I want to share my Isotretinoin (Accutane) experience, but I have a LOT to explain. I have been treated with Isotretinoin 3 separate times in my life and each treatment was for a different length of time, and the dosages varied. Yesterday I finished up my 3rd round of Isotretinoin treatment so I figured it was a good time to start sharing my story. Instead of doing one extremely long post I am making a series out of it so it is easier to read and understand.
I am starting off with skincare because extreme dryness is the most common side effect everyone experiences. Your skin changes a lot throughout treatment and you may want to overdo it with the skincare, but just keep it simple. Your doctor will tell you this and I suggest you listen to them. You do not want to use any kind of “acne fighting” face wash, moisturizer or makeup because the medicine is already working on the inside. My suggestion is to baby your skin. Don’t pick (I know it’s hard), don’t wash it with abrasive brushes or scrubs, and don’t overthink it. If you do need to exfoliate gently use a wash cloth and it will do the trick! The medication is doing all of the work for you so just make sure you stay constantly moisturized and give your skin a rest.
My product recommendations:
Cleanser – Vanicream 3.9 oz Unscented Body Soap
I know what you are thinking, bar soap? However, my first dermatologist recommended I use a bar soap, like a white Dove bar the first time I took Accutane and it is exactly what you want to use. Other facial cleaners are too harsh (avoid foaming face washes like the plague – they cause major dryness!) but the bar soap does the trick. When I discovered the Vanicream moisturizer this time around I figured I would stick with the brand across the board and ended up using their bar soap as well. It is free of nasty ingredients that many other products have, and it is so soft to wash with. It doesn’t give you that stripped feeling you can get from other washes.
Moisturizer – Vanicream® Moisturizing Cream Skin Cream
The reason I love this lotion so much is that it is lanolin-free, oil-free, dye-free, has no fragrance added, ethyl alcohol-free, and is labeled paraben-free. My biggest struggle with treatment the first two times was the fact that all lotions would sting my skin. Something in it was very harsh and really hurt. I tried all of the lotions that claimed to be “all natural” like Aveeno, Cetaphil and various others, but nothing kept my skin moisturized throughout the day, and it hurt to apply. The only thing I found to work and not sting was a Mary Kay® product called Oil-Free Hydrating Gel. It was not as moisturizing as I needed because it is oil-free, but it didn’t hurt to apply so I was fine with it. The Mary Kay® Intense Moisturizing Cream probably would have worked better, but I never gave it a go so I can’t confirm that it doesn’t sting. The only down side to Mary Kay products is they are only available through a Mary Kay representative, which is fine (support your local Mary Kay lady!), but also expensive. A tube of the Vanicream is under $10 and lasts forever! I only used two tubes of it on my face throughout my entire 7 month treatment. (I used the Vanicream body lotion as well and love it! Also, very inexpensive)
Lips – Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask
The Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask is amazing for keeping your lips moisturized throughout treatment. One thing to note is that the product is very sticky and sickly sweet tasting. It took me a long time to get used to using it in the day, but it works wonders. I used it at night the majority of the treatment and it kept my lips hydrated the whole night and didn’t slide around or rub off on my pillow.
*FYI: Once you have let your lips get to the point where they crack they will not fully heal until you end your treatment. Please, for your sake, stick to reapplying your lip products consistently to keep them hydrated! I had an issue with the edges of my lips cracking and not ever healing. It is easy to look like a 3 year old put on your makeup when you have glossy lip moisturizers on the edges and corners of your mouth, but I unfortunately ended up with painful, cracked corners because I didn’t always apply it around my mouth. My dermatologist was amazing and prescribed me a combination of ointments to combat the cracking and it worked! Also, if you are a matte lipstick, or liquid lipstick fan you will not want to wear them while on the medication. Your lips will look and feel horrible, so just avoid them.
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of these common products. I used these on my lips for added moisture when I wasn’t using the Agave Lip Mask. They also come in handy when you have dry patches on the skin and need a little added moisture. I would use these products on top of the Vanicream at night if I didn’t moisturize the night before, because I fell asleep without washing and moisturizing properly.
Makeup Remover (Pre Cleansing) – Garnier® SKINACTIVE™ Micellar Cleansing Water
I suggest a micellar water like this one by Garnier®. You have to remember the skin on every part of your body drys out while in treatment and that includes your sensitive eye area. If you wear makeup regularly try using a micellar water to take off the eye makeup and first layer of foundation before cleansing so you won’t be rubbing your eyes raw trying to remove your makeup. Use a cotton round with a generous amount of product and let it sit on your eyes a few seconds before rubbing. This stuff works great and your makeup should come right off with a few swipes. It doesn’t sting and is very gentle on all parts of the face, which is a win-win in my book.
Just a reminder, I am not a dermatologist or a doctor, but I do have plenty of experience as a patient using Isotretinoin (Accutane) so my suggestions are simply from one patient to another. If you are thinking of going on Isotretinoin, or are currently on it and need some suggestions when it comes to skincare I hope this post helps. More to come like before and afters, side effects, etc.