How long does Accutane take to work? What is the success rate of Accutane? Does Accutane make acne worse? Is Accutane worth it?
I bet you have even more questions than these my friend (!)
Being at your wit’s end with acne has led you here – but are you ready for Accutane?
The prescription drug with well-publicised and life threatening side effects.
Is taking Accutane worth the risk?
Is taking Accutane a permanent cure for your acne?
Does acne return after Accutane?
This is a big decision. You need all the facts and more.
And you’re in exactly the right place to get them – you’re about to find out about 5 of the most important Accutane facts.
Facts which in my scientific opinion, I wholeheartedly believe you should be hyper aware of before deciding yes or no.
Is Accutane worth it for you? Let’s get you the tools to decide my friend…
Is Accutane a Permanent Cure for Acne?
Fantastic question my friend – because if Accutane isn’t a permanent cure for acne – this instantly changes your risk analysis eh. A permanent cure – may be worth weighty risk. A temporary cure (aka not a cure) may for you – not be worth risk of permanent side effects.
The answer to this question is murky if you rely on the 1st page of Google.
Google snippet box leads to an article published in 2018 by Business Insider;
“I used a controversial drug to permanently cure my adult acne — and I wouldn’t change a thing”Caroline Praderio for Business Insider, Nov 2, 2018
Facts to notice;
- This is 1 person’s experience – it may not be the same for you
- Caroline wrote this article in 2018 (she had started to take Accutane in 2015) – we are yet to know if Accutane will be a permanent cure for her acne
- Caroline had mild acne, so her results will be most relatable to you if you also have mild acne as seen in her photos here;
Fact – it is well-known that Accutane is not always a permanent cure for acne.
View this post on Instagram
Feeling a bit down recently as after months of my skin being clear after roaccutane my spots have started to come back. It’s just getting me down as I don’t want to get to the stage I was last year. It might just be a one off but I’ve got a doctors appointment so hopefully they can put me back on the waiting list for the dermatologist 😕
Quick explainer – we can only truly cure a disease when we know the initial trigger cause of a disease. While science understands the multiple biology changes which can lead to acne (i.e. oily skin, skin thickening, unbalanced skin microbiome). Science doesn’t yet understand what initial trigger is causing these changes.
A science study published in 2012 called – Acne Relapse Rate and Predictors of Relapse Following Treatment with Oral Isotretinoin tells us;
“Relapse rates in patients with acne after treatment with oral isotretinoin vary between 10% and 60% depending on the dosage regimen used, the length of follow-up, and the characteristics of the study population.”Actas Dermosifiliogr. 2013 Jan;104(1):61-6
A super, super interesting statement. Did you clock the words ‘depending on the length of follow-up’? A follow up study may only be looking at whether there’s a relapse in acne – within a year of taking Accutane. You can bet your bottom dollar the lower 10% end is found in studies where researchers follow Accutane patients for a short amount of time.
” rate of relapse requiring retreatment with oral isotretinoin was highest in those patients treated with 0.1mg/kg/day (42%), which was twofold higher than with 0.5mg/kg/day (20%) and fourfold higher than with 1mg/kg/day (10%)”J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012 Nov; 5(11): 17–24.
Is Accutane a permanent cure for acne? No, Accutane cannot technically be called a cure for acne as it does not correct the underlying trigger cause of acne. A relapse of acne after having taken Accutane is common. Follow up studies show relapse rates to be as high as 60%.
Is Accutane worth it? Be aware – medications can fix symptoms of acne – but they’re not fixing or getting rid of the underlying trigger cause of your acne. If you don’t confront and fix the trigger cause of your acne – it is highly likely to return. More about what that trigger cause could be soon.
Accutane Comes With Risk of Serious Side Effects
The MOST common side effect of Accutane is severely dry skin and lips – this sometimes also roles over into severely dry eyes (one to know about if you wear contact lenses). This drying of your skin is one of the reasons why Accutane can help temporarily get rid of acne. Acne is 90% of the time provoked by oily skin – get rid of oily skin and you interrupt the acne causing triangle.
If you take Accutane this is highly likely to happen to you.
As Kathleen Cook Suozzi, assistant professor of dermatology at Yale school of medicine says;
“Pretty much every patient is going to have dryness because that’s how it works”Kathleen Cook Suozzi
Then there are other more serious and potentially long lasting side effects of Accutane;
“My knees, hips, and lower back grew so sore I slept with ice packs strapped to my body.”Caroline Praderio for Business Insider, Nov 2, 2018
There is also risk of high blood cholesterol.
“31% of patients taking Accutane ended up with high cholesterol levels, 44% developed high triglycerides”Arch Dermatol. 2006;142:1016-1022, reported on by Medical News Today
Accutane can cause severe stress to your liver.
Accutane can cause vision blurring and colour blindness.
Accutane can cause anxiety, depression and worse.
Have your wits about you if talking with your doctor about acne. Doctors are trained on which medications can help to fix health issues – not what day to day interventions could help to fix a health issue.
Go to the doctor with high blood pressure and you will walk away with medication for lowering your blood pressure – even though your high blood pressure could be caused by work stress/loss of a loved one/poor diet/lack of exercise.
Go to the doctor with acne and you will likely walk away with a prescription for a drug like Accutane. Doctors are trained, funded and sometimes even sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies make drugs. Pharma companies do not make money from diet, skincare or lifestyle interventions.
Is Accutane worth it? Medications interfere with your body’s natural biology – this is why they have side effects. Accutane has a weighty risk of side effects.
Are these side effects worth it for you?
This is a personal question only you can answer my friend.
I would also ask yourself this – have I tried every other acne healing option available to me? Can I say in all honesty that I’ve seriously committed to these acne healing changes for a year or more? I have one you’ve likely tried before – but not in the right way – it’s down below.
Accutane Is Not Fixing The Underlying Cause of Your Acne
If you keep tripping over the same, sticking out chair leg in your kitchen – you move it. If your office has glass doors people keep walking into (true story) – you put warning stickers on those glass doors. If you want to get a toned tum for summer – you say no to frosted chocolate cupcakes and you say yes to a healthy avocado salad.
Accutane is like;
Making you wear suction slippers so now you can shuffle around that sticking out chair leg instead of tripping over it.
Supplying your office workers with padded helmets for getting around a risk of walking into glass doors.
Making you do insane cardio workout sessions to burn off extra calories WITHOUT taking a blink at your diet.
All of these solutions work. None of them fix your trigger cause.
Acne is a skin disease and diseases happen for distinct reasons;
- You can catch a disease which is contagious
- You can have genetic vulnerability to developing a disease (i.e. you can inherent it – genetic vulnerabilities are often triggered by stress)
- You can develop a disease because of what you eat
- You can develop a disease because of your lifestyle
Those 1st 2 reasons are well known about. The 2nd 2 reasons are not so well known about.
They’re less dramatic.
You have to take responsibility and make active change.
Give up foods you like.
You have to work at them.
“Acne is an epidemic skin disease of industrialized countries, reaching prevalence rates of over 85% of teenagers. In the United States, acne nowadays persists after adolescence into the third decade of life in nearly half of men and women. This demonstrates that the environmental acne-promoting mechanisms persist after puberty and are independent of endocrine signaling of puberty. Acne has been clearly identified as a disease of Western civilization and has been closely linked to Western diet.”Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jan 1;4(1):20-32
It’s easy to see acne as a hormonal skin condition and feel like you have zero control over your hormones. Fact is food contains hormones and food can make your body release more hormones.
Population studies are showing where western diet habits spread, acne incidence rates rise.
Get a free copy of my acne diet cheatsheet to start finding out which health foods are truly bad for acne – all you need to do is click here to get yours now.
Psst; If you’ve tried eating clean before, know this – some health foods can cause acne and I’ve seen lots of clean eating acne diets online, which contain trigger foods.
Is Accutane worth it? Accutane doesn’t fix the trigger cause of acne. Science is proving time and time again that a western diet has hyper potential to trigger acne. Whether you decide to take Accutane or not – an ‘acne cure’ can only be effective if you treat your underlying trigger cause.
If you decide to take Accutane, be sure to look at your diet in parallel – this will help you to avoid a relapse of acne.
If you decide the side effects of Accutane are not worth the risk – focus on your diet first and skincare second. Be sure you’re committing to an acne diet with scientific evidence and support.
Accutane Will Not Work For Everyone
I bet you’ve tried what feels like everything to get rid of acne – but nothing has ever worked long term. It’s why you’re considering Accutane.
Truth; There are many before and after success stories of people who have taken Accutane – stories exactly like Caroline’s.
Extra truth; Accutane is not an acne fix for everyone.
My friend, your body is unique.
Your body processes drugs in a different way to your mum, dad’s and best friend’s.
It’s a key reason why Accutane works for some and not for others.
Another reason you can do something about is this – what you eat impacts how well your body absorbs Accutane.
Imagine if you were taking Accutane but because of what you’re eating, only 5% of each pill is being absorbed by your body.
This could happen to you if;
- You don’t take Accutane with food
- You skip breakfast
- You’re eating a low fat or fat free diet
“ISO [Isotretinoin – which is the chemical name for Accutane] is a highly lipophilic molecule and is categorized as a Class II drug (high permeability with low solubility), gastrointestinal (GI) absorption is enhanced by solubilization of isotretinoin by dietary fat”J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014 Feb; 7(2 Suppl): S3–S21
Translation – Accutane is hard to dissolve, but scientists know Accutane dissolves best in oil. If you eat fat at the same time as you take Accutane, your body will absorb Accutane better.
Is Accutane worth it? Like any drug, Accutane does not work for everyone – be sure to consider this when weighing up your pros and cons list.
Accutane Has Been Discontinued – but you can still be prescribed a generic
Accutane is a brand name. Like the difference between Weetabix and wheat biscuits. The company who originally brought Accutane to market – a pharma company called Roche – withdrew Accutane in 2009. Although you can still get generics like Claravis and Myorisan. They both contains the same active – isotretinoin.
Here’s the interesting bit. Why would Roche withdraw a blockbuster medicine with an incredibly large audience? After all, statistics tell us up to 80% of people aged 11 to 30 will have acne breakouts at some point in their lives. The audience for Accutane is huge.
No business with their head screwed on right would pull a drug like Accutane without reason.
In 2009 a study looked set to prove a link between taking Accutane (aka isotretinoin) and developing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or specifically – ulcerative colitis.
IBD makes it incredibly hard to eat. Your intestines swell up, becoming red and painful meaning every time food reaches them – you feel intense pain.
Although the link between taking Isotretinoin and developing IBD has not been proven beyond doubt, a mass of costly lawsuits have been brought to Roche’s front door.
If a side effect has not been listed on a medications information leaflet – a patient has not been adequately warned about the risk of taking it.
And so over 7, 000 lawsuits began.
Roche decided the financial risk was too great. Accutane was discontinued.
Is Accutane worth it? My friend, be your own advocate. Before any doctor will prescribe you a medication they’ll weigh up a list of pros and cons. They want to answer this question – will this drug do more good than the risk of life altering side effects?
I would also be asking myself an extra – have I wholeheartedly tried everything in my power to get rid of my acne/fix the trigger cause of my acne? Aka have I committed to diet and lifestyle changes which science is proving can cause acne? And have I committed to them for long enough to see benefits?
Is Accutane worth it for you? Still have questions about Accutane? Come ask me yours in the comments below;
Psst; please do forward this blog to a friend or family member you know it would help.
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.