What To Expect When Going On Accutane

Accutane, or the medical name Isotretinoin, is prescribed to those suffering from severe acne, explains Healthline, and is often given when all other methods have failed and the acne still persists. However, the drug is quite intense, and it is only given to those who have a really bad case of acne or other skin condition.

The best part of Accutane is that it works — the medicine is strong and helps prevent acne by stopping the buildup of oil in your pores, often permanently, making it impossible for acne to reappear, per Northstar Dermatology. But there are a lot of drawbacks to taking the medication as well. 

In fact, the side effects can be so vast, and so dangerous, that those who are prescribed Accutane are often under the watchful eye of their doctors and patients usually see their provider at least once a month, with regular blood tests. Doctors avoid prescribing the medication until all other acne solutions have been tested. So while Accutane is effective at treating your acne, it is not as simple as slathering on cream and going about your day. Before you get started, here's what to expect.

The side effects of Accutane are vast

Accutane is meant to stop oil buildup in the pores, but because of the strong medication, it can also cause the rest of your body to dry up, mainly your lips, nose, and eyes, warns Northstar Dermatology. Constipation, nausea, and stomach pains can also occur when you start taking the medication, and there has been a link between higher rates of depression and suicidal tendencies, although this has not been reliably proven. 

The biggest known side effect is the high rate of birth defects when taking the medication. Pregnant women are forbidden from taking Accutane and to prevent women from getting pregnant while on the medication, women are asked to take regular pregnancy tests and must prove they are on two different forms of birth control, per Byrdie.

Each month, you will meet with your doctor and have your blood drawn to determine how well the medicine is working and how your body is reacting to it. And while Accutane is meant to get rid of your acne, it can actually make it much worse before it makes it better. Through a personal account on Byrdie, one user recounts her skin having the worst flare-up ever after starting Accutane, causing her entire face to hurt and even bleed. But after a few months, her acne was gone. So while the medicine does, in fact, work, it is not an easy path to get there.

What to expect after getting off Accutane

According to BH Skin Dermatology, Accutane continues to work for about two months after you stop taking it, so you may be told to stop with the medication before your actual skin clears up. During your journey taking Accutane, you will need to follow strict rules from your doctor, including those monthly visits, but also ensuring you wear sunscreen and avoid alcohol and smoking. According to Cosmopolitan, most patients will see lifelong results after one round of taking Accutane, but there are a few, about 5%, who may have to do a second dose.

But even after stopping the medication, many patients, while thrilled with their new skin, had some lingering side effects even almost a year after. Some women reported eczema as a newfound issue, although the severity decreased after stopping Accutane. Others noticed some of their hair shedding and even blurry vision, although both of these things eventually went back to normal. Accutane is not for the faint of heart, and it requires some in-depth talks with your doctor and with yourself before getting started. But in the end, if you are suffering from horrible acne, it can be the cure to change your skin and your life.