If I MUST Go into the Sun, How Long Should One Stop Using Retin-A Beforehand?

I am due to head out to Southern Africa at the height of their summer in 2011 and I will do my best to stay out of direct sunlight and wear sunscreens, hats and sunglasses. Although I will not be 'suntanning', there will be days where I will be obliged to be in their harsh, direct sunlight or subjected to reflection off the sea. To minimise any bad side-effects, I want to stop using Retin-A for two weeks beforehand. Will this be enough?

Doctor Answers 4

Retinoid sun sensitivity is seen early on

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During the initiation of retinoid therapy, you will be sun sensitive. After that initial period of flaking and redness, the skin adjusts and as long as you use adequate sunscreens (and reapply), as well as hats and sunglasses, you are no longer unusually sensitive to sunburning. Most people adjust to retinoids within a few weeks. If you are flaking and red before you go, stop the retinoids for at least one week.

New Orleans Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Stopping Retin-A before excessive sun exposure

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Yes, 2 weeks is plenty. Sounds like you have a pretty good sun protection strategy. Enjoy your trip!

Daniel J. Ladd Jr., DO
Austin Dermatologist

Retin A

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Stop the Retin A about one week before traveling to sunny areas. Use TOTAL BLOCK sunscreen, reapply the sunscreen every 2-4 hours

Samir Shureih, MD
Baltimore Plastic Surgeon

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When to stop Retin-A before sun exposure?

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Two weeks is a good amount of time.  I usually recommend between one and two weeks prior to intense sun exposure. For moderate sun exposure, one does not need to stop the Retin-A at all, just use proper sun protection and avoid the sun in peak hours.

Given that it will be difficult to avoid intense sun exposure on your trip, your plan to use sun protective clothing, eyewear and sunscreens is absolutely great.  That is essential to keeping the benefits gained by using Retin-A in the first place.

Emily Altman, MD
Short Hills Dermatologic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.