Are topical retinoids teratogenic?

Stefano Veraldi, Luisa C. Rossi, M. Barbareschi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Retinolc acid is a physiological compound of human blood. Blood levels range from 1000 to 7000 pg/mL (usually 1500-5000 pg/mL). Results of studies on absorption of topical retinoic acid in laboratory animals, although rather conflicting, demonstrate that it induces plasma concentrations which are well below concentrations caused by non-teratogenic oral doses. In humans, minimal percutaneous absorption of tretinoin was observed after topical applications. Neither single dose nor long-term treatment with topical tretinoin affect the endogenous levels of retinoic acid or its metabolites. Topical application of tretinoin at doses used in acne unlikely induces systemic effects. Although some clinical cases of suspected tretinoin-related embryotoxicity have been described, three prospective cohort studies clearly demonstrated the safety of topical tretinoin as an embryotoxic agent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-705
Number of pages6
JournalGiornale Italiano di Dermatologia e Venereologia
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Acne vulgaris
  • Teratogenesis
  • Toxicity
  • Tretinoin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Dermatology


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