Accutane Acne Treatment

Updated on June 10, 2010
J.H. asks from Walnut Creek, CA
15 answers

After battling acne all my life and now fed up with adult acne, I will begin isotretinoin (commonly known as Accutane or Claravis) treatment in July. Has anyone had experience with this treatment? I have read tons online and materials from my dermatologist, but I wanted to hear from other people’s first hand experiences. Did any of the side effects continue after treatment ended? Thanks for any insights!

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answers from Redding on

Took it at 14 with great success. Had to watch my cholesterol as it rose greatly -- don't know why. Side effects did not last long. Have several friends who took it with no negative effects we know of. Normally I am wary of prescription drugs, but this one truly changed my life.

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answers from Dallas on

My husband was on Accutane for a while in his early 20's. It really did help clear up acne and he hardly ever breaks out at all now. I remember during that time it did make him somewhat irritable at times, and he was dehydrated all the time and had to drink LOTS of water since it dry up mucus membranes like the previous poster said. After completing the Accutane treatment he no longer has those side effects.

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answers from Sacramento on

I was on Accutane and there are a couple of things you need to know. It has some nasty side effects. One is wicked mood swings. My marriage almost didn't survive them. Another is that it will make your skin extremely fragile so be very careful with it. I could cut myself to bleeding with my fingernail so I always had to carry bandaids with me. Lastly, you need to make sure that you have Aquaphore ointment with you at all times for your lips as they will dry to cracking and bleeding as well as your hands. It works, but it is a real commitment for a long time. Good luck.

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answers from St. Cloud on

I used accutane as when I was 16 (or maybe 17). I had tried EVERYTHING. From prescriptions to over the counter products to the stuff they sell on tv. NOTHING WORKED. I've been struggling with acne since I was 12. I am now 27 and STILL STRUGGLE WITH IT!

The dermatologist had me on it for about 6 months or so. I had to go in and have my blood tested every month to make sure my kidneys weren't shutting down. They also made me go on birth control even though I wasn't have sex because it causes severe birth defects IF you get pregnant. I will say, IT DID WORK. However, my face never did clear up ALL THE WAY. The only side effect I remember was getting really dry lips and skin. This lasted for maybe 6? months after being done with treatment. There was a big improvement for a couple years but then it came back like normal.

Even the dermatologist said he didn't know what else to do...... (A couple years after initial treatment.) He said he could put me on another round if I wanted. But I was getting married and didn't want to put any harmful things in my body when it would be possible to get pregnant or shortly before..... Otherwise he had no other suggestions for me.

I wish I had the answers. We've switched to an all organic lifestyle for almost a year and my face never cleared up all the way. We don't eat fast food. NO pop. Etc. And STILL I struggle with acne. I quit drinking milk (we drink our own non pasteurized bulk tank milk) for 6 or 9 months and saw NO improvement.

My parents neighbor lady just told me about 3 weeks ago that she had acne when she was younger and the doctor told her to go out in the sun and dry it out. She said it worked! It took a summer but hers cleared up. So, I've been spending some time outdoors with no makeup and a tank top (on my back too......hmmmmmm) and have seen an improvement. BIG improvement on my back but my face is still breaking out. (I'm wondering if it's in part because I wear cover up on days where I have to go somewhere and it's irritating it????)

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answers from Modesto on

My husband (used in teens yrs) and my best friend from high school (used in adulthood) both used it and it cleared up their acne forever. Great product. I'm not sure for how long either one took it. The chapped lip side effect was the worst part. Invest in good lip balm and drink lots of water. Stay out of the sun. Your dr will probably put you on birth control pills or require monthly pregnancy tests to be certain you do not become pregnant whil using this medication. The birth defects associated with it are very serious. Becoming acne free is worth a bit of hassle - good luck!

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answers from Sacramento on

Before trying this dangerous and expensive medication, I recommend trying a dairy-free and ideally and animal product-free diet. Dairy products, specifically, are strongly linked to an increase in acne. I've attached a link below for your review. Please visit and for more important research.

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answers from San Francisco on

I had 'normal' skin my whole life-teenage pimples-nothing big but in college moved to a town that the weather and water was completley different. I developed adult acne. It was horrible & very embarassing since I was an adult as opposed to a teenager that was supposed to have flaws with skin.
I developed a self consciouness about my face that I never had before. As you know, no fun!
I also in the end went to acutane. It was the best decision I made. I have not had acne since. I now live with the scars which is much easier to hide than the breakouts. The side effects were brutal while on it-it was about 8 years ago for me so I don't remember it clearly but I do remember being dry-everywhere (yes even down below-stock up on lubricant for yourself when sexually active) & the fact that I had to sign government papers stating that I would not get pregnant while or for a certain period after having take the med. I now have a 23 month old daughter & 2 week old son-no medical problems-this many years later but I would def. make sure you follow the rules regarding that. If you are not planing on getting pregnant for a few years-minimally-it is a great last resort regardless of the side effects. I do not recall having any side effects after treatment. Good luck!

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answers from San Francisco on

My friend used it and had great success with her skin clearing up but had some pretty bad side effects.

1. Her lips were extremely chapped all the time.
2. She did it between baby 1 and baby 2 and she had a very hard time with the 2nd baby. She finished the treatment before starting to try for baby 2 but then had 3 miscarriages before finally holding a pregnancy to term. Not totally sure if the 2 are related but it's something to think about.
3. Weird thing is that her husband got Crohn's disease which is now being associated with Accutane although he never took it. May have just been a coincidence but still strange nontheless..

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answers from Miami on

I used Accutane when I was in college (1991ish) and did two full cycles of treatment. It worked well when I was on it but the acne would come back afterwards. I started a 3rd cycle but stopped when my boyfriend at the time called my mother to tell her that he thought I was entirely too moody and emotional and blamed the Accutane (these are side-effects). I admitted that I was feeling depressed and decided with the help of ex-boyfriend and mom and dermatologist to quit. I've continued to have moderate acne on face, upper arms and back since then - but find that the back acne and chest acne gets super bad during pregnancy. I'm cooking #2 right now and hoping things go back to my "normal" when this one is birthed.

Make sure that you are certain that you don't get pregnant - and I mean CERTAIN due to the risk of birth defects. I don't think I would even consider it if I had ever been treated for depression. Good luck!

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answers from Indianapolis on

I worked with Roche (original manufacturer) in 2000 when there was a lot of media about a Michigan US Representative suing the company over the suicide of his son.

Accutane is a good medication, but it is very potent. My Dermatologist recommended it for me, too. As a cancer survivor, I tend to be very shy about potent medications these days despite working in the pharmaceutical industry for a decade.

Your dermatologist (and perhaps a few pharmacists) are the best sources of information regarding risks (apparently there is a 6 month period required by the federal government now to get an Rx approved) of treatment.

I was surprised how quickly my dermatologist recommended Accutane without wanting to retry things like Benzaclin that had worked previously for me. Interestingly, I had NO acne during chemo perhaps because it was literally killing everything in my body or because I was on Levaquin for 3 months.

Here's what the FDA has approved the product for including adverse event (side effect information):

The one common side effect I've heard repeatedly is the dryness of mucus membranes (all over your body) during treatment, but I've not heard that it's a lasting effect. There are warnings, though, about people with a history of depression, high triglycerides, etc.

Good luck. Have a few doozies of my own right now and ready to stop looking like a 13 year-old.

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answers from Johnstown on

I love, love, love Accutane. I was on it for 13 months. It cleared up my acne after a LONG waiting period, but it was worth it. I have a few scars however I can now leave the house without putting on makeup.
Accutane has plenty of side effects. You're probably going to get super-dry skin, maybe some nausea, some joint pain, dry skin...stuff like that. If you can handle it, lucky you. :)
You have a pregnancy test done monthly, uhh, some follow-up medication...stuff like that.
Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

I also battled acne all my life -- until accutane 4 years ago. One of the best things I ever did for myself. And yes I knew all the risks and I still wanted to be free of acne, so I did it. I don't remember what level I started at, but my skin and lips were dry almost immediately. I became "addicted" to my lip balm! You need to stay hydrated, but your skin dries out anyway. I became a little "flaky" on my face. I used lots of Lubriderm, which I wasn't used to because I could never use moisturizer on my face. I also developed a rash on my hands (from washing my hands a lot and because my skin was so dry) that I needed some medicated cream to clear up. My dermatologist was great throughout the 5 months I was on accutane. It's so nice today not to worry about how my face is going to look when I wake up. No acne! It's great. Good luck with it!

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answers from Detroit on

Hi J.---I'm sorry I can't share much about accutane, except that from working with a Naturopath who has her PhD in Nutrition, prescription drugs should be used as a last resort and for as short a time as possible.

I've also learned from Dr. Popper that your diet likely has an impact on the health of your skin. Do you consume a lot of dairy? Long term research implicates dairy as causing and aggrevating acne. It's also possible that you have excess hormones circulating in your body and that contributes to acne. Be sure to eat lots of high fiber foods, fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts and seeds. You should actually be consuming close to 50 grams per day. I've heard recommendations for even higher amounts. Fiber removes excess hormones from the bloodstream, as well as excess cholesterol and many other important functions.

Eating mostly fruits and veggies will get you more healthful vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which help the body to work better, and that would include your skin.

We should be eating in excess of 10 servings of fruit and veg each day. If you find that hard to do, I have some suggestions on how to get more nutrients through quantity AND variety.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on the points I've raised. I'd be happy to help. Good luck to you. D.

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answers from Cleveland on

I had horrible acne that started when I was 19. I started taking accutane (isotretinion) in May 05 and my acne was COMPLETELY cleared up by August. My only side effects were chapped lips. My acne came back around July 06, I waited to go back to the dermatologist until April 07 because I was hoping it would clear up on it's own, and I really didn't want to deal with the monthly blood tests to make sure I wasn't pregnant. I started in May 07 and again COMPLTELY cleared up by July/August 07, same side effects this time. It is now almost 3 years later and I have been acne free!!!!!!!!!!! However, I am now seeing commercials saying accutane may be linked to IBS or Crohns disease, which I haven't officially been diagnosed with, but have had symptoms of since September 07. It DOES WORK WONDERS, but do your research first. I know how horrible it is to deal with acne so I hope everything works out for you!!!

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answers from San Francisco on

Hi J.,
I did a 6 month course of Accutane when I was 28, and I'm now 45. It is a miraculous drug, in that it is the only CURE for cystic acne, which is very painful, physically and emotionally. I had done every topical acne treatment there was,for 10 years, including on and off courses of antibiotics and tetracyclin which did not even TOUCH the acne. All it did was make my teeth not as white! I do remember using Retin-A cream as well. There are some annoying side affects with the Accutane. The drug thins out your skin permanently, which on the good side, means baby soft skin, forever, however on the flip side, it might mean a greater appearance of cellulite down the road (unless you're not prone to it...can be genetic, even if you're thin). Nobody in your posts mentioned the nose bleeds, which can be common for some due to the thinning of membranes in your nose. I still have chronic nose bleeds during allergy season, which is probably due to thinner membranes. The dryness of skin wasn't as noticeable for me, however the chapped lips were EXTREME. Could not be without having them slathered for 6 months straight. Remember to slather them before going to bed with a thick ointment that won't wear off when you sleep. All these things aside, I am 100% grateful for what the drug did for me, it cured my adult acne and I sailed through the therapy without any major health concerns, like liver being fried, etc..They would stop treatment immediately, if your liver panel came up slightly off (they do monthly blood draws to check on everything). Hope this helps, and that it isn't too scary. The drug has changed so many peoples lives for the better. Good luck!

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