A common complaint of many patients beginning an acne regimen is that their acne gets worse before it gets better. This is not always the case, but can be frustrating for those patients who do experience the initial acne flare. According to Dr. Schweiger, “When we begin treating acne, there are already acne lesions developing in the skin. Although prescription acne medications stop the development of new acne, the treatments can not always halt the emergence of preexisting acne on the skin.” Medications like topical retinoids (examples include Retin-A, Tazorac, and Differin) get a particularly bad rap for causing an initial acne flare. The reason for this is that retinoids stimulate skin cell turnover, removing all of the skin cells that are clogging the follicles and attracting acne-causing bacteria. As the skin cells turnover, sometimes this brings out inflammation in the skin and causes acne to flare at that time.
Many of our patients avoid the initial acne flare by undergoing in-office laser and light-based treatments, which aggressively treat acne in order to get faster improvement than with prescription acne medications alone. Treatments such as Photodynamic Therapy and the Isolaz acne treatment treat both active acne and prevent future acne flares. These treatments often work faster than prescription treatments, so many of our patients choose to undergo a short series of these treatments soon after their first visit to the Clear Clinic. It is safe and encouraged to use prescription medications simultaneously while undergoing in-office laser acne treatments.