Does tretinoin cause hair loss?

Reviewed by Chimene Richa, MD, 

Written by Frances Gatta 

Reviewed by Chimene Richa, MD, 

Written by Frances Gatta 

last updated: Jun 21, 2022

3 min read

For nearly 50 years, tretinoin has been used to treat acne, sun damage, and other types of skin issues. Common side effects of this topical product include dry, peeling, or itchy skin, but hair loss isn’t likely to be one. 

Taking tretinoin orally, on the other hand, could trigger hair loss. Even though there’s no conclusive evidence that applying tretinoin to skin affects hair, past complaints of hair shedding after using the product may have you thinking twice about trying it as a skincare treatment. 

If you’re worried about tretinoin and hair loss, here’s some more on the medication––and how it may actually encourage hair growth. 

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What is tretinoin used for?

Tretinoin (brand name Retin-A) is a derivative of vitamin A belonging to a class of medications called retinoids. This skincare product comes as a gel, cream, lotion, or pill, and is popular for treating acne and acne scars (Yoham, 2022; Leyden, 2017).  

Along with mild to severe acne, tretinoin is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat (Yoham, 2022): 

Dermatologists can also recommend this medication off-label (not FDA-approved) for skin conditions like:

  • Psoriasis

  • Stretch marks

  • Rare, genetic skin disorders like ichthyosis or Darier disease

  • Age spots 

  • Warts 

There have been studies looking into tretinoin as a possible hair growth aid, which might leave you to wonder if there could be any negative side effects like hair loss.

Tretinoin Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Does tretinoin cause hair loss?

There isn’t any solid evidence that applying topical tretinoin triggers hair shedding. However, hair loss is a potential side effect of taking oral tretinoin. 

Hair loss (including eyelashes and eyebrows) can happen when you take too much vitamin A––especially if it’s a supplement or medication. Besides hair loss, people with vitamin A toxicity may also experience (Yu, 2018; NIH, 2022):

  • Dizziness

  • Blurred vision

  • Flaky skin

  • Muscle aches

  • Severe headache

  • Fatigue

  • Nail dystrophy or deformed nails

  • Weight loss

  • Nausea

Side effects of tretinoin

Most mild side effects caused by tretinoin disappear within a few weeks. Common side effects include dry, red, or itchy skin, although these effects may get better with time. 

You may also experience burning or pain in the treatment area. If this is the case, you may want to talk to your provider about stopping the product or adjusting the dose (Leyden, 2017; Yoham, 2022).

Oral tretinoin comes as a pill or capsule and is used for moderate to severe acne, certain cancers, and other skin conditions. Common side effects of taking tretinoin orally include (Yoham, 2022):

  • Headache

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Stomach pain

  • Diarrhea or constipation

  • Rash

Severe side effects are less common and may include (Yoham, 2022):

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • High blood pressure 

  • Blood clots

  • Hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood)

  • Gastrointestinal disorders

  • Vision and hearing changes

Tretinoin and hair growth

While the FDA has only approved tretinoin for skin, there has been research looking into its effectiveness for hair growth. Small studies looking at using topical tretinoin for hair loss suggest there may be a benefit. One study saw some hair regrowth in more than half of the participants (Bazzano, 1986).

Other studies focusing on topical tretinoin in combination with minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) suggest that tretinoin may improve the absorption and effectiveness of minoxidil in treating hair loss (Ferry, 1990; Shin, 2007; Sharma, 2019).

More research is needed to confirm any benefits of using tretinoin for hair growth. It’s advisable to only use tretinoin for skincare or hair when recommended by a healthcare professional. Seek medical advice if you experience sudden hair loss while using tretinoin or vitamin A supplements.


If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

June 21, 2022

Written by

Frances Gatta

Fact checked by

Chimene Richa, MD

About the medical reviewer

Dr. Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and medical writer for Ro.