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Retinoid Treatment and Your Skin

Retinoids for Warts

Doctors may prescribe retinoids for warts, particularly when other treatments have failed. Retinoid cream works on warts by disrupting the wart's cell growth.

In a small study of 50 children -- 25 treated with tretinoin cream and 25 treated with an inactive placebo -- 85% of the children treated with tretinoin were cleared of warts compared with only 32% of those treated with placebo cream.

How to use: Follow your doctor's instructions for applying retinoids to warts. Creams may need to be used for a few months before warts disappear.

What else you should know: Topical retinoids may be the best treatment for flat warts on the back of your hands.

Side Effects and Precautions

Although retinoids are helpful for many common skin problems, they are not without risks. Risks include:

  • Dryness and irritation
  • Skin color changes
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Redness, swelling, crusting, or blistering

How to Minimize Risks

  • Avoid being in the sun. If you must be out in the sun, limit your hours, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wear sunscreen, preferably with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a large brimmed hat.
  • Never use more of the product or use it more frequently than your doctor prescribes or the package label indicates. Doing so will not increase its effectiveness but will increase side effects.
  • Use a moisturizing agent along with topical retinoids. Doing so will minimize skin drying without interfering with the product's effectiveness.

Pregnant women or women who are planning on becoming pregnant should not use retinoids.


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