My teenager has tried every over-the-counter acne product, but nothing seems to be working. Is Accutane safe for my teen to use?

If you are a parent of a teen with acne, you might have had the same question. As a skincare professional specializing in acne treatment, I can’t even track how many times I heard those concerns. During the free consultation we offer at our clinic, over 90% of them say they have tried everything from over-the-counter acne products to dermatologist-approved prescriptions, such as clindamycin, Differin, Retin-A, and retinoid with little to no success. Now they are faced with the next step their Dermatologist recommends, Accutane.

So, what is Accutane?  How does Accutane work to clear acne?

Accutane is a high-strength form of vitamin A that is thought to work by inducing cell death in the skin’s sebaceous (i.e., oil-producing) glands. The oil glands harbor bacteria and are typically hyperactive in acne-prone persons.

While the logic follows that using Accutane to remove excessive oil from the skin will help get rid of your acne, there are a variety of things that we must understand about Accutane first.

First, I want to point out that “Accutane,” as a brand name, no longer exists. Due to its association with lawsuits filed by former patients that have amounted to millions of dollars in damages, Accutane has been rebranded as Isotretinoin. Isotretinoin is also used in chemotherapy to treat certain types of cancer, such as neuroblastoma.

Secondly, taking isotretinoin is not an easy process. It takes serious commitment. Clients advised to take it must take one daily pill. One cycle of isotretinoin can take from eight to ten months. You must also take a monthly blood test to ensure that the drug is not causing internal damage to your liver or kidneys. You also have to monitor your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Because the drug has been linked to severe congenital disabilities, professionals recommend that female clients be on birth control. Some of my clients were on two types of birth control while taking isotretinoin.

Furthermore, when taking isotretinoin, numerous side effects range from mild to severe. These side effects include the risk of:

  • Headaches
  • Mental health concerns
  • Pressure in the brain
  • Hearing issues
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Depression
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Changes in blood sugar
  • Changes in cholesterol
  • Decreased red and white blood cells
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Congenital disabilities
  • Organ damage
  • Internal damage to the liver
  • Internal damage to the kidneys
  • Decrease in bone mineral density
  • Growth problems
  • Dry skin, mouth, or nasal passages
  • Allergic reactions
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Skin irritation
  • Skin infection

So, would I recommend this so-called “Miracle Pill” claimed to cure acne? 

Well, approximately 70 to 80 percent of our clients come into the office with dry skin. Most factors that trigger acne are related to lifestyle and diet, not the overproduction of oil in the skin. Isotretinoin can work for those whose acne occurs due to the overproduction of oil, but it will not be as effective for those whose acne is triggered by other factors.

Furthermore, isotretinoin dries up everything, and I mean everything, including your bones, internal organs, etc. Many parents who used isotretinoin on themselves when they suffered from acne in their teen years and experienced the side effects now, bring their teens to our clinic. Those parents don’t want their children to experience the side effects they are dealing with and are hoping to solve their teens’ acne without using possibly harmful medications. The most common side effects we hear are arthritis, joint pain, and severe eye dryness. The scary thing about isotretinoin is that the side effects do not stop once you stop taking isotretinoin. Those who took isotretinoin can experience lingering effects as they age.

It seems that physicians prescribe Accutane/Isotretinoin too readily when they should prescribe instead as a last resort.

Fortunately, in my seven years as an acne specialist, I have treated and led over a thousand clients to clearer skin without using any medications!

The most important part of clearing acne is to find the root cause and treat it accordingly. I was the parent who was searching for safer alternatives to solve my son’s acne problem, and my struggle resulted in the creation of Face 5 Acne Solution Center here in Colorado. At Face 5 Acne Solution Center, we have treated acne clients with mild to severe acne without using medications. Over a thousand clients have done our Acne Solution Program and achieved clear skin. Our solution involves treating acne holistically. We conduct a skin test at the first appointment and, with each client, we create a customized skincare routine and program. We guide each client to achieve and maintain clear skin.

Contact us if you are interested in learning more about our program. We are here to help you and your teen!