Recommended by a dermatologist
By Maddie Felton •
If you’re struggling with acne, chances are you’ve thought about trying Roaccutane.
Although changing your diet, getting more sleep, and tailoring your skincare routine might encourage a subtle shift in your skin, really bad acne often needs specific medical attention.
Many people out there recommend Roaccutane (generic name isotretinoin), yet there are those who vow never to go near it. While the wonder pill can ease off the miserable pressure that acne induces, it’s a powerful drug that can come with a set of serious isotretinoin side effects.
This anti-inflammatory oral drug shrinks the sebaceous glands that cause acne and reduces the bacteria that live on the skin. But with dry skin almost inevitable, unhealthy hair loss a possibility, dramatic mood swings hanging in the balance, and endless doctor appointments on the cards, the big question is:
To answer all your burning Roaccutane questions, we called in an expert. Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan is a top dermatologist at ODE Dermatology in Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia. She knows a thing or two about the Accutane regimen and what products to use while on Accutane (aka Roaccutane).
‘Roaccutane is isotretinoin (13-cis retinoic acid), which is a vitamin A derivative. The liver naturally makes small quantities of isotretinoin from vitamin A, but the drug we prescribe is made synthetically and in higher doses.
‘It is a very effective agent for the control of acne and in the induction of long term remissions. As dermatologists, we use it in a variety of other conditions such as rosacea, folliculitis, and seborrhea (oily skin).’
While it’s unclear whether Roaccutane will cause eczema, it can irritate existing dry skin and change how your skin reacts.
‘We tend to use low doses like 10 mg for a longer time like 6 to 9 months, as opposed to higher doses for shorter bursts of time,’ says Dr Gunatheesan.
‘This minimises the side effects of isotretinoin, which tend to be dose-dependent.’
Roaccutane is the most common acne medication on the market, but that’s not to say it doesn’t come without challenges. If you’re on a high dose of isotretinoin, you could experience hair loss or thinning hair—which, let’s face it, can be a nightmare! Before you panic, there are a few things you can do to help yourself.
When on Accutane, it’s crucial that you nourish your body the best way you can.
Roaccutane can cause a vitamin B deficiency, so it’s time to start taking an extra daily supplement. Lucky for you, vitamin B can also be found in avocado, which means you can eat as much avo and poached egg on toast as you fancy! Roaccutane treatment is also a good time to reduce stress and let your body relax.
It’s always a good idea to protect yourself from the sun. Roaccutane will dry your hair out, so invest in some new hats and headscarves to stay covered and confident.
Isotretinoin, the main ingredient in Roaccutane, is a synthetic form of vitamin A that helps suppress oil, or sebum, production in the skin to reduce acne.
While this helps with reducing acne, sebum does have a role in keeping the skin and hair healthy:
Healthy hair starts with a healthy, supple scalp (skin). One of the most common side effects of suppressed sebum production is severely dehydrated skin, lips, and dry brittle hair that breaks easily.
Sebum consists of a number of organic acids that maintain the pH of the skin between 3 and 5. Intact skin not only prevents the entry of pathogens and chemicals but also inhibits the growth of most pathogenic bacteria due to its low pH.
Roaccutane may affect the body in ways that could contribute to hair thinning or hair loss as well. For example, Roaccutane may affect the hair shafts and follicles themselves. Most of the time, any hair loss is temporary, and the thin hair should start to thicken again with time. However, some people may notice a permanent change in their hair after taking isotretinoin.
While it might seem dramatic, it’s probably best to steer clear of alcohol when on Roaccutane. Mixing the two can cause liver toxicity, which could wreak havoc in your body and create some dangerous side effects.
‘Side effects generally relate to the dryness of the skin, mucous membranes, eyes, and scalp. The commonest side effects will be dry lips and photosensitivity (increased tendency to sunburns).’
‘It is best to avoid hair removal lasers, microdermabrasion, and tattooing whilst on Roaccutane and for 4 to 6 months post-treatment. Shaving and waxing can be undertaken very judiciously. Other areas sometimes prone to dryness include the nasal passages, eyes, genitals, and nails, the last of which can become brittle. I also warn my patients that there could be an initial, temporary flaring of their acne.’
Targeted solutions and tailored treatments are offered to fulfil individual concerns of every age. This transcends into a guardianship of long-term, personal wellbeing and an amplification of the skin's innate intelligence.