woman with acne on cheek

All About Isotretinoin

What You Should Know About This Acne Treatment

Everyone gets pimples and zits, but for many, acne means more than just one or two spots a month. Instead, they suffer from deep, painful cystic and nodular acne that lasts for months or years, and severely impacts their self-esteem and confidence levels. 

For those with seriously stubborn acne, dermatologists often recommend isotretinoin. Here’s what you should know before using this common acne treatment. 


What is Isotretinoin?

Isotretinoin is a common acne treatment that addresses more severe forms of acne that have not responded to other forms of treatment. It is in a class of drugs called retinoids, which are a vitamin A derivative. There are several different types of retinoid-based skincare products, including tretinoin and Retin-A. 

Isotretinoin has previously been known as Accutane, however, this brand is no longer sold in the United States. Nowadays, isotretinoin is available under the brand names of Absorica, Amnesteem, Claravis, Myorisan, and Sotret. 

How Does Isotretinoin Work?

Isotretinoin works by reducing sebum (oil) production, stimulating cell turnover, and increasing the shedding of dead skin cells. This prevents the clogging of pores, which is often the main cause of acne. 

Furthermore, isotretinoin has been shown to change the skin’s microbiome so that it reflects that of someone who has normal skin. This can clear up existing acne, as well as prevent new acne from forming. 

Who Is Isotretinoin Right For?

If you’re considering isotretinoin, there are a few key things your doctor will ask to determine if you are a good candidate for this acne treatment. 

You are someone who… 

  • Has tried numerous other acne treatments with no success 
  • Has cystic or nodule acne 
  • Is in good health 
  • Is not pregnant or planning to become pregnant 
  • Is 12 years of age or older 

For more personalized information on whether or not you’re a good candidate for isotretinoin, we recommend you make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist. 

What are the Side Effectrs of Isotretinoin?

While isotretinoin is very effective at improving severe acne, this form of medication comes with some serious side effects. When using isotretinoin, you may experience: 

  • Headaches 
  • Dizziness 
  • Dry skin 
  • Skin itchiness 
  • Increased sensitivity to the sun 
  • Irritation of the eyes, eyelids, and surrounding areas 
  • Muscle and joint pain 
  • Mood changes 
  • Gastrointestinal changes 

Isotretinoin also poses a high risk of birth defects, which is why it is not prescribed to pregnant women and there is a very strict protocol to prevent pregnancy among females taking the drug. 

In many cases, these side effects go away once you stop treatment. However, more serious side effects, like headaches and dizziness, may endure if not promptly treated and addressed. This is why it is exceptionally important to keep your doctor informed on any side effects or changes you may experience. 

What to Expect During Your Acne Treatment

When using isotretinoin, it’s important to understand that a few common things may occur. 

  1. Your acne may get worse when you start using isotretinoin. This is commonly referred to as the “purging” phase and it usually just lasts for a little while. You can tell your doctor if this happens to you because you might need to use other medicines along with the isotretinoin in this stage. 
  2. You will undergo regular testing. Isotretinoin is a very serious treatment and your doctor will regularly test your body to ensure everything is going smoothly. This includes checking your liver tests and cholesterol levels, as well as monthly check-ins to learn more about how you are feeling. 
  3. Mood changes. These are very common in individuals taking isotretinoin. That said, many report that the previous acne beforehand impacted their physical and mental health far more than the potential mood changes triggered by isotretinoin. 
  4. Improved skin. This is the overall goal with isotretinoin. Though this treatment has several serious side effects, it is also very effective at treating severe acne to help individuals achieve clear skin. 

For more information on what you can expect during your isotretinoin acne treatment, we recommend scheduling a consultation with one of our board-certified providers. 


Find Effective Acne Treatment at Cumberland Skin

Isotretinoin isn’t right for everyone but if you are suffering from painful, cystic and nodular acne, we’re here to help with effective acne treatment. Contact us today to schedule a skin consultation with one of our experienced providers. We’ll find the right acne treatment that helps you achieve clean, clear skin!

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