of 0.01%, 0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.1% tazarotene creams with 0.05% tretinoin emollient cream applied once daily for 24 weeks. Arch Dermatol. (2001)
  8. Phillips TJ, et. al. Efficacy of 0.1% tazarotene cream for the treatment of photodamage: a 12-month multicenter, randomized trial. Arch Dermatol. (2002)
  9. Lowe N, et. al. Tazarotene 0.1% cream versus tretinoin 0.05% emollient cream in the treatment of photodamaged facial skin: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, parallel-group study. J Cosmet Laser Ther. (2004)
  10. Sefton J, et. al. Photodamage pilot study: a double-blind, vehicle-controlled study to assess the efficacy and safety of tazarotene 0.1% gel. J Am Acad Dermatol. (2000)
  11. Machtinger LA, et. al. Histological effects of tazarotene 0.1% cream vs. vehicle on photodamaged skin: a 6-month, multicentre, double-blind, randomized, vehicle-controlled study in patients with photodamaged facial skin. Br J Dermatol. (2004)
  12. Lowe N, et. al. Tazarotene versus tazarotene plus hydroquinone in the treatment of photodamaged facial skin: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized study. J Cosmet Laser Ther. (2006)
  13. Kang S, et. al. A multicenter, randomized, double-blind trial of tazarotene 0.1% cream in the treatment of photodamage. J Am Acad Dermatol. (2005)
  14. Nestle FO, Kaplan DH, Barker J. Psoriasis. N Engl J Med. (2009)
  15. Weindl G, et. al. Receptor-selective retinoids for psoriasis: focus on tazarotene. Am J Clin Dermatol. (2006)
  16. Weinstein GD, et. al. Tazarotene cream in the treatment of psoriasis: Two multicenter, double-blind, randomized, vehicle-controlled studies of the safety and efficacy of tazarotene creams 0.05% and 0.1% applied once daily for 12 weeks. J Am Acad Dermatol. (2003)
  17. Kumar U, et. al. Topical tazarotene vs. coal tar in stable plaque psoriasis. Clin Exp Dermatol. (2010)
  18. Kaur I, et. al. Comparative study of calcipotriol (0.005%) ointment and tazarotene (0.05% and 0.1%) gel in the treatment of stable plaque psoriasis. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. (2008)
  19. Angelo JS, Kar BR, Thomas J. Comparison of clinical efficacy of topical tazarotene 0.1% cream with topical clobetasol propionate 0.05% cream in chronic plaque psoriasis: a double-blind, randomized, right-left comparison study. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. (2007)
  20. Dando TM, Wellington K. Topical tazarotene: a review of its use in the treatment of plaque psoriasis. Am J Clin Dermatol. (2005)
  21. Poulin YP. Tazarotene 0.1% gel in combination with mometasone furoate cream in plaque psoriasis: a photographic tracking study. Cutis. (1999)
  22. Dhawan SS, et. al. Tazarotene cream (0.1%) in combination with betamethasone valerate foam (0.12%) for plaque-type psoriasis. J Drugs Dermatol. (2005)
  23. Green L, Sadoff W. A clinical evaluation of tazarotene 0.1% gel, with and without a high- or mid-high-potency corticosteroid, in patients with stable plaque psoriasis. J Cutan Med Surg. (2002)
  24. Koo JY. Tazarotene in combination with phototherapy. J Am Acad Dermatol. (1998)
  25. Lowe NJ. Optimizing therapy: tazarotene in combination with phototherapy. Br J Dermatol. (1999)
  26. Koo JY, et. al. Tazarotene plus UVB phototherapy in the treatment of psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol. (2000)
  27. Tzaneva S, et. al. A comparison of psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA) monotherapy, tacalcitol plus PUVA and tazarotene plus PUVA in patients with chronic plaque-type psoriasis. Br J Dermatol. (2002)
  28. Scher RK, Stiller M, Zhu YI. Tazarotene 0.1% gel in the treatment of fingernail psoriasis: a double-blind, randomized, vehicle-controlled study. Cutis. (2001)
  29. Fischer-Levancini C, et. al. Nail psoriasis: treatment with tazarotene 0.1% hydrophilic ointment. Actas Dermosifiliogr. (2012)
  30. Huang YC, Chou CL, Chiang YY. Efficacy of pulsed dye laser plus topical tazarotene versus topical tazarotene alone in psoriatic nail disease: a single-blind, intrapatient left-to-right controlled study. Lasers Surg Med. (2013)
  31. Mehta BH, Amladi ST. Evaluation of topical 0.1% tazarotene cream in the treatment of palmoplantar psoriasis: an observer-blinded randomized controlled study. Indian J Dermatol. (2011)
  32. Esgleyes-Ribot T, et. .a. Response of psoriasis to a new topical retinoid, AGN 190168. J Am Acad Dermatol. (1994)
  33. Duvic M, et. al. Molecular mechanisms of tazarotene action in psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol. (1997)
  34. Shalita AR, et. al. Tazarotene gel is safe and effective in the treatment of acne vulgaris: a multicenter, double-blind, vehicle-controlled study. Cutis. (1999)
  35. Shalita AR, et. al. Effects of tazarotene 0.1 % cream in the treatment of facial acne vulgaris: pooled results from two multicenter, double-blind, randomized, vehicle-controlled, parallel-group trials. Clin Ther. (2004)
  36. Bershad S, et. al. Successful treatment of acne vulgaris using a new method: results of a randomized vehicle-controlled trial of short-contact therapy with 0.1% tazarotene gel. Arch Dermatol. (2002)
  37. Feldman SR, Werner CP, Alió Saenz AB. The efficacy and tolerability of tazarotene foam, 0.1%, in the treatment of acne vulgaris in 2 multicenter, randomized, vehicle-controlled, double-blind studies. J Drugs Dermatol. (2013)
  38. Epstein EL, Stein Gold L. Safety and efficacy of tazarotene foam for the treatment of acne vulgaris. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. (2013)
  39. Grimes P, Callender V. Tazarotene cream for postinflammatory hyperpigmentation and acne vulgaris in darker skin: a double-blind, randomized, vehicle-controlled study. Cutis. (2006)
  40. Shalita AR, et. al. Tazarotene cream versus adapalene cream in the treatment of facial acne vulgaris: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, parallel-group study. J Drugs Dermatol. (2005)
  41. Webster GF, et. al. A multicenter, double-blind, randomized comparison study of the efficacy and tolerability of once-daily tazarotene 0.1% gel and adapalene 0.1% gel for the treatment of facial acne vulgaris. Cutis. (2002)
  42. Tanghetti E, et. al. Randomized comparison of the safety and efficacy of tazarotene 0.1% cream and adapalene 0.3% gel in the treatment of patients with at least moderate facial acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol. (2010)
  43. Pariser D, et. al. Adapalene 0.1% gel compared to tazarotene 0.1% cream in the treatment of acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol. (2008)
  44. Leyden J, et. al. Comparison of treatment of acne vulgaris with alternate-day applications of tazarotene 0.1% gel and once-daily applications of adapalene 0.1% gel: a randomized trial. Cutis. (2001)
  45. Thiboutot D, Arsonnaud S, Soto P. Efficacy and tolerability of adapalene 0.3% gel compared to tazarotene 0.1% gel in the treatment of acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol. (2008)
  46. Dosik JS, Homer K, Arsonnaud S. Cumulative irritation potential of adapalene 0.1% cream and gel compared with tazarotene cream 0.05% and 0.1%. Cutis. (2005)
  47. Kakita L. Tazarotene versus tretinoin or adapalene in the treatment of acne vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. (2000)
  48. Webster GF, et. al. Efficacy and tolerability of once-daily tazarotene 0.1% gel versus once-daily tretinoin 0.025% gel in the treatment of facial acne vulgaris: a randomized trial. Cutis. (2001)
  49. Leyden JJ, et. al. Once-daily tazarotene 0.1 % gel versus once-daily tretinoin 0.1 % microsponge gel for the treatment of facial acne vulgaris: a double-blind randomized trial. Cutis. (2002)
  50. Kircik LH. Tretinoin microsphere gel pump 0.04% versus tazarotene cream 0.05% in the treatment of mild-to-moderate facial acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol. (2009)
  51. Tanghetti E, et. al. Tazarotene versus tazarotene plus clindamycin/benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of acne vulgaris: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized parallel-group trial. J Drugs Dermatol. (2006)
  52. Dhawan SS, Gwazdauskas J. Clindamycin phosphate 1.2%-benzoyl peroxide (5% or 2.5%) plus tazarotene cream 0.1% for the treatment of acne. Cutis. (2013)
  53. Tanghetti E, et. al. Tazarotene 0.1 percent cream plus clindamycin 1 percent gel versus tretinoin 0.025 percent gel plus clindamycin 1 percent gel in the treatment of facial acne vulgaris. Dermatol Online J. (2007)
  54. Tanghetti E, et. al. Clinical evidence for the role of a topical anti-inflammatory agent in comedonal acne: findings from a randomized study of dapsone gel 5% in combination with tazarotene cream 0.1% in patients with acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol. (2011)
  55. Talpur R, Cox K, Duvic M. Efficacy and safety of topical tazarotene: a review. Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. (2009)
  56. Berg JE, Bowman JP, Saenz AB. Cumulative irritation potential and contact sensitization potential of tazarotene foam 0.1% in 2 phase 1 patch studies. Cutis. (2012)