Vitamin A cream a decent stand in for Accutane?
April 16, 2009 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Acne and/or Rosacea problem. Vitamin A as a cure?

I have an acne and/or rosacea issue. Background: I am late 20s and fair skinned and have ruddiness on my cheeks and redness in the crease where my nose meets my face. I also have a few blackheads and whiteheads on my nose and under my eyes respectively. And my facial skin has an overall dullness about it. But, the main concern for me is the redness.... because even when I'm having a great skin week and everything is clear and blemish-free, there's still a noticable uneveness.

Two things have fixed this in the past: 1) Accutane- I could only afford 2 months worth, but it worked like a charm and 2) pregnancy hormones (not at the same time as Accutane, of course). Those things are not repeatable right now, and nothing else has helped. I don't have health insurance or the discretionary funds to go to a dr. unless absolutely necessary, but I would like to know what I can do for this.... Food/ drink doesn't seem to be a factor for me. Although weather does (always worse in Summer).

What I'm wondering is, since Accutane worked, and it is concentrated Vitamin A, would a Vitamin A cream help? I'm using Neutrogena retional cream, but it's only helping a tiny bit... Has anyone had a good experience with a stronger OTC Vitamin A cream? If so, what's the brand?

Thanks in advance for your help.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you can get past the first month of looking worse rather than better, then Retin-A works very well for this sort of thing.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:45 AM on April 16, 2009

Accutane worked for me, and so did the strong formulation of Retin-A...the weak formulation (I think .05%) did nothing. So any vitamin A cream you could buy from the store would probably be weaker than the weak formulation. Talk to your doctor.
posted by crinklebat at 8:12 AM on April 16, 2009

Oy, I'm obviously just waking up & lacking in the reading comprehension department. If you don't have the funds to go to a doctor, I'd say don't waste your money on OTC creams. It seems like there are some shady online pharmacies that sell Retin-A and one of them might send it to you without a prescription, if you're interested in going that route. Here's what a pharmacist would tell you about Retin-A: wear sunscreen while you're on it, and don't get your face waxed or otherwise abraded.
posted by crinklebat at 8:15 AM on April 16, 2009

Retin-A is a great treatment for acne uncomplicated by rosacea, and may be worth using if you have the kind of rosacea that looks a lot like bad acne. But it's the last thing I'd use for skin redness associated with rosacea.

Accutane, Vitamin A and associated retinoids are designed to clear up blemishes. Topical retinoids also have an exfoliating effect that can brighten the skin, but people with rosacea should be very careful as the skin is more sensitive and may react badly to strong retinoids. These treatments are not designed to reduce diffuse redness and may be a bad choice for longtern use if redness is your main concern, as they could actually make it worse.

You may find some OTC medication can help with blemishes. If you're using a Vitamin A cream now and think that your redness might be a little better, what you're probably seeing is a reduction in redness from inflamed blemishes, not a reduction in redness from inflamed capillaries. You may be able to continue to use it to keep your blemishes under control without making your redness worse, but I can't guarantee that.

I'd advise treating your skin gently to keep the redness from increasing: gentle cleansing twice a day, no harsh products on your skin, limit your exposure to environmental and food triggers, limit or avoid alcohol, and wear sunscreen every time you go outside. (Good choice: Olay Complete Defense, SPF 30). If you control your flushing, you are less likely to see a worsening of your general redness. You don't seem to have any specific food triggers, but it seems like sun and heat affect you, so don't skip the sunscreen and try to stay cool.

There are currently no good topical treatments for permanently reducing redness from inflamed capillaries, although there are some clinical trials underway for medications that constrict capillaries for several hours. Otherwise, you may see some reduction in diffuse redness from V-Beam laser or IPL, but not all patients see improvements, the treatments are expensive, and even if you see an improvement, you will have to go back regularly to maintain it. Good results are possible, but they're a pricey longterm commitment and not at all guaranteed.

If you can't see a doctor right now, there are online resources like this one you can consult.

Finally, just don't worry too much about it. I mean, don't neglect your skin, either, but don't let this define you. The redness is probably a lot more apparent to you than to anyone else. Treat yourself and your skin gently and go on with your life.
posted by maudlin at 8:17 AM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Use concealer to dull the redness a bit. Acne-wise, that shit just happens; push the blackheads out of your nose and use some variety of store-bought cleanser to keep your face clean. I wouldn't call that an acne problem.
posted by kldickson at 8:45 AM on April 16, 2009

Are you sure it was the pregnancy hormones and not prenatal vitamins? perhaps you could try taking prenatal vitamins without being pregnant and see if that helps.

I have no idea if this is actually cheaper, or recommended.
posted by jrishel at 9:12 AM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have you thought about the vitamins and other stuff going in your mouth? Those can be just as important as what goes on the skin.

Are you drinking milk?

or eating lots of white sugar and other foods of "civilization" and not enough fatty acids?

When I moved to Scandinavia, I started drinking milk and immediately started getting acne. I love milk, but it's not worth it. Once I've got my skin cleared for a couple of months I might reintroduce fermented dairy, like cheese, but right now I'm dairy-free and my skin is very happy.

I also eliminated gluten, but I've since reintroduced it without a problem. I'm also taking fish oil supplements.

You can't say that food doesn't make a difference until you completely eliminate allergenic foods and test them.
posted by melissam at 9:30 AM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was looking for something similar and came across Finacea which is a 15% azelaic acid topical gel specifically for rosacea. For treating acne, products with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide work well for me in the past (eating healthier and drinking more water too!) but dries the skin out, so I recommend using an aqueous gel with benzoyl peroxide or moisturising afterward.
posted by tokidoki at 9:32 AM on April 16, 2009

I haven't had experience with rosacea, though after many years of acne troubles, what finally worked for me was Rodan and Fields Unblemish. Pretty expensive, though, and you can find products with the same active ingredients at drugstores. And again, I'm not sure how it would affect rosacea. This is really where a doctor and prescriptions might best suited, so hopefully you can get in to see one eventually.

In the meantime, I would recommend a mild facial cleanser, so as not to aggravate your skin, and make sure you are using sunscreen every day. You can find a moisturizer + sunscreen (try to use 30SPF) made by many drugstore brands. Some are thicker than others -- I got lots of clogged pores and blackheads w/Oil of Olay products -- but experiment and change brands if you find your skin reacting negatively.

For the redness, I completely empathize as I often have redness myself. A good makeup foundation will even your skin tone and can make a huge difference and still leave you natural looking. I use Prescriptives Virtual Skin. Yes, it is pricey but it lasts a long time and is a really great product. You may find something similar at a drugstore, just make sure the color is right for you and the formulation will easily blend in and look natural.
posted by JenMarie at 10:41 AM on April 16, 2009

I have rosacea and I was prescribed sulfacetamide sodium topical cream, which I apply every day or every other day. It works amazingly for me. Almost no redness and sometimes I go months and months without breaking out at all. After I started using this stuff my only frustration was that I suffered for so many years before finding it.

I know this is prescription stuff so you'd have to go to a doc, but I believe it is pretty cheap generic stuff when it comes to buying it, and I get a number of refills so I don't have to go to the doc much.
posted by kosmonaut at 5:29 PM on April 16, 2009

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