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Using Isotretinoin to care for acne, life after Accutane

If you’re on / are about to use / have used accutane chances are that the mainstream wellness movement hasn’t always catered to your needs. You’ve burned the palo santo and rubbed your crystals raw. Since your skin is being taken care of, you need to make sure you’re taking care of the rest of you too to glow the inside.

I may get a lot of side eye for this, but breakouts are part of life! You’re supposed to have skin that speaks to you, but sometimes it yells. When even your acne has resting bitch face, desperation starts to creep in. Personally, I’d like to see more images of people with pimples, scars, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, you name it! Inclusivity in wellness looks more like the people who actually engage in it, and not all of us are glowing all the time.

Sometimes it may feel like you have a completely different brand of acne, but there is still a lot to gain from the wellness movement. Finding ways to appreciate who you are and finding ways to honor your spirit and body can go a long way. For anyone managing acne and their self image, taking care of your mental health is just as important as daily cleansing. It probably won’t be an insta-perfect bath or a smoothie but honestly, who cares. The unifying theme of the wellness movement is that you are at the center of your priorities.

Accutane is a brand name for the drug Isotretinoin. There are a couple of “accutanes” on the market provided by multiple pharmaceutical companies. Prescription-grade retinoids are one of the only cures the industry has for acne.

What is Isotretinoin?

Scientifically speaking, it’s a derivative of vitamin A. It works by reducing sebum production, a main cause of acne, especially for those with oily to combination skin.

Are there side effects to Isotretinoin?

It often leads to sensitive, dry, flaky skin during treatment. It also commonly gives dry and chapped lips. My dermatologist recommended frequent moisturization and lots of SPF.

Where can I get my hands on some accutane?

This prescription-grade retinoids have to prescribed. You’ll need an M.D. for this one, folks. We recommend finding a dermatologist that loves answering as many questions as possible and acts as though they have unlimited time for your needs. Your skin is important and you might have other questions as your skin transforms in future years.

Does acne come back when I’m done?

You may still get a few breakouts here and there, but for most people with severe acne it provides dramatic improvements. These breakouts are 100% normal and nothing to be ashamed of. As you transition away from Isotretinoin, you will need to adjust your routine to accommodate your new normal. That could include changing the products you use as you learn about what your skin needs now that its landscape has changed.‍

Relapse can be devastating. You just spent months trying to remember your meds (we know this is no small task), dealing with dry skin and watching it improve, only to have another massive breakout. First of all, there are a number of reasons why your acne might come back including hormonal changes.  

Relapse can happen to people who use Isotretinoin in their teenage years, twenties, when they enter their thirties and beyond. In most cases you can go back on accutane and that will be the quick fix. If you took accutane even 5 years ago, you were likely given a weaker dose than is currently standard practice.

Additional options include using another prescription topical retinoid that you can get from your doc. More conveniently, there’re over the counter options like Differin. These used to require prescriptions but are now available at your local bodega or pharmacy. So while you stop into CVS to grab TP and a liter of SmartWater, grab a retinol tube, why don’t you.

Photo byPeter Devito


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