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Dealing with acne can be an immensely frustrating experience. For most, it involves years of trying out various skincare products, sampling home remedies, and (more often than not) resorting to popping some of the nastier zits. Sigh.

And the worst part? Sometimes, all that hard work doesn’t reap any results whatsoever. If you find yourself in that predicament, well, perhaps it’s time to consider the supposed ‘miracle drug’ for acne: Accutane.

Accutane: what is it?

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Referred to as Isotretinoin in certain circles, Accutane is a synthetic derivative of Vitamin A which is primarily used to treat severe cases of cystic acne.

Most of the time, patients are prescribed Accutane when it has been proven that no other form of medication has worked for them.

However, you should note that it is a prescription-only drug that is obtained mostly via dermatologist referral. This is due to the powerful effects Accutane can have on your body and skin.

Accutane: okay, but how does it work such that it is so effective?

All About Accutane Effectiveness

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 Ah, the billion-dollar question when it comes to Accutane: but what is it about it that makes it so effective when it comes to acne?

Well, what Accutane does is that it works by decreasing sebum production significantly. In fact, there are reports that claim Accutane lowers sebum production by up to 80%. Whoa!

Wait, back up— some of you might be wondering: what does that have to do with treating acne, though?

It does because those with acne tend to have sebaceous glands that go into overdrive, pumping out more oil than the skin needs. As excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells and impurities, your pores are clogged. When these clogged pores are in contact with bacteria that feed on oil plugs, they get inflamed, and acne occur.

What this means is that lowering your sebum production, can lower the chance of acne formation.

And that’s not all! Accutane also claims to:

  • Regulate cell turnover: this allows dead skin cells to slough off your skin instead of getting trapped within your pores.
  • Reduce the size of your oil glands
  • Have anti-inflammatory properties: to reduce redness and inflammation that often comes with acne skin.

Accutane: what is the recommended dosage?

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It really depends on the severity of the acne and how much your dermatologist prescribes you, but it usually ranges from 0.5mg to 2mg daily. It also takes about 15-20 weeks for it to take effect, with some treatments lasting up to 10 months!

Remember to swallow the capsules whole, and it is recommended that you consume the pills with meals. Do not lie down for 10 minutes after taking it.

Accutane: is there anyone who shouldn’t be taking Accutane?

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Pregnant women are advised to keep from taking Accutane as it can lead to serious birth defects in their unborn child.

This is because the drug is easily absorbed through the skin and lungs, making a child susceptible to the numerous side effects that Accutane brings. This, naturally, could lead to severe consequences for the child.

Accutane: what are the side effects of going on it?

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There are both short term and long term effects when it comes to going on Accutane. For short term effects, you can expect:

  • Dryness of lips, skin, and mouth
  • Photosensitivity
  • Nosebleed
  • Possible eczema
  • More apparent wrinkles

See the common theme surrounding said short term side effects? Yup, they mostly revolve around your skin becoming drier than Sahara Desert. Be sure to plan for it accordingly, especially if you already have dry skin to begin with.

As for long term effects, they are:

Take note that these long-term side effects apparently only occur in less than 10% of patients, though.

Accutane: what’s going to happen once I start on it?

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Other than the mentioned short-term effects, it is also common to experience an acne flare-up immediately upon using Accutane.

Known as the dreaded ‘purging period’, it is actually a good sign. This means that the medication is working its magic, and that the side effects will subside soon enough. Patients normally experience this for three to four weeks at most.

Accutane: what is the skincare routine I should have if I go on Accutane?

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It is best that you consult your dermatologist as to how to tweak your skincare routine, but a general rule of thumb is a minimal, barebones routine that reduces the chance of irritation.

In short? No harsh acne washes, active ingredients, physical exfoliants, or waxing. Make sure to step away from anything with strong fragrances as well!

A gentle, pH-balanced cleanser, a great hydrating moisturiser, and sunscreen is essential to your routine once you’ve started on Accutane.

Don’t rub too harshly against your skin either! Go easy on your complexion to see optimal results.

Still stumped as to which are the best products to use when on Accutane? Here are our best picks:

1. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

All About Accutane Cetaphil

Widely regarded as one of the most popular picks when it comes to patients on Accutane, the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is a gentle, soap-free formulation that removes dirt and excess oil without disrupting your current skin barrier.

This, naturally, makes it ideal for Accutane users! Formulated to work for all skin types (and even babies!), you’ll rest easy knowing how safe it is for use. It works for body as well and comes pH-balanced and fragrance free.

The Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is available at all Guardian and Watsons outlets, as well as at major supermarkets and pharmacies. It retails at SGD31.60 (1L).

2. Tata Harper Reparative Moisturiser

All About Accutane Tata Harper

This intensively hydrating moisturiser is guaranteed to save your skin post Accutane. With it delivering long-lasting moisture as well as helping ensure skin is at an optimal hydration level, the TATA HARPER Reparative Moisturiser is a sure-fire addition to your skincare routine.

We mentioned that your wrinkles will appear more deep-set and obvious than before, right? Luckily for you, this moisturiser also comes packed with Buckbean extract, Arnica, Borage, and Elderberry to firm and tone skin, allowing for a more youthful appearance overall. Score!

The TATA HARPER Reparative Moisturiser is available at selected Sephora outlets and retails at SGD150.

3. Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Milk

All About Accutane Anessa

This award-winning Japanese sunscreen has earned its stellar reputation for consistently delivering on amazing sun protection without weighing the skin down once.

It is sweat-proof, water-proof, and even friction-resistant! It also comes with long-lasting intense hydration abilities and serves as protection against pre-mature skin ageing. Sounds perfect for Accutane users, doesn’t it?

The Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Milk is available at selected Watsons outlets. It retails at SGD39.90.