The Reality of Being on Accutane and the Products That Help Me Survive It

During high school, I never had extreme problems with acne. Senior year, I went to the dermatologist to get a prescription to clear up the small amount that I had. It wasn’t that big of a deal to me, but I thought I’d just get rid of it once and for all. The prescription worked well for a while. I ended up switching between a couple of different medications to clear it up.

When I got to college, I was off the medication and I began to break out worse than ever before. Everyone would always tell me that it was normal to have acne when you first get to school. The thing is, mine never went away. It got so much worse as the months went on. I went back to my dermatologist and tried a total of three different types of pills and around four different topical creams. Nothing helped me. It just continued to get worse. It got to the point that I didn’t even want to leave my room without putting makeup on. Even then, it was nearly impossible to cover up.

When November came around and I was home for Thanksgiving break, I went back to the dermatologist and she told me that we were “basically out of options.” This was extremely discouraging to hear. I had never really had problems with acne before, and at this point, it was worse than it had ever been. My dermatologist acted like there was nothing she could do to help me. Then, she brought up the idea of putting me on Accutane, also known as Isotretinoin. This made me, and especially my mom, a little nervous. I had heard many negative reviews of Accutane and the terrible side effects that came with it. However, most people said that the struggle was worth it. As soon as my dermatologist told me that it would clear up my acne once and for all, I was on board, despite the risks. My family wanted me to get a second opinion, so I went to a new dermatologist who gave me a better idea of what being on Accutane would be like, especially while I’m away at school. After much consideration, I decided to start the treatment.

Accutane is a five to six-month process that requires monthly blood tests. These tests are primarily meant to make sure that you are not pregnant. It is a government regulated drug, and pregnancy is strictly prohibited while taking it because it can cause serious birth defects.

Every month, you have to take an online test that verifies that you do not plan on getting pregnant and that you are using two forms of birth control. In addition to the online quiz, the dermatologist must call you to verify the same information. After this process is complete each month, you can finally pick up your prescription. If these things are not completed during a specific time period, you must restart the treatment.

The monthly blood tests and online quizzes have been a bit of a hassle, especially having to handle it all while I’m away at school. However, it has been beyond worth it. I am only a little over halfway finished with the treatment and I already notice a huge difference. I don’t feel the need to wear makeup for the first time in months.

Everyone responds to Accutane differently. Some of the side effects that people experience are dry skin, dry lips, joint pain, drowsiness and, although it is rare, depression. Many of the side effects can be unbearable for Accutane users.

I am in my third of six months of treatment. Thankfully, the side effects that I have experienced so far have not been anything that I can’t handle. They are mostly just an inconvenience. The extent of my issues has been dry skin and dry, peeling lips. I have tried a variety of different products to help me over the last few months until I found the ones that work best for me.  

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+

I have used this lotion for a very long time, even before I began using Accutane. It has helped the facial dryness that I have experienced dramatically. When experiencing dryness, it can be difficult to put on foundation. This lotion helps your foundation go on smoothly despite the dry skin that you may experience. It is on the more expensive side, but one bottle lasts me about six months, so it is definitely worth the price.


The most annoying side effect that I have experienced is dry, peeling lips. I have always relied on lip balm, and I am a huge fan of the variety of flavors that Chapstick has. These worked throughout the first couple weeks of the treatment, but once the dryness started to get worse, I knew that I needed to find something stronger. I tried other brands such as Blistex and Aquaphor, which my dermatologist had recommended to me. These just made my lips red and swollen. Recently, my friend and fellow Accutane user recommended Dr. Dan’s CORTIBALM. It doesn’t necessarily have the best taste, but it has worked better than any other product that I have tried. The peeling and dryness is a very common side effect that almost every user will experience. This lip balm has not completely healed my lips, but it has improved them tremendously over the last couple of weeks.

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser

When I wash my face, I use Dove Soap, but I have found that my face is less dry when I also use a face wash. Dermatologists usually recommend Cetaphil or CeraVe facial cleansers, but the generic brands of these products work just as well. My face feels much cleaner and healthier when I use this daily.

If you are considering going on Accutane, Google can be a scary place. Not every person experiences the bad side effects that people talk about online, so don’t let everything you read discourage you from clearing up your skin once and for all. It will be worth it in the end.