Resorcinol (Topical)

A skin cream which works by breaking down hardened, scaly or roughened skin to improve the appearance of mild acne scars and areas of uneven skin tone.


Resorcinol (topical route) is a skin cream prescribed by a doctor to treat a number of dermatological disorders including; acne, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, corns, calluses and warts. It works by breaking down and exfoliating rough, scaly, or hardened skin on the outer layer of the dermis, helping to improve the appearance of mild acne scars and areas of uneven skin tone.

Resorcinol is an active ingredient which is used in many over-the-counter (OTC) skin treatments, but can only be prescribed by a doctor in high formulations due to the potential risk resorcinol poisoning. The topical route is available as an ointment or lotion which is applied to the skin and massaged gently until it is fully absorbed.

Conditions treated

  • Used to treat various dermatological disorders including; acne, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, corns, calluses, and warts.

Type of medicine

  • Lotion or ointment

Side effects

Although extremely rare, some patients may suffer an allergic or adverse reaction to taking resorcinol. Patients that experience the following symptoms during application should consult their healthcare professional immediately:

  • Any skin irritation that was not present before application

Over judicious application of the drug can cause it to enter the bloodstream causing resorcinol poisoning and/or the blood disorder methemoglobinemia. The following are symptoms of resorcinol poisoning:

  • Diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Sweating
  • Sudden tiredness or weakness

During application, some side effects may occur which do not require medical attention. These should disappear after a few days as the patient's skin adjusts to the treatment. However, patients should check with their doctor or healthcare professional if the following adverse effects continue for more than a few days:

  • Redness and peeling of the skin (may occur a few days after application)

Patients may experience side effects which are not listed above, these should be reported to your healthcare professional immediately. Any suspected adverse effects should also be reported to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) at 1-800-FDA-1088.


resorcinol can be applied at home but dosage instructions must be followed precisely. Do not apply too much resorcinol to the skin and do not apply it more often than prescribed. This increases the risk of resorcinol poisoning which can be fatal.

resorcinol should be applied to affected areas of the skin only and massaged gently until the residue has disappeared. Care should be taken to avoid the eyes and mouth, if you accidentally get resorcinol in your eyes, flush them with cold water.

After application, the patient should wash their hands to remove any residual cream.

Actual dosage levels will be specific for every patient, always follow dosage instructions carefully. The dosage will stipulate the number of doses to apply each day, the amount of time to wait between doses and the length of time to continue treatment. DO NOT change these levels unless instructed to do so by your doctor.

resorcinol (topical) is available as both a lotion and ointment, dosage levels are different for each. The following are standard dosage amounts and are NOT a substitute for your doctor's dosage instructions.

Lotion dosage:

For acne, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis:

  • Apply not more than 3 to 4 times each day.

Ointment dosage:

For acne, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis:

  • Dosage determined by a doctor.

Missed dose

Patients who miss a dose of resorcinol, should apply it as near to the original application time as possible. If it is almost time for your next dose, it is recommended they skip the missed dose and return to their normal schedule.


There are no known major interactions with resorcinol.

Moderate drug interactions

There are 4 moderate interactions Using resorcinol with any of the following drugs may cause your skin to dry out and/or become irritated:

  • Tretinoin topical
  • Hydroquinone
  • Fluocinolone
  • Mequinol

Patients are advised to tell their doctor about any other medications they are taking including over-the-counter medications (OTC), vitamins or herbs. It is important patients DO NOT stop using any medication without discussing it with their doctor or healthcare professional first.


While the risk of side effects while using topically applied resorcinol is low, doctors should make a thorough overview of the patient's medical history and make note of any other medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, which they are taking.

Precautions when using resorcinol

Other skincare products:

Using skin care products such as abrasive soaps or cleansers, while using resorcinol may cause severe skin irritation. Patients should avoid using the following products while taking resorcinol:

  • Medicated cosmetics
  • Any skin care products which contain alcohol, astringents or lime
  • Any skin preparation which contains a peeling agent (benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur or tretinoin.)
  • Cosmetics or soaps which dry the skin
  • Any other topical medicine for the skin


When applying resorcinol, patients should avoid getting it in their eyes or mouth. If the medication does get into any of these areas, rinse with cold water immediately and call your healthcare professional for advice.

Other drugs:

It is unlikely any other prescribed drugs will affect topically applied resorcinol, but you should always consult your doctor before taking any new drugs, both prescribed and over-the-counter, including herb, vitamin and mineral supplements.


When applying resorcinol it is important that you stick to the dosage levels supplied by your healthcare professional. DO NOT apply the cream more often than directed in the hope your condition will clear up sooner. Applying too much cream may result in resorcinol poisoning, which can be fatal. If you start to feel unwell during treatment contact your doctor immediately.


Children are more at risk of resorcinol poisoning so care should be taken to reduce dosage levels and that the medicine is only applied to affected area. Resorcinol should not be applied to open wounds or broken skin, since this increases the risk of resorcinol poisoning and may cause the blood disorder methemoglobinemia, which in severe cases can be fatal.


Patients should tell their doctor if they have previously had an allergic reaction to resorcinol or any other medicine. You should also notify your doctor of any other type of allergy you have such as food, animal and dye allergies.


There is currently insufficient data to provide evidence about the need to monitor the fetus during pregnancy. Doctors are therefore advised to carry out case-specific risk assessments before prescribing resorcinol to pregnant patients.


No tests have been carried out to determine if resorcinol is passed into breast milk or if it harms a nursing baby. It is therefore advised that the resorcinol not be prescribed until the mother has finished nursing.


Resorcinol should be kept out of reach of children and stored at room temperature 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F) in a secure container or medicine cabinet which provides protection from direct sunlight, heat and moisture. Do not freeze, if the medicine becomes frozen it should be disposed of immediately.

Note: Medicine which is no longer required or past its expiry date should be disposed of properly.


Resorcinol (topical) is a prescription medicine used to treat various skin disorders including; acne, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. It can also be used to treat corns, calluses, and warts. Resorcinol works by breaking down hard, scaly or rough skin from the outer layer of the dermis to improve the appearance of mild acne scars and uneven skin tone.

Supplied as either an ointment or lotion, resorcinol is applied to affected areas and massaged into the skin. Care needs to be taken to ensure that none of the medicine gets into the eyes or mouth. Resorcinol should NOT be applied to broken skin or large areas of unaffected skin. After application patients should wash their hands to remove any residue.

Resorcinol can be applied by the patient but care should be taken to follow dosage guidelines carefully. Overuse can lead to resorcinol entering the bloodstream through the skin, which increases the risk of resorcinol poisoning and the blood disorder methemoglobinemia. Patients who begin to feel ill during a course of treatment should contact their healthcare professional immediately.

So long as the drug is applied correctly, there are very few side effects associated with using resorcinol. However, it is important that the prescribing doctor carries out a full inspection of the patient's medical records before prescription. A small minority of patients may show an allergic reaction to resorcinol, in this case, the patient's medical history should indicate whether a reaction is likely to occur.

When using resorcinol it is important that patients make their doctor aware of any other facial creams or medication they may be used to treat the problem. Combining resorcinol with other medicated cosmetics or peeling agents which contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur, or vitamin A acids, may result in irritated or dry skin.


Last Reviewed:
February 01, 2018
Last Updated:
January 27, 2018