Maintenance Acne Treatment With Topical Tazarotene after Oral Isotretinoin: Overview and Case Reports

Main Article Content

Shanna Miranti


Tazarotene, Topical, Isotretinoin, Scarring, Acne Vulgaris, Maintenance


Introduction: Acne vulgaris is a common dermatologic disorder that may require treatment over months or years. Acne negatively impacts quality of life, and acne of any severity increases the risk of long-term sequelae such as scarring. Common treatments for severe/nodulocystic acne include oral isotretinoin, an oral antibiotic combined with a topical (benzoyl peroxide or a retinoid), an oral combined contraceptive, or oral spironolactone (females). Though oral antibiotics and isotretinoin are not recommended for long-term use, there is scarce guidance or published research on maintenance therapy. Topical retinoids—a mainstay of initial acne treatment—may be prescribed for maintenance once initial oral treatments are complete. Additionally, some retinoids such as tretinoin and tazarotene are indicated for the treatment of fine wrinkles and certain pigmentation disorders, and some studies have shown that adapalene and tazarotene may also reduce acne-induced scarring. Tazarotene 0.045% polymeric emulsion lotion is a well-tolerated retinoid that has demonstrated efficacy in acne treatment and may reduce acne-induced post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and melasma. Further, tazarotene lotion provides rapid and sustained improvements in skin barrier function/moisturization. Herein is presented a report of patients with acne who received maintenance treatment with topical tazarotene 0.045% lotion after an initial course of oral isotretinoin.

Methods: Patients with severe recalcitrant acne vulgaris were treated with once daily oral isotretinoin for at least 20 weeks until deemed clinically clear. All patients received 40 mg isotretinoin once daily for the first 30 days. The dosage was then increased to 1 mg/kg of bodyweight (treatment naïve) or 1.5 mg/kg (repeat treatment). After 20 weeks, patients who achieved clinically clear skin initiated once-daily topical tazarotene 0.045% lotion monotherapy on the day of their last isotretinoin dose. Follow up visits occurred at 6 months and 1-year post-isotretinoin treatment.

Results: Patients (n=12) had a mean age of 17.8 years (standard deviation [SD]: 3.8) and the majority were female (58.3%) and White (66.7%). Oral isotretinoin was used for an average of 24.3 weeks (SD: 6.7), with a mean cumulative dose of 184.6 mg/kg. One patient required a repeat course of isotretinoin prior to tazarotene initiation. Post-isotretinoin, patients received tazarotene 0.045% lotion for an average of 13.0 months (SD: 6.7). No patients relapsed and all showed subjective visual improvements in acne-related scarring with tazarotene maintenance treatment. None discontinued tazarotene lotion due to adverse events. 

Conclusions: There is little guidance or research published on acne maintenance treatment after initial oral isotretinoin or other treatments are complete. Topical tazarotene 0.045% polymeric emulsion lotion has previously demonstrated good efficacy, safety, and tolerability with acne and PIH reductions in patients with moderate-to-severe acne, as well as dyspigmentation reductions in patients with melasma and/or PIH. The case reports presented here show that tazarotene 0.045% lotion may be an effective and safe treatment to prevent relapse after initial oral isotretinoin treatment for severe recalcitrant acne.

Funding: Ortho Dermatologics


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