What is the proper Retin-A dosage for acne?
Im 23 years old and struggle with acne like any young woman does. It isn't so bad, just the occasional pimple here and there. However, sometimes the pimples are a little more substantial and I figured I could use Retin-A to dry these types of pimples out. What is the proper dosage I should use so I don't dry my face out too much?
I'm 22 years old but dealing acne problems that face the average teenager. I tried several solutions from natural ones to salicylic acid, but would still experience horrible acne outbreaks. My dermatologist recommended Retin-A, a tretinoin that is applied topically. This is the first acne treatment that actually works for me.
My dermatologist started me off on a small dosage of 0.05%. She started me off on a small dose because the medication has a habit of causing irritation and peeling. She said as my skin gets used to the medication, I can increase the dosage. Right now, I only use it every other night. If necessary, I could increase my use to every night. So, far I haven't increased my dosage because the medication seems to be effective.
I have a Retin-A prescription from my doctor, who says it is a commonly prescribed medication for acne treatment. The Retin-A basically causes my skin to regenerate faster to refresh the cells, clear acne and blackheads and to fade my acne scars. I use it on specific areas and avoid putting it all over my face because my acne is mostly under control now. I use Retin-A to treat breakouts, including clogged pores, blackheads and whiteheads.
As per my doctor's instructions, I initially used the prescription on my entire face just three times a week to avoid causing my face to peel. Using it too often could have adverse effects such as peeling, skin irritation (kind of like a sunburn), and strong drying effects to the affected area. The plan was to build up to using it daily, but now that my face is mostly clear, the schedule has been adjusted. I use it daily on my nose and forehead, which are my common breakout areas, and as needed for additional breakouts. If you see a doctor, you will get specifics on your skin tone and breakouts issues. Best of luck!
Waxing and waning acne is a common concern especially in female patients your age, but using RETIN-A (or other tretinoin/retinoid topicals) to "dry out" your acne is not the best approach. You're correct in thinking that tretinoin will likely help treat your acne, but not in the way you may be understanding its use.
Retinoids are a class of topical (or oral, in the case of Isotretinoin, formerly known as Accutane) medications that are used to treat and prevent acne, improve skin texture and tone, and to reduce pore size and excess oil production. Dosage and, more importantly directions, for use of retinoids plays a key role in avoiding complications, such as "drying out" your skin.
Typically, we recommend retinoids to be used in tandem with or just before application of a moisturizer. Retinoids by nature like fats to bind to on your skin so that they can be better absorbed - and in essence, work their magic. In addition, we recommend that patients use a very small amount of medication when they apply it at night (for example a pea sized amount, or even half of a pea size). Lastly, once initiated we suggest that patients use them less frequently than every evening because of the propensity for dryness and scaling. Depending on the sensitivity of the skin, we may instruct a patient to start the medication at two or three times per week at night for several weeks, then slowly increase them as tolerated. It is typical that patients have a tolerance that is built up over time, and therefore they can challenge their skin to increase the frequency at which they apply the medication.
I recommend you see a board certified dermatologist before starting any skin regimen, and as always, don't forget to wear your sunscreen!
All the best,
Jeanine Downie, MD