You might have heard of Accutane before, especially if you’ve struggled a lot with acne. Often referred to as “the cure to acne”, it is typically prescribed to treat severe acne.
But before you go and schedule an appointment at your nearest dermatologist to demand Accutane from them, you should learn more about what it is, and the long list of potential side effects.
We’ve compiled all you need about Accutane in this article right here. As a bonus, we’ve also included some before and after photos of people who have taken Accutane so you can look forward to achieving clear skin!
And if you’ve been scared off of using Accutane, you can always take a look at our articles on acne patches, maskne, and using benzoyl peroxide for anti-acne.
What is Accutane
Accutane or isotretinoin is a potent drug used in the treatment of severe, searing acne that hasn’t responded to other treatments. It is occasionally prescribed for other skin problems and even certain types of cancer.
As it is a naturally occurring derivative of vitamin A (retinoid), your body reacts to it similarly to how it reacts to vitamin A. If you’re already taking vitamin A supplements, you shouldn’t take Accutane because vitamin A can build up in your body.
Accutane doses are tailored to each individual and some patients may have their acne worsen before it gets better. Treatment typically lasts four to six months, but some may need to be retreated for an additional period.
Since it is a naturally occurring product, your body is able to quickly remove it from the bloodstream, so it will be gone from the blood within nine days.
Millions of people have taken this drug, so there is a lot known about its safety, effectiveness, and side effects.
Accutane side effects
While Accutane can clear up your skin, it can have some potential side effects that will fade within a few weeks after you stop taking the drug.
Accutane side effects on hair and skin
The drug is effective in treating severe acne as it targets several acne-causing symptoms such as clogged pores, bacteria, inflammation, and oil production.
Your skin is more sensitive to the sun while taking Accutane, so you’ll have to slather on the sunscreen. Common side effects include dry skin, chapped lips, and dry nasal passages that could make your nose bleed.
Some develop rashes, peeling skin on the palms and soles, faint yellowing of skin, and thinning of hair. As your skin can become fragile, you should avoid hair removal techniques as it can lead to scarring.
Accutane side effects on reproductive system
Accutane is dangerous for unborn babies. That is why women need to take a pregnancy test before starting this medication as well as use birth control.
Even if you stop taking it, you need to wait at least four weeks before getting pregnant. If you do get pregnant, you’ll have to stop taking the medication and inform your doctor. You should also not breastfeed while taking Accutane.
This is because taking the medication during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, death of the fetus, premature birth, and severe birth defects such as:
- Small or missing ears
- Hearing loss
- Small or missing eyes
- Small or missing thymus gland (responsible for making white blood cells)
- Cleft palate
- Congenital heart defects
- Hydrocephalus (build up of fluid and pressure on the brain)
- Microcephaly (underdeveloped brain and small head)
- Intellectual and developmental disabilities (due to brain issues)
Men who take Accutane may also have traces of the drug in their semen, but it is unclear whether this can cause birth defects.
Accutane side effects on central nervous system
Like all medication, there have been allergic reactions to Accutane. Those symptoms can include hives, swelling of the mouth or face, or breathing problems.
While taking Accutane, you may develop headaches, tiredness, dry eyes, light sensitivity, ringing in the ears, and hearing loss. Some people have had their hearing loss become permanent.
Accutane can also cause increased brain pressure, which is a life-threatening condition. Symptoms of increasing brain pressure include:
- Severe headache
- Blurred vision
- Dizziness or nausea
- Seizures or stroke
Some people may also develop mood changes and mental health problems like depression, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts.
Accutane side effects on digestive and excretory systems
You might need your liver and cholesterol levels monitored while taking Accutane as it can cause problems all along the digestive tract. You may suffer from:
- Bleeding gums
- Appetite loss
- Stomach pain
- Bowel pain
- Dark urine
- Rectal bleeding
Accutane side effects on blood, bones, and muscles
Your red and white blood cell counts may suffer which may lead to you feeling faint or having difficulty breathing.
If Accutane builds up in your bloodstream, you can develop problems with blood sugar and lipid levels. You may also develop pain in the bones, joints, muscles, and ligaments.
Due to the danger of Accutane to pregnant women, you need to refrain from donating blood for at least a full month after you stop taking it.
Accutane before and after
With all of these Accutane side effects, you may wonder why acne-sufferers are still turning to it. This is because there are also very noticeable results that can be seen. Many who took Accutane started seeing clearer skin and reduced inflammation.
To give you an idea on how effective Accutane can be at clearing acne, we’ve compiled some before and after pictures that have really impressed us!
Reddit user obvious__bicycle achieved this after six months on Accutane, during which she developed dry skin, chapped lips, dry nasal passages, dry eyes, and joint soreness.
If you’ve seen this image before, don’t be surprised! User lisalisa96 went viral on the Internet due to her crystal clear complexion after a year on the drug.
She experienced some intense skin and lip dryness and some headaches and fatigue, but was otherwise fine.
We’re really impressed on this before and after photo too. Reddit user flyingjao achieved clear skin after six months on Accutane.
He also attributes his flawless complexion to micro needling, which can stimulate collagen and skincare as well as promote deeper absorption of skincare. If you’re interested in that process, we know just the tool you can pick up.
Reddit users were amazed at user briannamichelle’s six month transformation, and we can’t help but agree!
She woke up every morning with a split lip, but she says the experience was totally worth it. She didn’t share whether she experienced any other side effect.
Check with a doctor
Accutane can only be prescribed by a doctor. Always consult a doctor to understand its side effects thoroughly and to see if it will affect you and your lifestyle.
Featured image credit: Anna Shvets and Anna Nekrashevich