Chronic, cystic acne that doesn’t respond to over the counter treatments is like a nightmare come into reality for many people around the globe. Not only does it lower self-esteem, causing social disabilities, but it can be threatening for the human body when left untreated
Today, we take a detailed look at Accutane, the one product that hits acne harder than anything and is known to cure some of the most severe breakouts, which are highly resistant to any other treatment. We will find out whether it's safe to use Accutane, what are the possible side effects, who should use it and what to expect of the treatment.
What is Accutane
Accutane (also known as isotretinoin or Roaccutane in UK and Europe) is a derivative of Vitamin A, belonging to a class of medications called retinoids – drugs used to treat some forms of cancer. Accutane reduces the amount of sebum produced by oil glands of the skin, while helping it rejuvenate quicker.
How Does Accutane Work
Accutane is used to combat severe cases of acne that have not responded to any kind of treatment including benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, antibiotics (tetracycline, clindamycin, minocycline) and other types of acne medication.
The drug works (and should only be used) when dealing with severe, cystic acne (nodules with a diameter of 5mm or greater) and has been proven to provide long-lasting and even everlasting, complete elimination of acne in more than 85% of patients, as revealed by the American Academy of Dermatology. In rare cases, patients’ skin can get worse (or much worse) during the start of the treatment, before getting better in the long run
Originally produced by Hoffman-LaRoche, a Swiss multinational healthcare company, Accutane brand name has been discontinued since 2009, however, generic versions of the product (these are more affordable variations of Accutane with the exact same components) like Amnesteem, Claravis and Sotret are still available.
Side Effects of Accutane
Accutane has been taken by over 2 million patients worldwide and has been extremely effective in clearing severe acne (over 90% of times), but unfortunately, it carries a long list of side effects.
While some side effects are minimal and rather bearable when the daily dose of the drug is still small, they become increasingly worse as the dosage goes up, with the possibility of getting up to a life threatening level in some cases.
The most widely acknowledged red warning sign of Accutane is that it causes severe birth defects and is completely contraindicated to pregnant women. Additionally, women of childbearing potential must agree to specific forms of birth control (which can slightly differ depending on the country where you live) and undergo regular pregnancy tests before, during and after the treatment.
To clarify, a woman is considered of childbearing potential unless she has undergone total hysterectomy or oophorectomy (uterus and ovaries removal operations) or has been in menopause for at least 12 consecutive months.
Some side effects of Accutane are considered normal (meaning that their occurrence during the treatment period is unavoidable, predictable and can be regulated with various methods) while others are severe (uncommon, rare side effects that can happen during the treatment) or critical (these are dangerous, life-threatening side effects that usually appear due to allergic reactions to isotretinoin).
Here are the common side effects of Accutane:
- Chapped/dry lips.
- Skin dryness and itching.
- Nasal dryness and mild nosebleed.
- Joint, muscle and back pains.
- Mild headaches.
- Temporary hair thinning.
- Mild intestinal symptoms and urinary symptoms.
- Increased sun sensitivity
Different people experience different side effects (it can be just one, or multiple at once. Usually, a person experiences more side effects as the dosage of the drug increases). Your doctor will warn you about those possibilities and prescribe measures to keep them under control (for instance, Aquaphor to deal with lip dryness, moisturizing creams for skin dryness, nasal gels for nose dryness and bleeding, Advil for headaches, etc.)
Severe side effects of Accutane
- Depression, trouble concentrating or falling asleep, change in behavior, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, sadness, irritability, poor performance at work or school, withdrawal from the surrounding world.
- Numbness or weakness on one side of the body.
- Blurred vision, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes.
- Hearing problems or loss, ringing in your ears.
- Severe pain in the stomach, vomiting and nausea.
- Severe diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, dark urine.
If you experience any of those symptoms stop taking the drug and notify your doctor immediately
Critical side effects of Accutane
- Difficulty breathing.
- Swelling of face, lips, tongue or throat
Seek immediate medical help (call the emergency service of your country) if you experience any of these symptoms during the treatment period
Who Should/Can Use Accutane
In terms of sex and age, Accutane can be used by both men and women above 12
Accutane should only be used when every other treatment has failed to produce results or when the amount and severity of acne is causing social disability.
Licensed usage of Accutane is only available under special programs (might be different for each country. For instance, iPLEDGE in the US) that require commitment and proper oversight by a professional physician for each and every case. Each candidate must sign legal documents that they understand the potential dangers of the treatment and agree to birth control regulations as required by the program.
Accutane can be unsuitable for people who are in the process of treating other types of diseases, or have specific health conditions. For instance, it’s contraindicated to people who are allergic to parabens.
Here is the full list:
- Pregnant women, or women who plan to become pregnant.
- A personal or family history of mental illness.
- Heart diseases and high cholesterol.
- Bone disorders.
- Intestinal disorders.
- An eating disorder based on nervous symptoms.
- Liver diseases
Another thing to note is acne caused by hormonal imbalance. It’s important to understand that hormonal acne has nothing to do with skin imperfections caused by excess amounts of sebum oil. Taking Accutane will have a very mild effect (or even no effect at all) on hormonal acne, causing you to only suffer from side effects without making any progress in terms of clearing your skin
To combat hormonal acne, try using some kind of herbal oils (like Tea Tree Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, etc.) depending on what kind of hormonal imbalance you have. Find out more about hormonal acne here.
How to Use Accutane
Accutane is very dangerous when mishandled. It needs to be used precisely as prescribed by your doctor. Never take larger or smaller doses than the one prescribed for your case, unless your doctor tells you to.
Here is the general way (the way that doctors will tell you to take the medicine in most cases, however, always follow their exact instructions, even if they don’t match the ones given below) of taking the drug
- Take the capsule as a whole with a full glass of water to prevent it from melting inside your body and causing irritation, and don’t lie down for 10 minutes after taking it. Never chew, crush or suck on it.
- Do not keep it in your mouth for long periods of time – wash it down instantly. Take it with food or milk to help the drug absorb into your bloodstream faster.
- Accutane is usually taken 1-2 times daily (the exact dosage is based on your prescription, weight, the length of the treatment period and your body’s response to treatment), for 16-20 weeks.
- If you skip a dose for some reason, simply ignore it and proceed with taking your next dose at the prescribed time. Do not try to take some extra to make up for a missing dose.
- In case of overdosing (which usually causes vomiting, severe headaches, stomach pains, tingling under the skin, loss of balance, coordination and disorientation), seek immediate medical assistance
Taking into account the list of possible side effects, the following activities should be avoided while being on Accutane treatmen
- Taking Vitamin A supplements.
- Donating blood during and 30 days after the treatment period.
- Wax hair removal, dermabrasion and laser skin treatments – these have a high chance to leave scars during the treatment period.
- Avoid UV rays in case your skin gets sensitive to sunlight, and avoid driving (or doing anything that requires to see clearly) in case you get the blurred vision side effect.
- Highly stressful exercises and dedicated gym lifestyle – these can leave you with nasty muscle ache and pain.
What Results You Can Expect After Some Time of Use
The treatment period of Accutane is fairly long, so be ready to show commitment, especially with side effects getting worse over time. Usually, positive results appear after 1-2 months, with the full effect coming into play after 4-5 months.
In some cases, the cleared acne may return after some time, which will require you to undertake a second course of treatment using Accutane.
Customer Reviews of Accutane
Customer reviews regarding the final results of using Accutane are generally positive. Most people who have undertaken the journey have cleared their skin, however, they suffered various kinds of side effects.
While some side effects are pretty common among all users (dry lips, dry skin, dry nose), others vary depending on genetics and body specifics of each person (those include nosebleeds, headaches, vision issues, intestinal issues, etc.).
Also, a lot of the cleared acne left behind scars, making the skin uneven and battered-looking. These need to be treated separately after the treatment period, but not before at least 30 days have passed.
Most reviewers stated that their skin started to clear around the end of second month and was completely cleared by 3rd or 4th month.
Some reviewers have not been able to keep up with side effects that affected their everyday life too much (dryness mostly) and gave up on the product after a month or two of use. Even in those cases however, they stated that Accutane cleared a lot of their facial and body acne.
Here are a few before/after images of people who have finished their treatments using Accutane:
You can read all of those reviews and many more on this website. To view all user uploaded images, simply create a free account.
How to Buy Accutane
It’s dangerous to buy Accutane online or from unlicensed vendors outside of the special programs dedicated to Accutane in your country. Not only it can be life threatening, but it’s also a violation of the regulations of Food and Drug Administration. Consult a professional dermatologist if you are seriously considering using this product and follow his instructions on how and where to get the product from.
Questions to Consider Before Buying the Product
- Have you tried other treatment methods, and have all those methods failed? – Bear in mind that Accutane should only be used when you have tried all kinds of other treatments and they have failed to produce results. It’s a very aggressive drug, and you’ll be better off without it – if possible.
- Are you ready to show commitment, follow instructions precisely and alter your lifestyle as required? – The treatment period is fairly long and can be very harsh, especially with side effects worsening overtime. Based on your specific case, you may be required to change your lifestyle to some degree, say “no” to many activities and keep it up for half a year. Think about that carefully.
- Do you have any of the diseases/conditions listed above? – In case you missed it, make sure to check out the “Who should use Accutane” section. If you have any of the conditions listed, there is a high chance that this drug will not be an option for you.
Taking everything into account, Accutane is worth a try, but only if everything else fails to help. Severe acne is painfully demoralizing and hinders social life to an extent that dealing with various side effects can be justified just to get rid of it for good.
Make sure to follow the agenda given by your doctor with precision, and always keep in touch with him/her during the whole treatment period. Never buy/use Accutane on your own – even if we forget about the violations of rules and law, it’s dangerous for life. Yes, it will be costly, but life is priceless when it comes down to serious business like this.
Have you used Accutane before? What results did you achieve? What kind of side effects did you have to deal with? Share your experience with all of us in the comments!