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

Ask me your skincare question!

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

  • All our content is written and researched by myself.
  • My medical office in Seattle has treated thousands of patients for 15+ years.
  • This site is not affiliated or financially tied to any product, treatment or device.
Ask Me Something
SkinTour Skincare
One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes! I have handpicked some of what I consider to be the best skin care products, and offer them for sale on SkinTour's shop. This is based on my team and I's testing and research at our clinic. Many of the products are in my own regimen. What could be better than using skin care products a dermatologist uses?!