Very low dose isotretinoin is effective in controlling seborrhea

J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2003 Dec;1(12):952-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2303.2003.00108.x-i1.


Background: Excessive seborrhea, coarse-pored skin, minimal acne and oily scalp hair comprise a well-known clinical entity. It causes considerable concern, has social impact, and affects the quality of life in some individuals. Some patients seek treatment for seborrhea. No effective topical sebosuppressive medication is available. Oral isotretinoin is the only remedy for men. In women, oral isotretinoin is the most effective remedy, followed by antiandrogens.

Patients and methods: Eleven patients in three groups were treated for 6 months with very low dose isotretinoin. The influence on seborrhea was measured during oral treatment with 5 mg/d, 2.5 mg/d, or 2.5 mg 3x weekly.

Results: Sebum production, measured with Sebutape, was reduced by up to 64%. Acne lesions regressed by as much as 84%. Follicular filaments were reduced by 66%. Microcomedones were reduced on average up to 86%. Quantitative bacteriology showed a reduction of Propionibacterium acnes but no increase of Staphylococcus epidermidis. Biopsies revealed a 51% reduction in sebaceous gland size. With Bentonite, a reduction of lipids was demonstrated with 2.5 and 5 mg isotretinoin/d but not with 2.5 mg 3x weekly. There was a shift within the lipid fractions: triglycerides dominated, followed by squalenes and free fatty acids.

Conclusions: Good results were achieved in all patients. The small number of patients did not permit a statistical analysis of the three isotretinoin doses studied, but there was a tendency toward better results with the two higher doses.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Dermatitis, Seborrheic / diagnosis
  • Dermatitis, Seborrheic / drug therapy*
  • Dermatitis, Seborrheic / microbiology
  • Dermatitis, Seborrheic / pathology
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isotretinoin / administration & dosage*
  • Isotretinoin / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Propionibacterium acnes / isolation & purification
  • Sebum / metabolism
  • Skin / pathology
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / isolation & purification
  • Time Factors


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Isotretinoin