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I used Tazorac a couple of years ago, and it did not work for me...mostly because I stopped using it because of the initial breakout. However, I've been really successful this time around. I now have one pimple at my worst at a time, and it's usually around that time of month. (I still have a bit of scarring and quite a few dark spots though!)

Detailed below are the techniques that have worked well for me in reducing/eliminating initial breakouts. My skin never got any worse than it was, although I can't say that the progress was linear. I'd be clear, and then I'd get a few more pimples. But they were always smaller and went away more quickly than before. I can't say I ever got anything I would describe as an initial breakout (not like the first time around.) I used the cream .1%

First, check out the website for how to use it.
Second, if it interests you, do a little research on how it works. (I learned about it in physiology).

Finally, my tips:

1. Use only at night.
2. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and apply a really good non-greasy moisturizer. My dermatologist prescribed the CeraVe line. I used CeraVe moisturizing lotion. Use whatever works for you, but make sure it is very moisturizing and doesn't irritate your skin (and doesn't have really emollient oils or moisturizers like synthetic lanolin in it.) TROUBLESHOOTING: You may need to use a heavier moisturizer during the winter months. If you start breaking out more as the months become colder, consider this option.

UPDATE 3/3/12 : This was my first winter using Tazorac. It controlled my acne really well during the summer months, but as the days became colder, I found myself breaking out again! I freaked out, looking for a reason, because more breakouts means more scars and more red marks. I explored several causes; maybe vitamin D deficiency was the cause... Supplementing with vitamin D didn't help too much. Then, one week, I forgot my CeraVe lotion at home. I still had CeraVe cream sitting in my apartment, however. (I use it to treat random dry skin I get on my neck sometimes.) I didn't want to dish out money for a new bottle of lotion, so I decided to use the cream on my face for a week. PROBLEM SOLVED!! The weird try patches I had suddenly been getting under my eyes and on my jaw disappeared too. It seems like "naw duh" now, considering what I've harped on in this post, but it seriously took me about 5 months to realize this was the issue... It's actually colder and windier in February and March than it is in December here, so luckily, I discovered this before the awful weather hit.

Lesson: Look at the weather to decide what clothes you need to wear outside AND what moisturizer you need to put on your face.


3. Wait 20 minutes between applying moisturizer and applying Tazorac.


4. Apply the smallest amount you can without tugging all over your face. Your "pea" should be pretty small. The reason I say all over your face is as a precautionary measure and so that you don't expose virgin skin to irritation by accident in the future (by overspreading, or because you broke out there.)


5. Be perceptive of irritation, and take a day off from Tazorac and other topical meds when you're irritated. Initially, I got irritated (redness, slight stinging or burning when the skin was stretched, dryness) after a week of using Tazorac. This really helped with the the IB, because I found that when I ignored this rule, I actually would start to break out more.

  • I did this because I remember reading an article (in a medical journal through my university's databases but I can't find it anymore.) that claimed there was some evidence that what was initially thought to be "purging" was actually mostly caused by irritation from the retinoid. If anyone finds this article, let me know!
  • note: if you do this, and you're careful about irritation, you can get away with spot treating in the mornings. My dermatologist actually advised that I spot treat in the mornings with Duac and I think it helped a little.

6. Tell yourself "3 months" and follow what your dermatologist says. Don't stress out. Just do it. Trust in it, and believe that it will work, because if you do, you're more likely to follow through.


7. Your progress will not be linear. You'll have a really clear week and then get 3 new pimples. Understand and accept this.
8. Don't try other treatments or face products during this time. Don't be a med hopper. You've got to use this consistently.


9. SUNSCREEN. Full spectrum. Which means either Zinc Oxide or if you've got any melanin in your skin (I'm Indian), and you don't want to look like the living dead--Mexoryl. La Roche Posay is $20 a tube on amazon. One tube=5 months if you use it just on the face. And for those who think that's expensive, think about how much your paying for meds. Think of it as a preventive medication for future skin damage. Great deal--- $20 is only twice my copay. As for sunscreen over the winter or on a cloudy day, use the UVIndex on any weather website to decide whether or not to wear sunscreen during the day.


9. Don't feel guilty about makeup. Sometimes, a little makeup can prevent picking and stressing, because your acne is not noticeable, but buy a good makeup remover to get it off. If it does that for you--go for it! I used boots no 7 and true match with NYC powder during this time. Update: I've stopped using makeup regularly, especially during the winter months. It's simply too drying. That said, if it keeps you from picking/stressing, please use it!


10. Don't miss life because of your skin. It may have psychological effects, but some of those you can cut down on just by not thinking about it. You're doing what you can, and hopefully, if this product works for you, you'll be clearer in two or three months! Enjoy life in the mean time.


11. If you have a friend who has had acne and used a retinoid to get it clear, ask her what you should expect. Or just ask her for advice/talk to her about how she felt about it. It's very encouraging! (I had a friend who used Tazorac).

12. UPDATE 3/3/13 - Add in other actives, but be careful. After having used Tazorac for 5 to 6 months or even a year, you may want to try adding in an exfoliant. I've added in a 2.5% salicylic acid solution by Paula Begoun (The Regular from the Clear Line) recently. I use it around once a week. Any more than that, and I'm dry. Exfoliating helps Tazorac work more effectively for me. I've tried adding it in before, but used it more frequently -- that caused dryness and breakouts. You will make mistakes, but ultimately, you need to develop a regimen that you can lean back on before taking any major risks.

For reference, I put a new shirt on my pillow every night. I think I only ever missed a night twice in terms of skin care; this was during exams when I basically had to sleep in the library.

I seriously think Tazorac has done more than clear my acne--it's made my skin look so much better. The tone is more even and it's softer.

If anyone has anything to add or has input/personal experiences, please feel free!

Edited by skinnie
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Thanks for this. I don't think my skin got worse, either, and I have done basically the same as you: moisturize even though my derm said not to, and I continued to use BPO 2.5% during the morning, which the derm said to do, and which has helped a lot. Wearing so much sunscreen is no fun, though, as I am very pale and would like some color, but oh well. The thing that I have had a hard time accepting is that the progress is not linear, like you said. I know now that I will have 3 days of crappy skin, then 3 days of good skin, and so on. Does this eventually end? I have completed 8 weeks and hope that this doesn't go forever.

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This post is just what I needed!! Thank you for the tips, I'm definitely relating to all of those things! I especially feel self-conscious about wearing makeup and I hate that after I think I'm clearing up, a new zit comes through! But those pimples are definitely smaller and do die down pretty fast! I think it's kicking in. Overall, I'm trying to just live my life and have fun, even with my skin not at the stage I want it to be yet. It's really the red marks that kill me.

I'm almost at two months of consistent use though, and I *think* things may be working! Just gotta stick through. Really though, thank you for this post! I'm using Differin, not Tazorac, but both are retinoids so I'd imagine I'm in the same boat that you once were in.

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I agree tazorac definitely cleared up my acne to just a small pimple every few weeks. the problem is it left a tad bit scarring and redness but i think its because i diddnt follow all the way through. Im back on it and it seems to be working. Ive almsot finished what ive started. its true, i can not stress moistureizer and sunscreen enough though.

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I just finished my first week with Tazorac, and i can really notice the initial breakout starting. I am also taking an antibiotic, and I dont even want to think about how my face would look without it. I would really appreciate hearing anyone's expereinces with Tazorac and what I can expect in the next few weeks. thanks!

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Im in the process of switching from Ziana to Tazorac .1% gel

Should I not be using the ziana for the nights off from tazorac while I make the switch?

Great post though, really encouraging!

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Thanks for this. I don't think my skin got worse, either, and I have done basically the same as you: moisturize even though my derm said not to, and I continued to use BPO 2.5% during the morning, which the derm said to do, and which has helped a lot. Wearing so much sunscreen is no fun, though, as I am very pale and would like some color, but oh well. The thing that I have had a hard time accepting is that the progress is not linear, like you said. I know now that I will have 3 days of crappy skin, then 3 days of good skin, and so on. Does this eventually end? I have completed 8 weeks and hope that this doesn't go forever.

Yes, it does eventually go away. I get a small pimple every 2 weeks that goes away in a day, now.

I just finished my first week with Tazorac, and i can really notice the initial breakout starting. I am also taking an antibiotic, and I dont even want to think about how my face would look without it. I would really appreciate hearing anyone's expereinces with Tazorac and what I can expect in the next few weeks. thanks!

expect non-linear progress: clear days and not so clear days. Also expect some dryness. Expect your skin to look brighter. Most of all, don't worry about your skin. Expect nothing and judge nothing until 3 months from now! Don't be overzealous with your skincare. It really is okay if you have to miss a day because you have to live your life. In fact, it might be good that you're missing one day of a ridiculously strong medication. (may not feel that way but it is). When you use this med, keep in mind how strong it is, and use it cautiously.

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Thanks for this. I don't think my skin got worse, either, and I have done basically the same as you: moisturize even though my derm said not to, and I continued to use BPO 2.5% during the morning, which the derm said to do, and which has helped a lot. Wearing so much sunscreen is no fun, though, as I am very pale and would like some color, but oh well. The thing that I have had a hard time accepting is that the progress is not linear, like you said. I know now that I will have 3 days of crappy skin, then 3 days of good skin, and so on. Does this eventually end? I have completed 8 weeks and hope that this doesn't go forever.

Yes, it does eventually go away. I get a small pimple every 2 weeks that goes away in a day, now.

It has been 13 weeks for me, now, and indeed, the big breakouts have stopped. I do still occasionally get a medium pimple, but applying the salicylic acid and Tazorac takes it down quickly.

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