Accutane: To Good to Be True?

Accutane: To Good to Be True?

Isotretinoin, also known as Accutane, is an isomer (a chemically identical molecule with a different structure) of vitamin A.  Accutane in recent decades has become a household word.  It is estimated that 500,000 Americans, mostly teenagers, take Accutane annually.  Since it became available in 1982 more than 10 million have taken it for the relief of acne.

Acne is a hereditary condition of the pores.  For those who are genetically prone to acne may experience excessive shedding of the pores at a much higher rate than those who are not prone to acne.  The average person will shed their skin once daily however; acne sufferers may shed their skin anywhere from 5 times a day to 20 times in a day.  These dead skin cells mix with the oil (sebum) which is produced in the pores and creates the ideal breeding ground for excess oil, dead skin cells and a bacteria called p.acnes.  This unfortunate combination can create the pimples and blackheads that often diminish our confidence.

The specific purpose of Accutane is to cease all production of oil, in doing so this often causes the skin to become extremely dry.  By eliminating the oil from the ideal breeding ground for p.acnes bacteria, the production of pimples and blackheads are often interrupted or dramatically reduces the production of blemishes.

When Accutane was first released, it caught the attention of acne sufferers from all over the U.S...  It seemed to be the cure for acne, as patients would take Accutane for 4 months and in doing so, were convinced they would be clear from then on.  Unfortunately it proved to be too good to be true.  The longer Accutane was on the market and the more people used it, a long list of serious side effects began to surface.

As these side effects began to unravel a new set of rules were soon attached to the usage of Accutane.  For one, women must undergo pregnancy tests before and throughout the completion of the prescription due to the fact that severe birth defects, including mental retardation, have been reported. Additionally, both male and female patients as well as prescribing doctors and distribution pharmacies must join the FDA-mandated iPledge Accutane Registry.

Many patients suffer from extreme dryness of the skin, eyes, lips hair, cuticles and mucous membranes.  This severe dryness can also lead to infections such as conjunctivitis or inflammation of the lips. Accutane can also contribute to permanent thinning of the skin. Yet, the side effects do not stop there. Most Accutane users will also experience the following:

-Temporary and permanent hair loss.

-Erectile dysfunction


-Kidney malfunction



-Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease


-Liver damage

-High cholesterol

-Decreased libido



The key factor to remember about the causation of acne is the excessive shedding of the skin. Yes, Accutane does eliminate one of the crucial ingredients from the breeding ground of p. acnes, however it does not cure acne. In fact, it doesn’t’ even work for patients who do not have excessive oil.  For those who it does temporarily work for, within 1-2 years after treatment the acne often returns.  Many patients eventually take a second and even third course!

Although there is not cure for acne that can be prescribed, through proper education and maintenance acne can be cleared.   At ABQ Skin Care & Acne Clinic we educate our clients on how to create an acne free lifestyle.   Each client learns the type of acne they have and how to effectively eliminate acne triggers.   Through ongoing support and expert guidance, our clients can clear and maintain acne free skin without the use of antibiotics and topical prescriptions. Even more importantly, we clear acne without the use of Accutane.

Kimberly Lovato LE, Licensed Acne Specialist