Tretinoin is the generic name of the active ingredient in products such as Retin-A and Avita, according to MedicineNet. Tretinoin derives from vitamin A and causes rapid skin cell division and death, leading to improvements in the skin's appearance. The available concentrations in topical creams include 0.025 percent active ingredient.
The medicine is applied topically to the skin to treat acne and skin damage from sun exposure. Sun-damaged skin often shows fine wrinkling and hyperpigmentation. Improvements among patients with sun-damaged skin typically occur within the first month of treatment. According to MedicineNet, the Food and Drug Administration provided approval for topical tretinoin in 1971. It is a prescription medication.