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By Cindy Diep, The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy

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Having trouble with acne? Learn the similarities and differences between adapalene and tazarotene to find the best treatment for you!

What is Tazarotene? Does Tazarotene Clear Acne?

Tazarotene is a retinoid that is indicated for acne vulgaris. It is approved to treat acne in adults and children ages 12 years and older. It comes in a cream, gel, or foam formulation and is applied topically on the skin to clear acne.

Are Adapalene and Tazarotene the Same Thing?

Adapalene and tazarotene are not the same thing. They are both topical retinoids used to treat acne and other skin conditions. They also work in similar ways to treat acne by unclogging pores and reducing inflammation. However, there are key differences between the two medications. 

What are the Differences Between Tazarotene vs Adapalene? 

There are several differences between tazarotene and adapalene. Tazarotene is generally considered to be more potent than adapalene. This means that tazarotene may be more effective in treating certain skin conditions, but it may also have a higher risk of causing irritation and other side effects compared to adapalene. Also, adapalene can be used to treat acne vulgaris and rosacea, while tazarotene is approved for acne vulgaris, psoriasis, and skin aging symptoms due to sun damage. 

In addition, adapalene at the 0.1% is available over-the-counter (see Curist Acne Relief) whereas tazarotene is not available over-the-counter, tazarotene is only available by prescription.

Can You Use Tazarotene if You’re Pregnant? Can you Use Adapalene If You’re Pregnant?

Tazarotene is classified as Pregnancy Category X and cannot be used during pregnancy due to potential fetal harm. Adapalene is classified as Pregnancy Category C, meaning that there may be risks to the fetus but the benefits may outweigh the risks. Please discuss using either tazarotene or adapalene with your medical provider if you are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant.

Is Adapalene More Effective than Tazarotene? Is Tazarotene Better than Adapalene?

It is difficult to determine whether adapalene or tazarotene is more effective because it depends on various factors, including the individual’s skin type, severity of the acne, and a person’s personal response to these medications. Tazarotene is generally considered to be more potent than adapalene, which means that it may be more effective for certain individuals in treating skin conditions. However, increased potency often comes with a higher risk of side effects. Adapalene is less potent, but may be better tolerated by some individuals, especially those with more sensitive skin. Certain medical conditions or contraindications may also make one medication more suitable than the other. For example, tazarotene is contraindicated during pregnancy and should not be used. Meanwhile, adapalene is considered safer than tazarotene during pregnancy. In conclusion, the effectiveness of adapalene versus tazarotene varies from person to person. Contact a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment for you.

Is Adapalene Stronger than Tazarotene? What is Stronger than Tazarotene?

Tazarotene is considered stronger or more potent than adapalene. Tazarotene is known for its high potency among retinoids, while adapalene is usually classified as a less potent retinoid.

However, there are other topical medications that may be stronger than tazarotene, depending on the context. Some possible options include tretinoin, isotretinoin, and adapalene-benzoyl peroxide combination. Everyone’s skin is different and so there is no one-size-fits-all answer for which acne medication will work best for you. The choice between medications should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional or dermatologist.

What’s Best for Acne: Adapalene or Tazarotene?

Determining whether adapalene or tazarotene is best for treating acne depends on various factors including the severity of the acne, individual type, and a person’s response to the medications. Both are effective topical retinoids commonly used in the treatment of acne, but they have differences in potency and side effects that may influence how suitable they are for different individuals. Consult a healthcare professional to determine which medication is best for you based on your acne condition and medical history.

Can I Use Adapalene and Tazarotene Together? 

It is generally recommended that adapalene and tazarotene not be used together, unless specifically advised by a healthcare professional. They are both retinoids that can be used for acne vulgaris and together are considered a therapeutic duplication. Both work by similar mechanisms to treat acne and combining them may increase the risk of side effects, such as skin irritation, dryness, and more.

Can I Use Tazarotene and Adapalene on the Same Day?

Using both tazarotene and adapalene on the same day is generally not recommended unless you are instructed to do so by a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist. Both are topical retinoids that work in similar ways and may have a redundant effect. Using them on the same day may increase the risk of adverse effects and it would be difficult to determine how you tolerate each product if you use them on the same day.

Can I Use Tazarotene and Adapalene Alternatively?

Using tazarotene and adapalene alternatively may be a strategy that dermatologists recommend for certain individuals. It is a good idea if you want to try one product first for a few weeks and then test the other to see how you react to each product. Every individual’s skin is different and reacts to different products in different ways, so alternating between adapalene and tazarotene may help you determine which is best for your acne. Before starting any new skincare regimen or making changes to your current treatment, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional, preferably a dermatologist.

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This content is for informational use only and does not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for and should not be relied upon for specific medical recommendations. Please talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns.