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Can You Use Topical Acne Medications While on Isotretinoin?

I am currently on month 3 of my second course of Isotretinoin. My skin is still oily, and I'm still getting acne break outs. Granted, they are less severe in size and number, but still happening nonetheless. I am just under 120 lbs, and I'm currently taking 40 mg a day. My question is whether or not using topical medications (Retin A, for example) will help my situation. Thanks!

Doctor Answers (3)

Topical acne medications with Isotretinoin

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With the low dose Isotretinoin protocols, it is safe to use topical anti acne agents. With higher doses, the skin tends to be more sensitive. But if you are on a low dose regimen, then it should be fine.


Use gentle cleansers and a good moisturizer while on accutane.

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We do not recommend using any type of topical medications while on Accutane. Most patient's skin is very dry from taking this medication so using a gentle cleanser and a good moisturizer is all we recommend.

Sue Ellen Cox, MD
Raleigh-Durham Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Topical Acne Medications and Accutane

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Some (few!) topical medications are ok while on Accutane, but I would not say Retin-A is one of these. Accutane causes very dry skin and applying Retin-A onto that will result in severe irritation and redness. Consult your prescribing physician for his/her recommended topicals, but Retin-A isn't going to be one of them.

F. Victor Rueckl, MD
Las Vegas Dermatologist
4.5 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

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