Treating Acne: Accutane Side Effects

Common Accutane Side Effects

Although Accutane can effectively clear your skin, it comes with potential side effects.

Common Accutane side effects include:

  • Dry skin, mouth, lips, nose
  • Itching
  • Nosebleeds
  • Inflamed or dry eyes
  • Peeling or cracked skin
  • Aches and pains
  • Headaches

Additionally, when taking Accutane, you may experience increased sensitivity to UV light. Therefore, it is crucial to wear sunscreen when going outside and avoid direct sunlight as much as you can.

As well as this, a common (but surprising) side effect of Accutane is that your acne can worsen. This typically occurs for one-two months before it disappears.

What Is Accutane?

Accutane, also known as Isotretinoin, is a prescription medication that works to treat cases of severe acne, such as cystic acne. It is sold under different different names, but most commonly known as Accutane.

Typically, Accutane is a last resort for when other acne treatments (including antibiotics) prove to be ineffective. Accutane is a derivative of vitamin A and works to reduce sebum production. Furthermore, it can also treat other skin problems and specific types of cancer.

However, while Accutane can be effective in treating acne, some Accutane side effects can be harmful.

Does Accutane Have Long-Term Effects?

While Accutane shouldn’t affect fertility long-term, scientists have found a connection between the acne treatment and sexual side effects.¹ This can include a loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, and genital numbness.

Additionally, Accutane has been associated with mental health problems.² This can range from depression to psychosis, and even suicidal thoughts. Although it is difficult to tell whether mental health problems are directly linked to Accutane, many users have claimed the drug responsible for such. Therefore, follow-up care after Accutane is essential.

Other severe, long-term Accutane side effects may include vision loss, internal organ damage, neurological problems, and skin problems. If you have taken Accutane and are experiencing any of these side effects, you should see a doctor immediately.

Furthermore, you should also seek medical attention if you experience symptoms that are indicative of a serious condition. These symptoms may appear as (but are not limited to) blurred vision, vomiting, dark urine, swelling, bad headaches, rashes, and bowel pain.

Can You Take Accutane While Pregnant?

No, if you are pregnant, you should not take Accutane. Taking the drug while pregnant can cause extremely serious complications. It can increase your baby’s risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and birth defects. As well as this, it could lead to the baby experiencing developmental disabilities later in life.

Moreover, you should also not take Accutane if you are trying for a baby. An investigation demonstrated that around 30-60% of children exposed to Accutane prenatally were reported to display neurocognitive impairment.³

If you take Accutane, you will have to:

  • Take two different methods of birth control
  • Take regular pregnancy tests before, during, and after
  • Try not to become pregnant for at least one month before Accutane, (during), and one month after you stop taking it

If you do become pregnant during your treatment with Accutane, you must stop taking it immediately.

How to Deal With Accutane Side Effects

Generally, most side effects will clear once you stop taking Accutane. However, it is important to know how to manage them, as it is likely you will experience some.

For more common Accutane side effects, such as dryness and nosebleeds, you can treat them with moisturisers and lip balms. For nosebleeds, you should apply petroleum jelly to the inside area of your nose. This will prevent nose bleeds by keeping the tissue moist.

Another temporary side effect you may develop is thinning hair. While this is unpleasant, remember that the hair loss is temporary and will grow back once you have stopped taking the medication. However, Accutane has been found to cause a deficiency of vitamin B in certain individuals. Thus, taking a vitamin B supplement may encourage hair growth.

Please note, that you should not take vitamin A or any supplement containing vitamin A while on Accutane. This is because it can increase the chances of Accutane side effects, and the risk of hypervitaminosis A.

Accutane Alternatives

Fortunately, there are alternative acne treatments that do not present the same risks and side effects.

One popular, risk-free option is SkinClear Elixir by Botanycl. Unlike Accutane, it is not a pharmaceutical product. Instead, it is a vegan supplement that works to target skin issues from the root. As it’s 100% natural, it has no side effects. Like Accutane, the formula contains vitamin A, however not in such high a dose that it could pose risks. Additionally, SkinClear Elixir features Saw Palmetto, a powerful ingredient for tackling acne (specifically hormonal acne). Furthermore, Saw Palmetto can influence androgen levels in the body, and therefore balances sebum production.

Another safe, yet highly effective ingredient to look for in acne treatments is DIM (3,3′-Diindolylmethane). DIM helps to rebalance hormones (hormonal imbalance is a key contributor to acne). As well as this, DIM reduces sebum production, which can significantly decrease acne flare-ups. A supplement that stimulates the body’s natural production of DIM is Skinade Targeted Solutions Clear. Packed with potent ingredients, this supplement regulates hormones and detoxifies the skin from within.

Is Accutane Worth It?

While Accutane has been proven to effectively clear severe cases of acne, it is important to weigh up the risks that come with it. Even though not all Accutane side effects are dangerous, they can still be undesirable.

It is hard to generalise whether Accutane is the right option for each person since everyone will react differently to the drug.

In some cases, however, it may be the only option.

Everyone deserves to feel confident in their skin and find something that works for them. However, it is important to be aware of the risks that come with different acne treatments so you can ensure your safety.

Author: Georgie Falcone

References

  1. Healy D, Le Noury J, Mangin D. Enduring sexual dysfunction after treatment with antidepressants, 5α-reductase inhibitors and isotretinoin: 300 cases. International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine. 2018;29 pp.125-134.
  2. Gutman R. Acne’s Wonder Drug Is a Mental-Health Puzzle. [Internet]. The Atlantic. 2019. Available from: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/07/isotretinoin-mental-health-effects-might-go-beyond-suicide/593278/
  3. Lammer J. E, et al. Retinoic Acid Embryopathy. New England Journal of Medicine. 1985;313(14) pp.837-841.
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