Topical retinoids have been used with great success for the treatment of patients with acne. Until now, the most significant drawback associated with their use has been local irritation. Since acne vulgaris is one of the most common skin conditions treated by physicians, it is important to harness the topical efficacy of retinoids that have a good local tolerability profile. Until recently this combination of features has been lacking. A new drug, adapalene, and a reformulation of the older agent tretinoin, may offer these favourable characteristics, according to presentations at the 56th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology [Florida, US; March 1998].