If you’re struggling with acne, chances are, you’ve probably heard of roaccutane. Whilst there are plenty of anti-acne avenues to try, like making changes to your diet and switching up your skincare routine, when all else fails and the acne’s really severe, the word ‘Roaccutane’ starts to get whispered around.
It’s one of the very, very few clinically-proven oral treatments for acne, and the results can be incredible. As Dr Jane Leonard, GP and aesthetic doctor, explained “Roaccutane can also be referred to as Isotretinion, and it’s a pill that’s prescribed to treat severe acne.”
While Dr Leonard has happy skin now, that wasn’t always the case. She told us, “I struggled with acne myself, so I completely empathise with way it makes you feel physically and emotionally.”
However, before you get too excited about this miracle drug, the side effects can also be downright terrible. If over-the-counter acne treatments are like gently exfoliating, Roaccutane is like a full acid peel. It’s intense, it’s extreme, and it’s certainly not for everyone.
Dr Leonard told us more about the pros and cons of the controversial drug. Here’s what you might not know…
1. It comes from Vitamin A
Wondering where this drug gets it power? Well, it’s actually from a natural source. “It’s derivative of vitamin A and part of the same family as retinol, and it can only be prescribed by specialist dermatologists. It’s used in severe cases of acne when first and second line treatments including topical retinoids, topical and oral antibiotics, and things like the contraceptive pill have been unsuccessful.”
2. It works by shutting down your skin’s oil production
“Roaccutane is an anti-inflammatory drug that attacks the sebaceous glands (the bits that make oil) in the skin and reduces their oil production. It also helps reduce the number of bacteria that live in the skin. The combined effect of reduced natural oil production, reduced number of acne- causing bacteria and reduced inflammation all help prevent acne flare-ups.”, Dr Leonard explained. That’s what we call a three-pronged approach.
3. The results are pretty impressive
While it’s extreme, they’ve got the results to back it up – Jane told us “It has an approximately 80% success rate when given for 4-5 months.” We like those odds.
4. It’s not for every kind of acne
While a spate of pimples can make you want to try just anything to get rid of them, Dr Lenoard told us there’s a few features that need to be present on your skin for Roaccutane to be suitable. “Pimples, nodules (solid, painful lumps beneath the skin), cysts (the pus-filled lumps under the skin) and scarring all need to be appear before you can consider starting Roaccutane.”, Dr Leonard advised.
5. There have been scary, mood-altering side effects
If magic pills that you could pop without side effects existed, what a happy world we’d be in. But, as Dr Leonard noted, “Along with the positive acne-fighting benefits of Roaccutane come some serious cautions/side effects. There have been reports of psychiatric disorders, including very low moods and depression, associated with taking isotretinoin (Roaccutane) for acne.”
6. Oh, and it could have some weird effects on your skin
It turns out, something that’s aggressively drying out your oil production can also upset other parts of your skin. Dr Leonard said all of these symptoms were a possibility: “Cracked lips, dermatitis, very dry skin, scaly skin, itching, a red rash and delicate, fragile skin.”