Acne and wrinkles!! How can I deal with both?

Dr. Irwin, I have had problems with acne for years, both as a teen and now as an adult. I’m now 30 years old and beginning to have concerns about wrinkles and aging. I find that many products to address aging are too oily and lead to breakouts while acne centered products are quite drying probably only worsening wrinkles. How do you recommend treating both acne and wrinkles?

Well, I totally agree with you.  Acne and wrinkles are a frustrating area for many women/men because most of the acne products are formulated for 16 year olds with really oily skin. And, on the other side, the products for dry skin tend to clog pores and make acne worse, if you’re not careful.

If you truly have cystic acne which scars, you need to see a dermatologist asap. This type of acne will not respond to any non prescription skincare products. And topicals (cream/lotions, gels) do not work as well as oral medications for this type of acne.

Some prescriptions to think about:

  • Prescription topicals like tretinoin (generic for Retin A, etc.) are very effective if used correctly.  They also come in a lot of different bases. For example, a gel base will be more drying, a lotion in the middle, and a cream base more moisturizing.  Renova 0.025 is formulated in a more moisturizing base.  Refissa is formulated in a an ointment base which is very moisturizng, but also more likely to clog pores.
  • Other prescription topicals are often also available in a cream form, you just have to ask.
  • Many primary care doctors can prescribe these, especially if you come in knowing what you want to try.

Some non prescription products/ideas to think about:

  • If you have acne and dry skin, you must use moisturizer at least twice a day.  Look for oil-free, noncomedogenic moisturizers and apply them liberally.
  • You can also try layering products. For example, try the SkinCeuticals Vitamin B5 gel (hydrating with no oil) as a base am and pm and then put your acne product over it. This will make the acne product less irritating, if you put it over an oil-free moisturizer.
  • Look for moisturizers and skincare products that say “noncomedogenic.”  This just means that it won’t make acne worse.
  • Make sure your sunscreen is formulated for acne prone skin. One that our patients like is the Elta Clear.
  • Differin gel is now non prescription. This products works well for many. If it’s irritating you, try putting an oil-free moisturizer on first, waiting 5 minutes and then applying it.


Hope this helps,   Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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