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Accutane for Severe Acne

Should You Go On Accutane?

If you've tried everything from benzoyl peroxide to retinoids and your acne won't budge, you might have what is called severe recalcitrant nodular acne. This means it might be time to consider a prescription like Accutane. While not for everyone, Accutane could be the solution to your acne woes.

Accutane is a highly concentrated form of vitamin A. It reduces the amount of oil and sebum produced by the glands in your skin. It also helps the surface of your skin renew itself continuously, preventing the buildup of pore-clogging dead skin and sebum. Treatment usually lasts four to six months, or until acne is completely cleared. Most patients will need an additional round of four to six months within the first year or so, and acne will typically get worse before it gets better. And naturally, you'll need to talk with a dermatologist to decide if going on Accutane would be a good decision. For some pros and cons,


Pros of Accutane

  • According to the FDA, one round of Accutane treatment can result in a prolonged remission of acne in approximately 85% of patients.
  • Even if you require a second round of treatment, you're likely to squash acne for good.
  • It's in a simple, easy-to-take pill form.

Cons of Accutane

  • Elevated levels of Vitamin A in your bloodstream can cause severe birth defects, so you can't use it if you'd like to get pregnant soon.
  • You have to sign documents committing to using at least two forms of birth control, including one hormonal form, during the entire course of treatment. For those of you unable or unwilling to take the Pill, this might eliminate Accutane as an option.
  • You have to get monthly blood tests to ensure you are not pregnant before your doctor can refill your prescription. So if you are going to be away from a doctor for more than a month, you can't stock up on Accutane before you go.
  • Other possible side effects include severe dryness of the lips, eyes, mouth and nose, and increased sensitivity to the sun.

The bottom line is, if you are frustrated with your acne and you've exhausted other options, it could be time to try Accutane. Just keep in mind that it is not a decision to be taken lightly, and only your dermatologist can decide if it is right for you and your skin.


Join The Conversation
katybug518 katybug518 9 years
My doctor has recommended Accutane to me several times, and I have yet to take her up on it. I've used an alternative to Accutane, but it is not permanent. It's called a BLU-Light with PDT. And for me the results lasted probably 6-9 months. I just had my second light treatment. Even my derm was shocked by how well my skin reacted. If you are sick of your acne, but don't want to do Accutane, I recommend researching BLU-Light with PDT, and seeing if someone in your area offers it.
Anabellatc Anabellatc 9 years
I had a clear complexion until i turned 19 (23 now) and suddenly i had acne everywhere; i tried absolutely everything and nothing worked. Like the description says above, it is not for everyone, but it is the only thing that worked for me. Aside from the side effects (which i KNOW sound scary) i would recommend Accutane in a heartbeat.
writerchic373 writerchic373 9 years
Accutane made my sister's horrible acne virtually disappear!
CesyBabe CesyBabe 9 years
The concentrated amounts of Vitamin A can cause serious birth defects. I'd get your husband to talk to his doctor about it
nextjen nextjen 9 years
What is the reasoning for being on birth control while you are on Accutane? My husband uses it; if I got pregnant would there be some type of problem?
christinafry christinafry 9 years
OMG my roommate is currently on Accutane. Scary stuff. They remind you almost in an overkill way to not get pregnant. We think it's really funny and have little icons of a circle with a slash going through a pregnant woman hanging all around our apt. Seriously, just looking at all the warnings on her packages makes me run from it!
CesyBabe CesyBabe 9 years
Yes I think thats what I was told as well,I didn't make myself very clear- good point carhorninapril!
carhornsinapril carhornsinapril 9 years
also, in response to the mental health comment above -- my derm told me that the severe depression occurrs rarely and "almost exclusively in males." just an FYI to those reading.
CesyBabe CesyBabe 9 years
Sounds like I have a similar story to everyone else- my derm took one look at me (probably not the best way to diagnose but I was one hell of a pizza face) and said I was a candidate, and it worked wonders. For my seventh form ball (for my American friends- Senior Prom) I had beautiful skin- which suprised me as I like everyone else got the incredibly dry lips (3 lip balms before bed anyone?) and 3 weeks before the ball, my lips had a reaction to a balm I'd used before and swelled up to Angelina Jolie proportions and started to peel off like old wallpaper. We're lucky in NZ with a public health system- once you see the derm (which costs about $80) the Gov subsides your prescription- it ends up being $3 per 6 months or so. Very cheap. Also PrincessPeach, I had to sign a mental health disclaimer before I could go on it, but my derm said it was a minor risk and the big hoohaa about it came because (not sure if this is true, but this is what my derm told me!) a senators son killed himself while on it, but he was also an illegal drug abuser so that was more likely the case. Either way its still a serious drug, but it made my skin clear for the first time in years and I feel so much better for it
livyourlife livyourlife 9 years
I'm 17 and on my 4th month of my 2nd round of Accutane. My dermatologist and I have tried EVERYTHING else. Last time I was on Accutane, it cleared me up really well but the acne came back after I stopped taking it. This time it's taking longer to clear up. I have terrible "backne" and moderate cystic acne on my face. It's horrible on bad days and not bad at all on good days. The backne is always awful, because I have to pick clothes according to what covers my back completely. Also, I'm not on any form of birth control (besides abstinence, obviously!), although I have to go in for a monthly blood test.
UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 9 years
Unless the acne is very serious and nearly unclearable, I don't see why people should use Accutane. It looks like the cons significantly outweigh the pros.
novasole novasole 9 years
I'm finishing up my last month of Accutane, and it has been amazing. I had persistent moderate acne. I tried everything topical and didn't respond well to antibiotics or the pill. My face cleared up completely after the first month, and the red spots left behind have faded a lot. The main con is the dryness... My lips are cracked, my face peels (especially around the mouth and chin), and I have little exzema patches along my arms and hands. My derm told me to put vaseline on my face at night, and that's helped. Otherwise, I haven't experienced any drastic side effects. Just a weird little thing that I notice, though, is that my face gets flushed after drinking caffeine.
er593395 er593395 9 years
Here in Canada it is way different to get accutane. There is no ipeldge program although you are told to go on 2 types of birth control. There are monthly blood tests to get your cholesterol levels checked execpt I was given the whole 5 month perscription up front.
mnp mnp 9 years
Thanks Bella!
lrakins54 lrakins54 9 years
I agree with all of the above who say this is a miracle drug. I had good skin until my senior year of college when it suddenly decided to go crazy, after trying antibiotics and topicals that didn't do the trick, I went on accutane and absolutely loved it. It cleared up my skin in about a month. The only side affect I encountered was the dry lips, but after 4-6 weeks they were balanced back to normal with the help of aquaphor. Having my skin break out like that was so miserable for me I would prefer to deal with the possible side effects than the irritated skin and constant feeling of being overly self conscious.
Soozicee Soozicee 9 years
I suffered from very painful moderate cystic acne and took my first course of Accutane 2 years ago as a last resort (tried all of the anti-biotics and topicals). I saw fantastic results after my first course in regards to the cysts, but I was still having trouble with nodular acne so my derm and I decided to try another course to wipe it out of my system. I took a stronger dose and was only on my second course for 4.5 months. I still get small breakouts but it is NOTHING compared to my skin before Accutane. I used to be depressed and self conscious about my skin and hide out in my apartment on the weekends, but now I can actually go out in public WITHOUT MAKE-UP! Accutane is a miracle drug in that respect. I did suffer some ridiculous side effects though. Here are my own pro's and con's: Pro's: -Clear skin, obviously -It was GLORIOUS going from super greasy where I had to wash my hair every day (sometimes twice) to only having to wash it every few days. (the grease, unfortunately, comes back after you go off the medication) -It really suppressed my appetite, so I wound up losing a lot of weight while on it. -My hair was growing SUPER FAST while on it. -My nails were so long and strong while on it. Con's: -Dry Lips (the best solution for this is Aquaphor!) -Dry flaky skin (I had never, in my life, moisturized before going on this medicine!) -I also had a very dry nose which would bleed constantly. -My eyes dried out as well, and I had recurring problems with conjunctivitis (never a problem before Accutane). -I suffered from night blindness. The high dose of Vitamin A made driving at night a NIGHTMARE. The bright glare from street lights and headlights made it really scary. (I have perfect vision and after going off the meds the night blindness went away.) -My cholesterol levels SKY ROCKETED, but I managed to drastically bring it down by eating oatmeal for breakfast every morning. -Hair loss. Yes. Lot's of it. I had pretty thick hair. My derm said that this is not uncommon. She also said that it's a side affect that doesn't necessarily stop after going off the meds which was really scary because I still do feel like I'm losing too much hair. -The initial breakout can be pretty brutal. It usually happens during the first month of treatment when the drug is first beginning to work and your pores begin to close and all the gook inside of them is getting pushed out causing blemishes. It only lasts a week or two, and it's completely worth going through. -IPLEDGE. What a pain. You have to use two forms of birth control, go for a blood/pregnancy test once a month (in a restricted time period between your last menstrual cycle and your derm appointment), then, after you see your derm and before you can get your prescription filled you and your derm have to go online and take a quiz through the IPLEDGE system. It's a ridiculous quiz (common sense), but you and your derm have to have MATCHING answers. They only give you 30 day prescriptions, so it could get stressful trying to meet deadlines so that you can get your next months supply. -Your skin is really sensitive and thin, so if you get a scratch or a cut it could take an abnormally long time to heal. -I developed eczema patches under my eyes after coming off of the medication. All in all, I say if you're suffering as much as I was, GO FOR IT, and good luck!
bea831 bea831 9 years
did you use accutane alone? What about the marks and scars?
designergirl designergirl 9 years
I am on my last month of my second round of Accutane at the moment. I recommend it, but there taking the drug is a hassle. All women who take the drug have to go through the iPledge system, and the blood tests and doctors appointments every month are annoyingly frequent. However Bella, according to my iPledge packet, you can say that you're abstinent and not take birth control - it's not recommended, though. The dry lips, nosebleed, and rashes are hard to deal with, but it's worth it if nothing else works.
tglynn tglynn 9 years
I took accuatane for a hellish 2 years. I had cystic acne ALL over my body, it was even painful to lie down. After two years, it almost 100% cleared up, it really is a miracle drug, but the things you go through while you're on it...physically and emotionally. It really messes with you, so it's a serious decision to make.
DreaAST DreaAST 9 years
My step son is 15 and has terrible acne. Well I should say had. He had been on numerous medicines for about the past 3 years and he has been on Accutane for 4 months now and it has dramatically improved his skin. He is so much happier now and has more self confidence. He has a few more months to go but so far it is well worth it. If you have acne, seriously, go on this.
Andrea14752894 Andrea14752894 9 years
I am 46 years old and I have had cystic acne since I was twelve. Accutane can be a miracle drug if it works. However, I have had three courses of it and still suffer from acne. Mine is definitely genetic as I have the same skin as my father, who still had oily skin and breakouts at the age of 80! Basically, you can name an acne treatment and I have had tried it. My dermatologist recently put me on a course of minocin which has (fingers crossed!) cleared my skin. I just finished the treatment so I will have to wait and see if this finally will do it.
agrepina agrepina 9 years
ive been on it for about 3 weeks ago..this is the 2nd time i go on it in the past year which doctor said the reason my acne came back was cuz i wasnt on it long enough last time.. the worst side effect is the dry skin..and my skin gets sensitive and is red ALOT!!! haha only 5 months to go..
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