Does Accutane Work? My Thoughts and Experience

I was at a friends graduation party back in high school. We were standing outside and someone was talking about acne. The topic of Accutane came up and the person said:

“Seth used Accutane, and his skin looks great!”

It was the first compliment I ever got on my skin; I’ll never forget it.

While I remember having a  few blemishes at that party, my skin was clearer than it had been in years, all thanks to Accutane. I really wish my dermatologist had prescribed it sooner, but it is a [powerful drug that is only to be used in certain cases. If I had to do it over again, I would have used my current methods of skincare first, but if that didn’t work out than I’d have no problem using Accutane.

I want to share with you my thoughts and experiences on this drug, but first please note:

The medical information on this site is provided for informative purposes only, and is not to be used for any diagnostic purposes. This information is not a professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before considering the use of Accutane and similar drugs.

What Is Accutane?

Accutane, which is the name commonly attributed to Isotretinoin is a retinoid, which is “a class of chemical compounds that are related chemically to vitamin A.” Accutane is “used primarily for severe cystic acne and acne that has not responded to other treatments” (Wikipedia).

As you may know, I’m a big fan of vitamin A when it comes to treating your acne. Whether it’s Cod Liver Oil or Carrot juice, vitamin A is the way to go when it comes to skin care. Vitamin A is so important when it comes to skin care because of the role it plays in the growth and repair of skin cells.

How Does It Work?

The means by which Accutane accomplishes its goals are still not totally understood, but there are several ways it is believed to help clear up skin:

1. It dramatically reduces the size of the skin’s oil glands (35%-58%) and even more dramatically reduces the amount of oil these glands produce (around 80%).8-9

2. Acne bacteria (P. acnes) live in skin oil. Since oil is dramatically reduced, so is the amount of acne bacteria in the skin.9

3. It slows down how fast the skin produces skin cells inside the pore, which helps pores from becoming clogged in the first place.10

4. It has anti-inflammatory properties.  (

Who Should Take It?

Again, I am not a doctor, and only a dermatologist knows who should and can take Accutane or similar drugs. In my opinion, people suffering fro moderate to severe acne may consider using it. Consult with a doctor, and see if it’s right for you.

What To Expect

You can expect that by the end of the duration of your Accutane cycle, your acne should almost entirely have subsided. With the exception of a few blemishes, your skin will likely be entirely clear.

This process  does take about 4-5 months depending on the time frame your dermatologist has set up for you. Be patient, because Accutane is usually incredibly effective.

In the first few weeks, however, you may experience an initial worsening of acne. This is a result of the sebaceous glands going into overdrive, pumping out more sebum (or oil) which is what causes acne. This usually subsides within the first month after initial use.

Side Effects

When the topic of Accutane comes up, people are always quick to point out the side effects, as they should be. People should be well aware of the effects of a drug before taking them.

The only side effect I personally experienced were chapped lips. Many complain of joint pain, while others state that suicide or thoughts of suicide may be a result of taking this drug.

Instead of theorizing what the truth is, I’ll let data do the talking:

chart of accutane side effects

(Penn State)

As  you can see, dryness of the lips and skin are really the only side effects to be expected. The rest are outliers that exist with taking other prescription drugs as well.

My Experience

It was probably around my Junior year of high school when I started Accutane. My acne had reached a point where I was unwilling to keep trying mediocre antibiotics and topicals; I wanted the good stuff.

Accutane didn’t dissapoint. It took about two months before the results started becoming noticeable, and by the fifth month my skin was looking better than it had in 5 years.

Unfortuanely, that didn’t last. Like all acne treatments, they only last for as long as you use them. When it comes to natural treatments like Cod Liver Oil and juicing, you can, and should be consuming those for the rest of your life, whereas with Accutane it can only be used for a few months.

Thus is the great drawback with Accutane. My acne post-Accutane was much more mild then before, but it was still frustrating nonetheless.

I can’t tell you what the right decision is, but I hope that you use this article to weigh your decision. Post any questions or comments below.

Good Luck.