My Experience with Accutane and Tips to Combat the 'Atomic Bomb'

Just a few months ago, I was surfing the internet and polling my friends to find any relief for the awful side effects of Accutane. I knew it would be rough, but I didn't realize all of the trial and error I would experience with the products I tried to use to combat them. After 2 months on the pill, I wanted to share the products and life hacks I've tried; an honest review of what worked and what did not. I wish an article like this had existed when I first began this 6 month dry spell, so this is for anyone who is currently taking Accutane or may do so in the future. (Also for those who are lucky enough to have completed their duration and can sympathize with our struggles!)

*Disclaimer: This is in no way an attempt to encourage you to seek out the pill. A medical professional must prescribe it to you. Not every case of acne is suited for Accutane and all of the opinions in this piece are my own.*

To begin, I'll briefly explain what Accutane is. It is an acne medication (Isotretinoin) and should be reserved for patients with severe nodular acne who are unresponsive to conventional therapy. For me, this included years of different face washes, creams, and antibiotics. After failing all of those attempts to cure my acne, my dermatologist recommended Accutane and before I could begin, I had to agree to 2 forms of birth control and pass a pregnancy test. After that one month period, I began the pill and must go back to the dermatologist once per month for pregnancy and blood testing.

There is also an online program called iPledge that you must sign a contract to become a part of. This is because Accutane is a medication that affects hormones and can cause birth defects if a woman becomes pregnant during her 6 months on the pill or month afterward. (If you have any legitimate questions about this or want to learn more, ask your dermatologist. Remember, I'm not a medical professional.) Each month before my doctor's visit, I must fill out questions online through iPledge to make sure I'm following the requirements to maintain the pill. It's very highly regulated, but none of this has been too extreme or inconvenient that I've considered to cease my treatment. I'm looking forward to seeing the results that many patients see post-Accutane: clear skin!

The side effects are terrible, to say the least. They vary in extremity from person to person, but for me, I swear my body hates me and they all hit me at once. Side effects commonly include: dryness of the face and lips, cracked lips, itching, nose bleeds, sunburn, and muscle tightness. (If you have an out of the ordinary side effect or they become too extreme, contact your dermatologist.) For me, my lips peeled off every day and I woke up with a nose bleed every morning. But, I've since found solutions to manage the side effects and I hope that these products improve your quality of life as they have mine!


For Dry Lips:

  • Eco Lips Sugar Scrub: I was honestly scared to try this at first because I thought it would irritate my dry lips further, however, it took the dry skin right off. Sugar scrubs work magic! Not going to lie, this brand from Walmart is just alright, but since I bought it I'm going to keep using it. I mainly use this product at night to soothe my lips before bed and wake up without dryness! I personally prefer to use the brand I listed below for dry skin as my lip scrub as well.

  • BITE Beauty Agave Lip Mask: I owe my LIFE to this product. I would never drop $32 on any beauty product, especially a lip balm, but I had a Sephora gift card left over from Christmas. It's honestly worth the investment and completely changed the game. My lips stay smooth for hours, especially when I apply this right after using the lip scrub. 
  • Burt's Bees: Since the above product was pricy, I limit the times I use it throughout the day. Burt's Bees is an awesome substitute and if you have any classes with me, you'll notice I apply way too much of it. But hey, it works! Any brand of lip balm will do, but I have always supported this one and swear by their formula.


For Dry Skin

  • CeraVe Facial Mosturizing Lotion: I tried SO many lotions. It was honestly ridiculous and nothing gave me any relief. This lotion was the entire package and the only one that worked for me! It has an SPF of 30, so it will protect your skin from the sun in addition to keeping your skin smooth for hours. I apply it in the morning, throughout the day as needed, and even at night though it says A.M. (There's a P.M. version too, but I'm cheap, so.)

  • Hand in Hand Sugar Scrub: Can we just take a moment ... everything about this product is perfect. It's vegan, cruelty free, and comes from an ethically sound company. I love Hand in Hand's mission to begin with, so it's convenient that it has become my daily go-to and Accutane lifesaver. I use the scrub my face and lips every morning and whenever I shower throughout the day. It's insane how smooth my skin feels after. Sugar scrubs are alsio great to use in general for smoothing your skin, I also like to use it on my legs with a drybrush for double post-shave smoothness.

  • Water: You're probably like: "Why the heck is water on here? That's so obvious." But, I wanted to stress the importance of hydrating, especially while on Accutane. Your skin is extremely dry, so yes you can use products to help moisturize, but healing works best from the inside out. Having water on you at all times and consciously making an effort to drink it throughout the day is just as, if not more, important than utilizing external products to manage your side effects.


For Nose Dryness and Nose Bleeds

  • Saline Spray: Major Lisa Zemo vibes here, but in the privacy of your own dorm there's no shame in using saline to help reduce the dry nose side effect of Accutane! When I can tell that my nose is becoming dry, I'll use the saline and it's such a relief. It's inexpensive and effective!
  • Air Dehumidifier or Diffuser: My mom basically forced one of these upon me, but I'm thankful she did. Dorm rooms can be dry in general which only worsen this side effect. I've noticed a major difference since putting a dehumifier near my bed and leaving it on overnight. An essential oil diffuser has a similar effect, so if you have one of those, it would work!


Well, there you have it. The products that I owe my life to at the moment! Accutane is no joke, but I'm already seeing the results I'm looking for. Since I've found ways to manage the side effects it's become a much more pleasant experience, however I'd be lying if I didn't curse Accutane's name daily. It's a love-hate relationship, but I have hope that I'll be thanking it in the end!