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ReTrieve Cream: Can It Cure Acne? Are There Side-effects?

ReTrieve cream is a common brand name in New Zealand for treating acne. Those who have oily or normal skin are best suited for ReTrieve.

It’s commonly known as tretinoin and was developed almost 30 years ago. It’s a combination of synthetic and naturally occurring Vitamin A compounds.

It was approved in New Zealand as a prescribed medication on 26 November 2009.

Topical Vitamin A compounds proven to provide smoother looking skin. However, some Vitamin A based creams you can legally buy online without prescription and some can only be acquired through a doctor’s prescription.


ReTrieve Indications According To Medsafe.gov.nz

It is indicated for treatment of acne vulgaris, primary grades I-III in which comedones, papules and pustules predominate. 

It is not recommended as monotherapy in cases of severe pustular and deep cystic nodular varieties (acne conglobata).

Is there a difference between ReTrieve and Retinol?

Many women love to use Retinols due to its effect in reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

The only noticeable difference is that ReTrieve is a much harsher synthetic Vitamin A than Retinols.

Retinols can be found over the counter and you can easily buy it without prescription required.


How ReTrieve Works?

ReTrieve irritates the skin, which puts your skin into a defensive mechanism that leads to creating more cells.

The more cells your skin creates the more they get irritated and die fast. This means high turnover rate of cells.

The number of your skin layers will reduce and if you have overly sensitive skin you might deal with more breakouts. And in this case you’ll have to stop the medication immediately!

The whole idea of rapid turnover of cells is to prevent pimples from coming back. It doesn’t give enough time.

With that in mind, you’ll notice a dramatic reduction in fine lines and wrinkles. 

Here are other benefits to expect from it:


How long does it take to see results?

It highly depends on many factors, such as your skin type, how much acne you have, & environmental factors.

Here is a rule of thumb, you will not see much results the first couple of weeks. Actually, it can get worse with the whole irritation and flaking.

And for that reason, many just give up on ReTrieve cream and seek other treatments. If you are seeking a dermatologist most likely you’ll be advised to wait for results after 6 to 9 weeks.


How to Use ReTrieve Cream?

Most probably your dermatologist will advise you on general guidelines & how to use it properly. Here is a step by step guide:

  1. Make sure to wash your face with Paraben-free cleansers before any application. And they pat dry;
  2. Avoid sunlight if in the morning, and it’s recommended to apply in the night time;
  3. If it’s your first time to use ReTrieve, then you will just leave it in for 10 minutes, then wash it off;
  4. Second time, leave it in for 15 minutes;
  5. Every time you can increase the leave in time 30 minutes. So, let's say, 3rd time will be 15 + 30 = 45 minutes. Then 4th time will be 45 + 30 = 75 minutes;
  6. If there were no skin reaction after 3rd or 4th time, then it’s safe to leave it in all night long and wash it off when you wake up;
  7. If you notice an increase in the irritation or flaking, it's okay to take a break for a couple of days. Just don't stop using the medication completely without consulting your doctor / dermatologist;
  8. Apply an SPF 30+ or SPF50+ during the day;
  9. Avoid excessive sunlight, sunlamps, strong wind, dry air, harsh soaps and harsh exfoliants.


ReTrieve Cream Side-effects

Unfortunately, every prescribed topical cream for acne comes with some unwanted side-effects, here are few effects you might experience during your treatment:

  • Swollen, crusted, red, or blistered skin;
  • Stinging, itching, peeling, burning, or general irritation once ReTrieve cream is applied;
  • You might experience change to skin color brighter or darker;
  • You must tell your health care provider about all of this.

If side-effects got worse and didn’t resolve you might need to STOP taking ReTrieve immediately!

Other Risks

Due to the harshness effect on your skin, you are most likely to deal with fast sunburn even with minimum exposure.

If you do get a sunburn, you must wait until your skin recovers completely and then you can resume ReTrieve treatment.

Sometimes, ReTrieve can react with other topical medications, make sure you are not using any other topical creams that contain the following:

  • Sulfur,
  • Resorcinol,
  • Salicylic Acid. 

It’s highly advisable to memorise any topical cream or serum you take and make sure to disclose it with your doctor before he or she prescribes ReTrieve cream.

Is ReTrieve cream safe with pregnancy?

The problem with ReTrieve is that it was not sufficiently studied on how it impacts pregnancy. However, it was not proven safe or unsafe either. 

The only thing that was proven is that high doses of Vitamin A can lead to birth defects. But this study was conducted on oral consumption of Vitamin A.

If you are pregnant and using ReTrieve, then it is better to stop using it. Call your doctor and don’t panic, it’s fine.

What if you want to get rid of acne while pregnant?

Acne during pregnancy highly depends on your luck. Some women get better skin during pregnancy and some just deal with tough breakouts and terrible acne.

If you are in the unlucky criteria, don’t worry, there is an easy solution to get rid of acne during pregnancy.

Here is some of the most suggested safe ingredients you can use during your pregnancy or breast feeding period:

Salicylic acid (BHA) is a superior exfoliant for skin, and the small percentages used in skincare (2% or lower) are OK to use while pregnant. You can also consider using glycolic acid or lactic acid (AHA) exfoliants during your pregnancy. Sunscreen actives are not known to be a risk during pregnancy.

Your best course of action is to talk with your dermatologist and/or obstetrician for guidance in effectively and safely treating acne for the duration of your pregnancy.



ReTrieve cream can bring great results, but again with every prescribed treatment comes great patience. Some were lucky and got their acne treated permanently and some just had to find other solutions.

Image by Kjerstin Michaela Haraldsen

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