Oral isotretinoin, Accutane, Roaccutane, Claravis, Oratane.
These my friend are different names for the exact same drug active.
A pill that can get rid of your acne.
That’s the promise.
What’s the reality?
Can getting rid of acne really be quick, pain-free and simple?
Can you take a pill and be done with your acne… forever?
Wowzer, what a strumming at your heart strings statement eh.
My friend, there’s one fact you need to know before reading this Accutane FAQ help page. You are THE most amazing person right now. You are amazing because you are you and you are even more amazing because you are being you with acne.
You are a super women right now.
Remember it. Remind yourself of it. Never let yourself forget this fact.
Right – let’s get to this shall we. Likelihood is I have the honour of guiding your hand through the ins and outs of oral isotretinoin because right now you’re considering it.
What you’re going to find below are 8 of the most commonly asked Accutane questions. And they’re answered right here. With science. Not the baffling kind. Just the omgosh that makes so much sense kind.
This is what you need to know before you decide if oral isotretinoin is worth it for you;
1) Is Accutane a Cure for Acne?
Fantastic question my friend. You are spot on to ask this one. Oral isotretinoin is a drug. Drugs have side effects so you want to know the risk is worth it eh.
Go you. Super smart ask.
Here’s the need to know;
A cure is a one off treatment which is going to forever get rid of your acne.
Once you take it you’re done… for life.
Say what!? Can it be true?
A cure looks like this;
You have a bladder infection.
That means there’s extra bacteria currently overtaking your bladder.
These bacteria are bad for your bladder.
They’re inflaming it, making it painful to pee.
To cure this bladder infection you need 1 or more of these things to happen;
- A treatment which stops the bad bacteria overgrowth i.e. super common cure = antibiotic
- An intervention which helps your good bacteria win out again/your immune function fight off the bad guys
- An intervention which stops this from ever happening again – it could be wearing cotton underwear or peeing on the regular or drinking more water to help flush out your bladder
Psst; usually a cure is not as straightforward as just taking a pill/antibiotic. That’s because there’s a reason why something out of the norm is happening to you. For example, take your imaginary bladder infection – it could be caused because you haven’t been peeing on the regular. If you don’t identify and correct this cause, taking a pill for your bladder infection is only a temporary relief of your symptoms. Yikes.
Here’s also what a cure doesn’t look like;
Taking antacids for heart burn.
Why? Because they’re not getting to your root cause. They’re only pacifying a symptom.
Using steroid creams for eczema.
Why? Because you have to keep using them to keep eczema in check. And ultimately you’re going to get steroid re-bound aka the steroids will start to cause you eczema like symptoms.
Do you get the theory my friend?
Accutane is not a cure for acne because it does not get to the root cause of why your acne’s happening.
In other words there’s up to a 60% chance Accutane will not cure your acne.
Because I’ve directly SkinCoached 100s of women and even a few men 1-on-1 I know its super common to;
- Have to take multiple rounds of oral isotretinoin – psst – the more times you take oral isotretinoin, the increased risk there is of side effects
- End up on a low dose of Accutane long term – a bit like taking steroids for eczema – it’s risky
Is Accutane a cure for acne? Accutane can help get rid of acne in the short term. For many people Accutane is not a long term or long lasting cure.
p.s. Accutane doesn’t work for everyone
And p.s.s. the food you take Accutane with matters – it impacts how well your body will absorb oral isotretinoin.
Want an insider’s look at a key trigger of acne? Download my free 1 page acne diet cheat sheet. Diet is a humongous acne trigger. This yes, no, sometimes list is helping you get started on a clear skin diet which works. Click here to get your free copy now.
2) How Does Accutane Work?
Such a good question.
Let me level with you here – science does not fully understand the reasons why Accutane works.
What science does know;
Accutane or oral isotretinoin dramatically turns down the volume of your sebum making glands. It shrinks them. Turns them into Borrowers. Puts them to sleep.
“A dose of 0.5–1.0 mg/kg/day dramatically reduces sebum excretion by the order of 90% within 6 weeks.”Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 May-Jun; 1(3): 162–169
Psst – this fact is why a super common side effect of Accutane is chronically dry, cracked, red and irritated skin.
Because unbalanced sebum is a major cause of acne, turning down your skin’s sebum volume can help you kick butt to acne.
Psst – you can do this with skincare too.
However – know this – acne can come back after Accutane – yet now your skin is dry with acne.
What does this mean? Getting rid of your acne is not just about fixing your skin’s sebum. This is also why taking birth control to get rid of acne is not a good idea.
Skin sebum is just one piece of your acne puzzle.
3) Is It Safe to Take Accutane?
Answer this question my friend – is it safe to cross the road?
Imagine you’re trying to get to a park (to ride on the see-saw, omgosh so much fun), there’s a busy 40mph road to cross.
Is it safe?
Is it safe if you run across?
Is it safe if you wait an hour till there are zero cars in sight?
Is it safe if you scoot out on a bike? It’s quicker right?
Crossing the road, to get to your park can be safe. However, crossing the road to get to your park is never without risk.
It can be safe. It is never 100% risk free.
Accutane is a medication. It’s a concentrated active you’ll never encounter naturally in real life.
Medications/drugs like these – come with increased risk of side effects.
It is extremely unlikely you will experience zero side effects if deciding to take Accutane. We’ve already spoken about that super common one – chronically dry skin. Take a read of this blog – Is Accutane Worth It? to clue yourself up on others.
Crazy fact; a 2005 published study shows that taking oral isotretinoin changes the way your brain works aka this drug influences your brain.
Psst; a way you can lower this risk – consider cream forms of isotretinoin first. Or even the right skincare (the kind you don’t need a prescription for) with actives from the same family i.e. retinoids. I can help you with this 1 on 1 in the Acne Clinic.
4) How Long Does Accutane Take to Work?
Fun fact – oral isotretinoin is a fat soluble active. And when it dissolves it works. When it’s solid, it doesn’t.
Take Accutane while you’re eating fatty foods and your body is absorbing way more Accutane.
Aka Accutane can get to work quicker.
While there are a heck load of factors like these, in general here’s what the science says;
“Most patients who receive oral isotretinoin will be free of acne by the end of 4–6 months of treatment depending on the dose administered. Recent clinical experience suggests that the long-term cure rate may be lower than was initially thought.”Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 May-Jun; 1(3): 162–169
There is your answer my friend. It takes about half a year for Accutane to work.
P.s. as with any drug, Accutane will not work for everyone.
This published science study also supports what we already know – Accutane may not be a long term cure for you.
Interesting info power-up; When drug companies test out new medications, they look to see if it works, then they look to see for how long. For example the makers of Accutane (which is no longer available for sale – read more about that here) could check their new drug works at the 6 month mark and then again after another 6 months. They may never have looked to see if it still works 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years down the road.
My friend, if you do decide to take oral isotretinoin for acne, I strongly recommend you look at supporting diet, skincare and lifestyle changes in parallel. They’re huge pieces of your acne puzzle. Often completely overlooked and super powerful. Get a start on diet with my free 1-page acne diet cheat sheet here. Doing this is like peeing on the regular to help prevent bladder infections 😉
5) What Are The Signs That Accutane Is Working?
My friend, there’s no need to worry about this one – I’m 100% sure you will very quickly know if Accutane is working.
Because of that super common side effect – chronically dry skin.
Do you remember it? And how this is the major reason for why Accutane can help you get rid of acne?
You’re so brainy.
Within a few weeks of taking oral isotretinoin you’re likely going to notice;
- Cracked dry lips
- Sore and red skin
- Dry skin like you’ve never had before
- Dry eyes
- Basically dry, dry, dry. Dryness everywhere.
All of these side effects are the first sign that Accutane is working.
6) Can You Take Accutane for Mild Acne?
Is Accutane worth it for mild acne?
This is a fence sitting answer dear skin savvy.
Answer 1) Acne should not be prescribed for mild acne.
Because of this mantra doctors live their life by.
Do more good than harm.
All medications have potential to cause you harm. Today, doctors all over the world are weighing this against the good Acctuane has potential to bring you.
The good-bad/I-love-you, I-hate-you scales of balance.
Answer 2) patient safety is shockingly different depending on where you live.
You could buy Accutane on the black market. You could be prescribed oral isotretinoin by a nurse or esthetician.
This is incredibly scary.
Truly, truly scary.
Accutane is an aggressive medication. To take oral isotretinoin in the safest way – you need regular blood testing.
This is making sure some super serious side effects do not run rampant on your body. If your blood work shows this is happening, you may need to stop taking Accutane immediately.
When you get oral isotretinoin on the black market or take it without your doctor’s supervision – you do not get regular blood testing, you do not get medical advice, you do not get supervision.
My friend I’m here for you. I 1000% get it. I once suffered with mild to moderate acne. It had a huge impact on my emotional well-being. My confidence. Self-esteem. My self-worth.
Yes it was mild on my skin. No it was not mild on my life.
What should you do?
Make sure you’ve tried EVERYTHING to help get rid of your acne. This is not the general how to get rid of acne advice you’re going to find on the 1st page of Google.
- Health foods which make acne worse
- Why you should not wash your face so much when you have acne
- This is how you do have control over hormones
- This is how vitamins can actually cause and worsen acne
- This is the science of your acne
Get a start in my free yes, no, sometimes acne diet cheat sheet. Download yours now by clicking here.
7) Is Accutane a Permanent Cure?
You’ve answered this one already eh. Always one step ahead of me. You really are amazing my friend. Believe it.
Accutane is proven to be a short term way to get rid of acne – for some people.
Accutane or oral isotretinoin in up to 60% of cases is not a permanent cure for acne.
Note; there are limited follow up studies monitoring if Accutane is a cure after 2, 3, 4, 5+ years. Therefore this up-to-60% risk of relapse could be higher.
Extra note; you are most likely to cure your acne by getting to its trigger cause. Treat your triggering cause. And treat your symptoms too – just don’t make them the only thing you’re treating.
8) Why Does Acne Get Worse on Accutane?
Yikes. What!? Acne can get worse on oral isotretinoin? Nobody told me about this risk. Is it truth?
Yes. This really is truth. Acne can get worse on Accutane… before it gets better.
You could call this purging.
There’s also a domino impact of triggers happening here;
- Your skin’s super irritated because it’s dry – irritation equals inflammation and acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition i.e. more inflammation makes acne worse
- Dry skin has a super poorly skin barrier – this is why your skin needs sebum, a poorly skin barrier lets acne bacteria travel deeper, quicker – boom – intense, inflamed acne breakouts
- As your skin’s sebum production plummets to low, there’s nothing left to push out junk from your pores aka temporarily they become clogged with what’s currently sat in them/this also sits together with oral isotretinoin being able to shrink your pore size – imagine what happens as your pores shrink and there’s still acne causing junk they need to get rid of
- Purging – your skin experiences an increase in dead skin cell shedding, this temporarily clogs up pores
There you have it my friend, your FAQ guide to Accutane/oral isotretinoin/Oratane/Roaccutane. Have questions? Come ask me them below… and remember – you are amazing. Do not forget it.
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.