Will taking breaks from Retin A or other retinoids lessen their effects?

Hi Dr. Irwin, thank you for being such a reliable and trustworthy resource! As a long time Retin A user and currently taking time off during fractional laser treatments, how long can that time off be before the skin loses the beneficial side effects? I use Retin A to help control acne and also for antiaging. Also, sometimes I just want to give my skin a break from Retin A and give my routine a boost, try some peels and other things that cause too much irritation when I'm using Retin A regularly. Will the Retin A be effective if I'm taking breaks say, every 3-6 months, the break being a month or two? Thanks! :)

The answer to this is really no – as long as it’s being used most months for sun damage.   For acne, taking 4-8 weeks off changes the way the oil glands function and you may notice an increase in clogged pores and acne.  The peel you mention may  counteract that that clogging though.

Maybe the best way to think about this is that it’s similar to vitamins in our food.  Missing a few weeks or months of veggies with vitamins and minerals probably won’t cause permanent  damage.  But the more consistent you can be, the better your health.   One option is to change to a lower strength retinoid for a few months like the SkinMedica Retinol 0.25.

Hope this helps, Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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