Bexarotene Gel (Targretin® Gel Formulation)

Last Modified: August 15, 2011

Pronounced: beks-AIR-oh-teen
Classification: Retinoid

About Bexarotene

Bexarotene belongs to a class of drugs known as retinoids. Retinoids are drugs that are relatives of vitamin A. The exact way bexarotene works is unknown, but it is believed to inhibit the growth of tumor cells.

How to Take Bexarotene

Bexarotene is given in a pill form or a gel form that is applied to the skin. This article focuses on the gel formulation. The gel should be applied initially once every other day. The frequency should be increased, as tolerated, to once a day, then twice a day, then three times a day and finally four times a day.

How to Apply:

  • Apply the gel using a clean, washed finger. Apply a generous coating over the surface of each lesion, trying not to apply gel to the healthy skin around the lesion. This will help reduce redness and irritation to the healthy skin.
  • Immediately after applying the gel, wipe the finger with a tissue and wash with soap and water.
  • Allow the gel to dry for 5-10 minutes before covering with clothing. Avoid covering with gauze or bandages.
  • Use a non-deodorant soap when bathing and wait at least 20 minutes after a shower or bath to apply the gel. Avoid getting the area wet (bathing, swimming) for 3 hours after applying.
  • Do not apply to mucosal surfaces, including eyes, nostrils, mouth, vagina, tip of penis, rectum or anus.
  • Do not use insect repellants or other products that contain DEET while using this gel.

Safety Considerations When Receiving Bexarotene:

  • Vitamin A supplements can worsen the side effects of bexarotene. The manufacturer recommends limiting vitamin A supplementation less than 15,000 IU/day, but you should discuss taking any vitamin supplements with your doctor BEFORE you take them.
  • Because of the extremely high risk that a deformed infant can result if pregnancy occurs while taking this medication, both men and women should not become pregnant (or father a child). Two methods of effective contraception are recommended for women of childbearing potential, unless absolute abstinence is the chosen method. Discuss with your doctor when you may safely become pregnant or conceive a child after therapy.

Possible Side Effects of Bexarotene

Patients are unlikely to develop system-wide side effects, such as nausea and low white blood cell count, while using the topical formula. However, local skin reactions can occur.

Skin Changes

While using this gel, your skin may develop redness, itching, burning, irritation and scaling in the area of application. Your skin will be more sensitive to the sun, which can result in severe sunburn or rash. Sun sensitivity can last even after you stop taking the medication. Avoid the sun as much as possible, as even a little exposure can cause a burn. Do not use a sunlamp or tanning bed. Wear sunglasses and long sleeves/pants to protect your skin and eyes. Talk to your healthcare provider before using topical lotions and moisturizers as these may interfere with the medication if applied to the same areas.


Click on any of these terms for more related articles


Homeopathy: What You Should Know
by The 4Wholeness Team
July 22, 2015