Tretinoin is a prescription medicine that is most commonly used topically to treat acne vulgaris, but it can also be used to treat sun-related skin issues such as facial wrinkles, skin roughness, and liver spots.
Topical tretinoin, also known as retinoic acid, is often prescribed off-label for different skin diseases such as psoriasis, warts, stretch marks, and pre-malignant growths.
The FDA has approved tretinoin capsules for the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) and moderate, severe, or cystic acne.
Tretinoin is a retinoid, a vitamin A derivative that helps to push out pore blockages and smooth and brighten skin by speeding up the body’s creation of skin cells.
Tretinoin accelerates the development of immature white blood cells in leukaemia patients. Topical tretinoin is administered to the afflicted area once a day to treat skin problems.
The concentration of tretinoin, however, will vary based on the reason it is prescribed. People taking tretinoin orally will take it as a capsule twice daily, but the dose will vary based on weight. If you’ve ever looked into science-based skin care treatments, you’ve almost certainly heard of tretinoin.
Tretinoin is a topical retinoid. It’s one of the most versatile skincare medications available, with research showing that it can treat everything from acne to many common signs of aging.
Unlike many other science-based skincare treatments, tretinoin is relatively inexpensive, with a month’s supply typically priced from $25 to $40.
However, like with other medications, there are a few things that you should know about tretinoin in order to get the best deal.
Below, we’ve explained what tretinoin is, how it works and how much you can expect to pay for topical tretinoin creams and gels.
We’ve also listed where you can buy tretinoin, from your local pharmacy to online vendors and more.
What Is Tretinoin?
Tretinoin is a type of topical retinoid. It’s a derivative of vitamin A that’s widely used in skincare and as a treatment for certain diseases.
Tretinoin comes in two forms: topical tretinoin and oral tretinoin, or isotretinoin. Topical tretinoin is approved by the FDA as a treatment for acne and as an anti-aging medication that can treat fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation issues (age spots), and rough skin texture.
Put simply, tretinoin is like the Swiss Army knife of skincare — used the right way, it can treat a diverse range of common skin issues.
In the United States, tretinoin is marketed under several brand names. You may have heard of it as Retin-A®, Avita®, Altinac®, Tretin X®, Altreno®, Renova®, Atralin®, or Refissa®.
In its oral form, isotretinoin is used to treat moderate to severe acne, as well as persistent forms of acne such as cystic acne.
How Much Does Generic Tretinoin Cost?
When it comes to acne medication, “effective” doesn’t necessarily mean “expensive.” Although it’s highly effective at treating acne, tretinoin is very affordable. In fact, a 30-day supply will typically cost between $15 and $25, give or take.
Several different factors can affect how much tretinoin costs. The first of these is the strength of tretinoin that you use.
Tretinoin comes in several strengths, including 0.025%, 0.5% and 0.1% tretinoin. In most cases, stronger tretinoin creams, gels, and other products are priced slightly higher than lower-strength products.
It’s worth noting that the price difference between mild and strong tretinoin isn’t that much — on average, you should expect to pay approximately 40 percent to 50 percent more for a 20g tube of 0.1% tretinoin than you would for an equal-size tube of 0.025% tretinoin.
The second factor that affects tretinoin’s price is where you buy it from. Pricing for tretinoin and other generic drugs can vary from one pharmacy chain to the next, and coupons, loyalty clubs, and promotions can affect pricing further.
The third factor is how much tretinoin you purchase at once. Some pharmacies offer discounts for bulk medication purchases.
You may be able to save money by buying many large tubes of tretinoin at once, rather than by buying smaller 20g tubes individually.
Purchasing generic medication in bulk not only saves you money — it can also save time by eliminating the need to visit your local pharmacy frequently to refill your prescription.
While the exact price of medications varies greatly depending on what we mentioned above, on average, you can expect to pay the following prices for generic tretinoin cream:
- 0.025% tretinoin: $25 to $100 per 20g tube, or $50 to $200 per 45g tube
- 0.05% tretinoin: $30 to $120 per 20g tube, or $60 to $220 per 45g tube
- 0.1% tretinoin: $35 to $130 per 20g tube, or $65 to $255 per 45g tube
You can expect to pay the following prices for generic tretinoin gel:
- 0.01% tretinoin: $25 to $80 per 15g tube, or $50 to $200 per 45g tube
- 0.025% tretinoin: $25 to $80 per 15g tube, or $50 to $210 per 45g tube
- 0.05% tretinoin: $75 to $400+ per 45g tube
The prices listed above are average prices for generic tretinoin. Brand name skincare products that contain tretinoin may have higher or lower retail pricing.
If you’re prescribed several medications to treat acne, it’s important to keep in mind the full cost of purchasing your medication.
Some acne products, such as our Customized Acne Cream for Men, contain tretinoin with other science-based, prescription ingredients, allowing you to use one product to treat acne instead of several.
As we’ve covered in our guide to using tretinoin cream, you should apply a pea-sized amount of tretinoin to your face on a daily basis.
If you use tretinoin daily as directed, a single 20g tube of tretinoin cream should last for between two and three months, resulting in an approximate cost of about $15 to $25 per month.
Some Medicaid and health insurance plans may offer coverage for tretinoin. Make sure to check with your healthcare provider for full pricing and coverage information before purchasing tretinoin or any other medication.
Some drug manufacturers may offer patient assistance programs that allow you to save money on tretinoin and other medications. You can learn more about these programs by contacting the manufacturer directly.
Is Tretinoin covered by insurance?
Tretinoin is often covered by commercial insurance plans, Medicare Part D, and Medicare Advantage. Coverage, however, may be based on the condition being treated. Insurance plans may not cover off-label or cosmetic use.
How much does Tretinoin cost without insurance?
For people without insurance coverage, a 20-gram tube of tretinoin cream with a concentration of 0.05% can cost $123. If the cream is applied as directed, a 20-gram tube should last several months, but the exact duration depends on how much skin is being treated and how much medication is applied.
Insurance can help reduce this cost, but the actual out-of-pocket cost will depend on the insurance plan, the concentration prescribed, the copay cost, and any deductibles that may apply.
For skin conditions, a dermatologist may prescribe one of two other retinoids: Tazorac (tazarotene) for wrinkles and skin spotting or Differin (adapalene) for acne. Available as generics, both have a significantly higher retail price than tretinoin.
Acne is a notoriously difficult skin condition to treat, so healthcare professionals usually try many approaches. These include antibiotics, hormonal treatments, over-the-counter acne medications such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, and specialty treatments like phototherapy.
Weaker topical vitamin A creams and lotions, known as retinol, are distinguished from prescription-strength retinoids.
They can be purchased over-the-counter to smooth wrinkles or lighten skin spots, but they may not be effective at treating problem acne. Over-the-counter retinol dietary supplements cannot be substituted for prescription tretinoin to treat either APL or severe acne.
Prescription drug prices often change. These are the most accurate medication prices at the time of publishing.
How to get Tretinoin without insurance?
Even in its generic version, tretinoin is an expensive drug for uninsured patients. Insured patients may discover that their insurance company won’t pay for a tretinoin prescription.
Sometimes pharmaceutical companies provide financial assistance through manufacturer coupons, savings programs, or patient assistance programs. There are, however, other alternatives to paying the full cash price for tretinoin.
1. Use a SingleCare savings card for prescription discounts
To realize an immediate discount on tretinoin, print or download a SingleCare discount card for your prescription. A free coupon from SingleCare can save money on a tretinoin prescription at local pharmacies.
2. Apply topical tretinoin as directed
A 20-gram tube of tretinoin topical could last any amount of time between two and six months, depending on how much skin needs to be covered and how much cream, gel, lotion, or foam you apply. Don’t use too much.
More is not better. Apply the cream as directed in order not to waste it. If you’re not sure how much to use, have a healthcare provider demonstrate how to apply for the medicine. You will be surprised at how little is needed.
3. Compare pharmacy prices
Tretinoin prices vary by pharmacy. Some charge premium prices, while others compete on low prices.
4. Switch to over-the-counter retinol
If tretinoin is being used to improve age-related skin issues, consider using weaker, over-the-counter retinoid creams or lotions with retinol. They may not be as effective as a prescription retinoid, but they are considerably less expensive and have fewer side effects.
Over-the-counter retinol is not, however, suitable for treating severe skin issues such as psoriasis or severe acne.
5. Explore available community resources
There are other resources that can help pay for cancer treatments like tretinoin. Ask county or city health department representatives about community clinics, charity care, or how to enroll in sliding scale payments for needed treatment and prescription medications.
Where Can You Buy Tretinoin?
Tretinoin is a common, widely-used medication that’s available from all major pharmacies. You can purchase tretinoin from the following pharmacy chains:
- CVS Pharmacy
- Duane Reade
Most local pharmacies will also stock tretinoin cream and gel, as well as other medications for treating and preventing acne. If you’re not sure whether your local pharmacy has tretinoin, try calling to check its availability before you visit.
Because tretinoin is a prescription medication, you’ll need to talk to your healthcare provider or a dermatologist and receive a prescription before you can purchase it from a pharmacy.
Another option is to buy tretinoin online. Our Anti-Aging Cream for Men contains tretinoin, along with other science-based ingredients, to treat acne breakouts and prevent the effects of aging on your skin.
Both of these products are available following an online consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
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