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Her Campus / Megan Charles

Battling Accutane Side Effects

Accutane is an extremely powerful medicine, and as great as the treatments’ outcomes can be, the side effects that can occur are brutal. After skimming the long list of potential side effects that my dermatologist had handed to me doing a quick Google search, I thought I knew what to expect and that I was ready to tackle the side effects. 

But boy was I wrong. 

Within days of starting the treatment, my skin began to dry, my lips chapped and my eyes felt like I hadn’t blinked for days. The dryness was followed by mood changes and nail breaking, all of which lasted the whole seven months I was on Accutane. My skin has always been sensitive, but once I started on the treatment, it became extremely fragile and thin (I sometimes joked that my skin looked like that of an old lady).  

While on Accutane, my skin was sensitive, so I followed a pretty relaxed morning and evening routine.

I used the following products: 

  • Cetaphil: Gentle Skin Cleanser
  • Neutrogena: Oil-free Moisture with Sunscreen (SPF 15)
  • Burt’s Bees: Night Cream (Intensive Hydration)

My Morning & Evening Routine:

Every morning and night,  I would wash  my face with Cetaphil: Gentle Skin Cleanser. 

In the morning, I would use  the Neutrogena: Oil-free Moisture with Sunscreen (SPF 15) moisturizer (I would have to reapply this a few times a day depending on how dry my skin felt or looked). 

At night I would use Burt’s Bees: Night Cream (Intensive Hydration), the formula is pretty thick so I would only use around a pea size amount. Some nights I would skip using moisturizer because it felt too much. Though I sometimes opted out of using it, this moisturizer is amazing when I did use it, my skin would feel much more hydrated and soft. 

After a lot of trial and error, I was able to find a few ways to tackle some of the biggest side effects I faced while on accutane!


Skin Sensitivity 

1. Dry Skin 

I used Cetaphil: Daily Advance Lotion with Shea Butter. I did my best to slather the lotion on my body twice a day, everyday but sometimes I would forget or just was too lazy. This lotion reacts to my skin quickly as it relieves the dryness and the cracks on my skin almost instantly.  ThereforeI would also use this whenever my hands were really dry. 

2. Eczema

A few weeks into the treatment I noticed that the tops of my hands were drying in an odd way. My skin was cracking, reddening and then turning a light brown color. I tried to remedy this by appliying some lotion. After a few days of using lotion and not seeing a difference, I gave my dermatologist a call. I explained what I was experiencing and she told me I had a mild type of eczema. She prescribed me a topical cream, and instructed me to use it for a week. The topical cream helped, but it didn't get rid of the eczema completly. To fight the little eczema that was left, my doctor told me to go to bed with gloves one. Nightly, for a few weeks, I slept with gloves. The idea behind this was to make sure that my skin was taking in the moisture of the lotion I was using. 

3. Chapped Lips 

I tried many different lip balms before I found one that lasted long, Mario Badescu’s Lip Balms; this lip balm felt good on my lips and gave me quick relief. Mario Badescu’s Lip Balms are the best. They were able to quickly rehydrate my lips and sooth their chapness. 

I personally prefer the regular, non flavored version, but if you prefer a bit of flavor on your lips their mint and rose lip balms are great too. 

4. Dry Nostrils 

Dry nostrils was probably the worst physical side effect I experienced while on Accutane. My nose hurt all the time due to the crack inside my nostrils. I had the pleasure of always waking up with a surprise: either a bloody nose (if I was lucky it had dried overnight) or a nose full of dried mucus.The back of my nose was also often inflamed. I did my best to increase the humidity of my room in an attempt to battle the dryness, but that didn’t help much. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a perfect solution to this problem. 

5. Dry Eyes

This was one of the worst side effects from Accutane. As someone who already struggled with weak eyes, having to worry about dry eyes especially with the pain/ discomfort was not fun. To battle this side effect, I did my best to wash my eyes more often, use eye drops, spend less time in front of devices and get more sleep. Although this helped me, it did not help me overcome the problem completely. Similar to my dry nostrils condition, I learned to live (in discomfort) with my dry eyes. 

6. Hair Removal 

Before I was on Accutane, my preferred method of hair removal was waxing. It’s quick, simple, and leaves you hair free for a significant amount of time. Waxing is not a possibility while on Accutane because your skin becomes so sensitive, that the possibility of ripping off the upper epidermis of your skin (OUCH) along with your hair is very high.

I had to figure out a way to remove my hair without waxing. I found that using hair removal creams and shaving worked best! When removing the hair removal cream I learned to be extremely careful and gentle; at the beginning I would scrub it off too hard and that left my skin irritated and bruised. 

Mood Swings 

I knew my moods were off while I was on the treatment, but I didn’t realize just how much my moods were impacted by the medication until I was no longer on Accutane. Reflecting back, I was easily irritated and had a short temper. I battled this by doing things I enjoyed such as writing letters to my friends. This was my way to disconnect from the rest of the world and just focus on myself and my thoughts.

Food & Drinks 

While on Accutane, I tried my best to refrain from eating foods that were extremely oily, becauseI didn’t want to undo what the treatment was trying to help my body battle. Other than that, I didn’t really change my diet. I have always eaten pretty healthy, and with quarantine in full swing while I was mid treatment meant that I was mostly eating home cooked meals. 

Before I was on the treatment, I drank water because I had too, but I had never enjoyed it since I would prefer lemonade and sparkling water. I can no longer say this is true because I now love water. While on the treatment, I had to drink so much water to battle the dryness, that I have learned to love it. It is really important that while on accutane you make sure to drink a minimum of eight cups of water a day. I also began drinking green tea. I don’t know if this is true or not, but apparently green tea helps battle acne and oily skin. Now, I can’t say if green tea really helped me because I was on medication but I kept drinking it anyway and really learned to love it.

Even now, after being off the treatment for a couple of months, I am still dealing with some of its side effects. I still use the same face wash, moisturiser and lip balms. Being on Accutane forced me into a routine of taking care of my skin whenever it's dry, drinking water and listening to my body's needs. I still follow all these tips. 

If you are on Accutane I sympathize with you, and I hope that my tips are able to aid you in overcoming some of the side effects of the treatment. If you ever need to talk, or want to voice your frustrations, excitement or concern over the treatment, feel free to send me a DM on Instagram. 

Dessirée is a third year student majoring in biology at UWB. She plans on becoming an obstetrician-gynecologist, focused on closing the gap in the quality of health care women of underrepresented minorities receive. Amongst other things, Dessirée loves baking, writing letters, music, and spending time with her family. Dessirée loves an adventure, and enjoys traveling. So far, she has lived in five different countries. She hopes that Her Campus at UWB inspires and motivates readers to live their most authentic life.
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