Review: Tazorac and CeraVe — My New Skincare Routine

cerave moisturizer and tazorac

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM and PM, and Tazorac Gel 0.1%

If you flip through the pages on my blog, one of the products you’ll notice that I’ve written a number of positive reviews about is M2 Skin Refinish Serum. I’ve used it off and on for a number of years and it’s my go-to product for mild breakouts, hyper pigmentation and chemical exfoliation. While I still think it’s a great product, I’ve been experiencing skin issues that M2 Skin Refinish didn’t seem able to help. Since becoming an adult, I’ve struggled with intermittent adult acne and a break out in December/January led me to seek out my doctor’s advice.

When I’ve experienced more severe periods of acne, I’ve historically used retinoids to get my skin back under control. I’ve used both prescription-based Retin-A products as well as cosmeceuticals such as SkinCeuticals: RETINOL 1.o to good effect. This time, my doctor prescribed Tazorac, a product I had no experience with. As of today, I have been using Tazorac for 60 days. At the start of using Tazorac, I also switched up my daytime and nighttime moisturizers to the brand CeraVe, at the recommendation of my esthetician, to help deal with the dryness that retinoids are known to cause during the first month or so of use.

Tazorac and CeraVe in Combination
Like Retin-A, Tazorac caused an intense period of peeling
. For the first six weeks, my skin felt chapped, as if I had a sunburn, and was painfully dry. The intense peeling that began roughly two days after use was frustrating to deal with and after the first four weeks, it felt like the peeling would never end.

My skin was literally slewing off my face throughout the day and I felt pretty self conscious at work. After doing a little research online, I saw a few people recommend applying CeraVe Moisturizer before applying the Tazorac. When I went to the official Tazorac website, there it was– it is recommended by the brand itself to apply moisturizer before Tazorac.

There are some dermatologists who site studies that say CeraVe moisturizer actually may increase the efficacy of Tazorac (I read it: here); so, I started applying two pumps of Cerave PM on my face, a pea-sized amount of Tazorac and then a Vitamin C serum (I will do a review on this soon). Voila! This helped the peeling immensely and while I am still peeling a tiny bit here and there, I can often pin it on applying too much of the Tazorac in one go.

My experience
If you are looking for information/reviews about Tazorac, my experience is that Tazorac is more powerful than Retin-A, and that it causes a crazy amount of peeling within the first month of use that will not clear up if too much of the product is being applied. I apply Tazorac by squeezing out what I consider to be an amount that is just a bit smaller in size than a standard pea. I pat the gel between my middle fingertips and then dot the product in the appropriate areas of my face, avoiding getting too close to my eyes, the folds of my nose and corners of my mouth. Then I gently smooth the Tazorac into my skin.

Experience has taught me that I prefer gel retinoids to creams. For me, creams tend to travel after application– meaning that if I apply a cream above my eyebrow, I will get some of the product traveling onto my eyelid during absorption, which is absolutely not okay. So far, the gel formula has worked great for me and doesn’t travel on my skin during absorption, though I know some people may find the gel to be too harsh.

If you do experience persistent peeling with Tazorac, I can say that CeraVe has helped me quite a bit but can’t promise it will do the same for anyone else. Definitely try applying moisturizer before the Tazorac, if you aren’t already doing this step. And if you’ve heard a lot of raving about CeraVe lately, the hype surrounds a couple of important skincare ingredients: hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Our bodies naturally produce hyaluronic acid as well as ceramides, which both play a role in the protection of our skin’s natural barrier. I am going to do a review on a new hyaluronic acid eye cream that I’m using and I can say that this ingredient has done an amazing job helping my skin retain moisture.

So far, I am blown away by the effects. The Tazorac cleared up the annoying break out I’d been dealing with on and off for months, which was certainly worth all of the peeling. It hasn’t completely cleared up all of my skin issues, especially in the chin area, but it has made my skin far more manageable overall and I suspect that it will take care of the rest of my acne-related issues within the next thirty days. And on the plus side, all of the peeling left quite a bit of younger, fresher looking skin and smaller-appearing pores behind. It is also helped me shed some of the hyper pigmentation the break out left in its wake.

As for CeraVe, the fact that I can get a product that moisturizes this well that actually soaks into the skin without leaving a greasy mess behind at a drugstore price? I still kind of can’t believe it. I plan to stick with CeraVe whether I need to keep using the Tazorac or not.

Cons: Tazorac and CeraVe

Like other retinoids, Tazorac leaves skin sensitive to the sun. So, if you’re thinking about going to the beach or the lake? Or anywhere that your face will be exposed to the sun? Think again. Avoid direct sunlight as much as possible while using Tazorac. Regardless if it’s sunny or cloudy– you need to wear SPF 30 or preferably higher every single day, and add a hat to your outfit if prolonged exposure is unavoidable. I cannot stress this enough. Products that help minimize visible sun damage (photodamage)  can actually do an incredible amount of sun damage to your skin during use when sun exposure isn’t managed; so be sure to take precautions!

And, again, like other retinoids– Tazorac is not something you should use if you plan to become pregnant or are already pregnant. Studies have shown evidence that Tazorac, and other retinoid/vitamin A derivatives, can affect fetal development. Speak with your doctor for advice on avoiding complications.

**Edit, September 30, 2015

Someone asked me about this in email, so I wanted to be sure to add it to the post– an important con that I forgot to mention is regarding hair removal. When using retinoid or retinol products, you need to take precautions with hair removal, especially with waxing/sugaring or IPL. This is because retinoids thin the skin which makes lifting/scarring a very real concern. Always speak with an expert (I would start with the prescribing doctor) before attempting these methods of hair removal if you’ve used Tazorac. I have known dermatologists to say that it is not safe to perform these hair removal methods until three months after discontinuing Tazorac, and online– I have seen as long as 12 months recommended. These discrepancies in time can likely be explained by individual skin thickness and sensitivity, but please do not take such a risk with your skin.

Parabens. CeraVe lotions and moisturizers contain parabens and I really wish that wasn’t the case. It’s something that I’m going to have to think about going forward as I prefer not to apply products that have the possibility of messing with my endocrine system to the largest organ of my body.

If you have any questions about my experiences with Tazorac, or my skincare routine in general, please let me know in the comments and thanks for reading.

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7 Responses to Review: Tazorac and CeraVe — My New Skincare Routine

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  4. Simone says:

    How long before you see any improvement? My daughter is using tazorac gel 0.1% and also uses cerave moisturizer prior to applying the tazorac! She was prescribed the cream at first but it made her very oily so the dermatologist switched her to the gel. We haven’t seen much improvement as of yet. Also her skin is not peeling too much as most reviews I’ve read, it is a tiny bit dry but that’s it!! She has been using tazorac gel for 2 weeks now (along w onexton in the am.)
    Thank you 🙂

    • Adie says:

      Hi, Simone! Is she using the Tazorac every night or is she starting off on a different routine? I really started to peel during my second week of use, using it every night. My skin started showing results after approximately six to eight weeks. I hope this helpful and that this will work for your daughter.

      • Simone says:

        Hi Adie, thank you so much for your quick response I truly appreciate it! She was told to start off every other night for the first two weeks and to apply moisturizer before. After two wks she started every night, but felt like it was too much/making her skin dry and a bit irritated. So she decided to go back to using it every other night. She also feels like it makes her skin worse overall. She’s on her 3rd wk now!

        • Adie says:

          Yes, Tazorac can be difficult to acclimate to in the beginning. It took a while for my skin to get better, and the weeks of irritation and peeling weren’t fun. Truthfully, the peeling was actually really difficult for me to deal with on a day-to-day basis those first weeks. However, my skin did eventually get used to the treatment and then I began to see results. I hope your daughter sees results, too!

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