We receive countless inquiries from customers about the side effects that can occur alongside the use of Accutane. It can be very hard on the skin! We understand wholeheartedly why so many of our customers decide to use it; having chronic breakouts is emotionally distressing to say the least. It is a big decision though and it’s good to have some strategic topicals to help.
Accutane (isotretinoin) is a strong form of Vitamin A which reduces the amount of oil your oil glands produce. Since many acne treatments identify excess oil production as the cause of acne, the conventional strategy is to halt or reduce oil production at the skin surface, in addition to using exfoliants which dry the skin out. A very common and known side effect of Accutane treatment is the issue of becoming ‘too dry,' which can be irritating or uncomfortable, and also leaves the skin more vulnerable to other issues associated with dryness, such as microbial imbalance and infection. (For additional information on how to counter excessive and ongoing dryness, from both an internal and topical perspective, please refer to our recent blog post.)
If Accutane is part of your skin health story, you’re in the right place. There are ways to support your skin with topicals to counter the adverse affects you may be experiencing. Whether you’re currently on Accutane treatment, post Accutane, or deciding what approach is right for your skin, we’ve compiled our best recommendations for topical support to guide you.
Healthy skin needs lipids — the right kind and in the right amounts. So if you’ve used Accutane in the past, you may need to replenish the oils in your skin.
Marie Veronique products are therapeutically formulated to balance oil production in support of a strong barrier layer and robust microbiome. The two main components that must be plentiful for the barrier to function properly are barrier lipids, which include ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol; and natural moisturizing factor (NMF), which includes amino acids, urea, lactic acid, and other water-soluble compounds. (You can think of it this way: moisture + hydration + pH balance.) When we are healthy our bodies produce these substances naturally, and our topicals supplement the skin with these ingredients.
Depending on your skin’s current state and your history of skin treatments and skin products used, there may be a transition or adjustment period when shifting to an oil-based approach. Just as your skin is specific to you, so is this transition period, which can range from a few weeks to months. We suggest when starting a new regimen and products to stay on the products for 3-4 months, allowing the skin to fully adapt to the new conditions and begin to heal. Again, we encourage everyone to reach out to our esthetician team for custom and additional guidance on products that will be right for your skin. With that said, below we’ve included four regimen examples with consideration for the various stages of healing chronic acne.
Before Accutane Use (For Clients Who Have Not Tried Accutane Yet):
Our strategy for acne and breakouts at Marie Veronique is to balance oil with oil. Topically, oils penetrate deep into the pores to dissolve congestion at the source. Marie Veronique’s Treatment Line products keep the skin moisturized and supported with Omega-3 + 6 oils, reducing inflammation and therapeutically treating P. acnes with tea tree oil. For additional guidance, please refer to a previous post, A Treatment Plan For Acne.
For Teen Acne: In place of Soothing B3 Serum and Barrier Restore Serum, use Treatment Serum (AM/PM). Also, omit Treatment Retinol Serum or reach out to us directly to consult on particular teen skin issues and specific support.
During Accutane Use:
Focus on barrier layer support, balancing pH levels, and lipid layer nourishment to counter adverse effects of ‘over drying’ side effects.
After Accutane Use (For Dry Skin):
This regimen is for anyone who experiences particularly dry skin and tightening symptoms associated with the shift in oil production changes after Accutane treatment, whether you recently finished or you used Accutane years ago. The main focus is adequate hydration and replenishment for your skin. This is also an important step to prevent later issues of dysfunction associated with chronic dry skin.
After Accutane Use (For Recurrent Breakouts):
Accutane often works immediately to address oil production issues and eliminate chronic breakouts, however, some people repeat Accutane for a second time. We commonly hear from clients who struggle with recurrent breakouts years following Accutane, which is understandably very difficult to manage. We find that these breakouts align with other lifestyle and internal factors, such as profound hormonal changes (going off hormonal birth control, trying to conceive, fertility treatments, pregnancy and postpartum, menopause), periods of high stress or illness, and microbial/digestive changes, when oil production naturally responds to these internal system changes. The goal of this regimen is to modify and balance oil production changes as best as possible.
Internal factors can also influence healthy oil production on the skin surface (for both dry or oily skin). Symptomatic skin can be linked to digestion, nervous system function and stress, immune function, hormone changes and imbalances, and disrupted detox pathways. We believe that creating ease in our systems that impact skin function is helpful for addressing symptomatic skin, and that includes assessing your dietary choices, hydration, sleep, stress management, and movement practices.
Boost: whole foods (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, protein), dietary fiber, hydration, healthy fats such as Omega 3 and olive oil, and fermented or prebiotic rich foods, healthy sleep habits, movement that encourages healthy circulation, stress-reducing practices.
Limit: processed/packaged foods, powdered food, fried foods, excess alcohol and caffeine, cow’s milk dairy and certain nuts if you notice sensitivity, any foods that noticeably trigger skin symptoms, extremes, exercise that doesn’t feel right for your system.
We would also encourage you to reach out to a trusted practitioner — primary care doctor, naturopath, functional medicine, dermatologist, etc. — for additional labs and testing to help you pinpoint imbalances related to digestion, hormones, and even stress in your system, all of which can have an impact at the skin's surface.
At a high level, our approach to skin health at Marie Veronique is about achieving balance. We firmly believe that healthy skin is the result of balanced oils and balanced microbes.
Symptomatic skin is complex, so finding that balance is unique to your skin. In addition to effective products, having the right strategy and support to achieve healthy, clear skin is critical. We’re here to help.