What Is Tazorac (Tazarotene)?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2022. | Last updated: July 2022

Tazorac is a topical treatment option for people with plaque psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition that causes symptoms on the skin. Tazorac is only available by prescription.

The active ingredient in Tazorac is tazarotene, which is a type of medicine called a topical retinoid or vitamin A derivative. This type of drug is used to treat several different types of skin conditions, such as acne, but Tazorac was designed specifically to treat psoriasis symptoms1.

Tazorac is available in multiple strengths, and in the form of a gel, cream or foam. Some people prefer the gel form because it does not smell as strongly and is less likely to stain clothing. The cream form may be better for people who have dry or sensitive skin because it contains a moisturizer in the cream base2. It is also available as a foam called Fabior 0.1%.

Patients apply just a small amount of Tazorac to the area of affected skin. Your healthcare provider will provide you with specific instructions, but Tazorac can generally be used on most of the body, including the scalp, nails, face, and around the hairline. The gel can be used on up to 20% of the body at once, while the cream can be used on slightly larger areas (up to 35% of the body) per application3.

How does Tazorac (tazarotene) work to treat plaque psoriasis?

In people with psoriasis, chronic inflammation causes new skin cells to grow too quickly before they are needed. This leads to a buildup of older skin cells on the top layer of skin, which causes plaques to form.

Topical retinoids such as tazarotene, the active ingredient in Tazorac, work by slowing down the production of new skin cells. Researchers think that tazarotene may also have the effect of reducing inflammation1.

In studies to test the effectiveness of tazarotene in treating psoriasis, more than 60% of patients had an improvement in their symptoms of 50% or more4.

What are the common side effects of using Tazorac (tazarotene)?

While this is not a complete list of side effects, the most common side effects of treatment with Tazorac are dry skin and skin irritation in areas of healthy skin. This can be helped by applying moisture to the healthy skin around the area that is being treated.

Tazorac is a very strong medicine that can irritate the skin where it is applied. Your healthcare provider can provide advice about how to help with this, such as starting off by mixing the medicine with Vaseline and then slowly increasing the dose per treatment1.

Using Tazorac makes you much more likely to get sunburned, so it is very important to use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and to avoid sun exposure when possible.

As the medicine takes effect on psoriasis plaques, it is common for them to become bright red in color. This usually does not cause pain, burning, or itching; consult your healthcare provider if it does3.

Tazorac should never be used by women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. Women will need to use a reliable form of birth control during treatment with Tazorac. Females should have a negative pregnancy test two weeks before starting treatment.

Can Tazorac (tazarotene) be used with other treatments?

Studies have shown that Tazorac is more effective when used in combination with other types of topical treatments, such as corticosteroids1. Because patients are able to use a lower dose of Tazorac when it is combined with another topical treatment, they tend to experience fewer of the side effects related to Tazorac3.

Studies have also shown that using Tazorac alongside a course of phototherapy, if it is prescribed by your healthcare provider, is more effective in treating psoriasis symptoms that using Tazorac alone or treatment with only phototherapy4.

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