The side effects of Accutane®: is isotretinoin really worth it?

As both a mother of teen boys who suffered through acne and as an acne specialist, my opinion on it is resolute: no, Isotretinoin is never worth it, especially for those who are looking to safely and effectively treat their acne long-term.

Today, let’s break down what isotretinoin (more commonly referred to as Accutane®!) is, its common side effects that make it too dangerous to be labelled “worth it”, and, of course, what you can do instead to treat you or your teen’s acne for lasting results.

Firstly, What is Isotretinoin? Why is It Best Known as Accutane®?

Isotretinoin is a prescription medicine prescribed for severe acne, namely difficult-to-treat cysts and nodules. The most common brand names for isotretinoin include Absorica®, Accutane®, Amnesteem®, Claravis®, Myorisan®, Sotret®, and Zenatane™. 

Accutane®, despite being discontinued in 2009 due to the cost of associated lawsuits, is the most well-known name for isotretinoin; it has also earned its nickname, “the acne drug of last resort.”

The Side Effects of Accutane: Is Isotretinoin Really Worth It? (No! And Here’s Why)

Isotretinoin’s fallacy is that one course of treatment takes a whole five months on average… but most patients have to be on it for extended periods of time, lest their acne come back in full-force.

This extended usage is particularly troubling for teens with acne, who would be at heightened risk of isotretinoin’s many dangerous side effects. These side effects include:

  • Birth defects, miscarriage, or premature birth
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Rashes
  • Nosebleeds 
  • Vision concerns
  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Cracked lips
  • Chronic itching

These side effects are so serious that women must have two negative pregnancy tests before you can take any form of isotretinoin: you will also need to be tested for pregnancy in a laboratory each month during your treatment, when you take your last dose, and even 30 days after taking your final dose. For both men and women, these side effects make it so patients prescribed isotretinoin are required to have a full blood count and fasting lipids and liver function tests performed at least once during a 16-30 week course of isotretinoin to ensure that your health is not being negatively impacted.

Side effects of the medication have led to more than 7,000 lawsuits against the manufacturer of Accutane®, which, as outlined in the section above, caused them to halt its production.

Why I Would Never Recommend Isotretinoin as Both a Mother and an Acne Specialist… and What I Would Advise Instead

As a mother of four boys, I have my own experience of dermatologists recommending Accutane® for my sons’ acne. I went through all the regular questions like:

  • “Is isotretinoin really worth it?”
  •  “What are the side effects of Accutane®?” 
  • “Will this medication damage my sons’ physical and mental health?”
  • “What options exist that are more effective and safer?”

After circumventing Accutane® with my sons and instead opting for science-backed home care products, consistent lifestyle changes, and an expert-guided skin care routine (all of which have kept their skin clear to this day!), I now work with acne sufferers who are either too concerned to take isotretinoin (or have their teen take it), have taken isotretinoin and regretted it due to its side effects, or have found that its results are short-lived.

Here at Face 5, I recommend the following alternatives for clearing acne:

Instead of isotretinoin, which is unsafe, ineffective, and expensive, these acne specialist-approved methods guarantee the safe and effective management of acne for life.. for either you or the teen in your life!

Reach out today to learn how Face 5 reverses acne symptoms from the inside-out, no medication required.