Accutane is a medication formulated specifically to treat severe cystic acne. Basically, Accutane is a brand name for the drug isotretinoin. Having been approved by the FDA in 1982, Accutane is a prescription-only medication. It may help clear out the skin on the face in cases of the most severe types of acne that don’t respond well to other treatments. Does Accutane get rid of blackheads, though? Scroll down to find out.
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Does Accutane Get Rid of Blackheads?
A blackhead is a small bump on the skin that develops from clogged hair follicles. Even though it’s considered to be a mild type of acne, blackheads can be incredibly frustrating for affected persons. If you take a look online and check if Accutane gets rid of blackheads, on Reddit or other platforms, you can see tons of questions and responses from people who want to know the same thing as you do. The bottom line, it can. Many people online write that “Accutane cleared my skin in two weeks only”, but it may take more than that.
The treatment with Accutane can help with blackheads. This therapy helps improve the blocked-up material within the blackheads and thereby eliminate their presence. Accutane works by reducing the production of sebum, which is responsible for clogging your pores and trapping other impurities in them as well. Through lower oil production and drying effects, Accutane can help with this type of acne. But keep in mind doctors won’t, most likely, prescribe the treatment for blackheads alone.
But, does Accutane get rid of scars left by acne? The answer would be no, it can’t make them disappear. And does Accutane help with hyperpigmentation caused by different types of acne? In a nutshell, this medication is not formulated to provide these effects.
Does Accutane Get Rid of Whiteheads?
A whitehead is a form of acne that results from the accumulation of sebum (oil), bacteria, and dead skin cells in the pores of your skin. It’s a mild form of acne that appears as a small, round, and white bump on your face. Accutane treatment works for all types of acne, including whiteheads. As mentioned above, this treatment aims to reduce the production of sebum which is also responsible for the formation of whiteheads.
Side Effects of Accutane
Like all medications, Accutane may induce some adverse reactions. Common side effects, that may affect one in 10 patients, include:
- Dry eyes and/or throat
- Photosensitivity of the skin
- Headaches and general aches and pains
- Dry nose and/or nosebleeds
Serious adverse reactions are not common. They affect one in 1000 people and may include:
- Persistent headache that makes you sick.
- Anxiety and changes in mood and behavior, suicidal thoughts.
- Bloody diarrhea (a symptom of gastrointestinal bleeding)
- Severe pain in the stomach with or without diarrhea.
- Serious skin rash with blisters and peeling.
- Difficulty moving arms or legs.
- Some areas of the body are painful, swollen, or bruised.
- Dark urine.
- Sudden changes in eyesight, not being able to see well at night.
- Liver or kidney problems indicated by yellowish skin and eyes, serious fatigue, and difficulty while urinating.
Allergic reaction to Accutane is rare, but still possible and it is considered a medical emergency. See the doctor immediately if you experience symptoms such as wheezing, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, throat, or tongue. Trouble breathing or talking as well as tightness in the chest and throat are also symptoms of an allergic reaction, just like skin rash.
The good thing is there’s a lot you can do to make the treatment easier and alleviate side effects. For instance, to combat tiredness and pain in joints and muscles it’s okay to engage in light exercise, but avoid strenuous activities. Painkillers can help with headaches. Eye drops can alleviate dry eyes while moisturizer and lip balm can help with dry lips and skin.
Speaking of side effects, you probably want to know if Accutane makes you gain weight. Some patients mention weight gain or weight loss, but FDA doesn’t list weight-related changes as a side effect of this therapy.
Things You Need to Avoid While on Accutane
To get the most from the Accutane treatment and minimize the risk of complications, it’s important to adhere to the dermatologist-recommended instructions. You may need to avoid certain things, such as:
- Smoking – not only is smoking bad for the skin in general, but a combination of cigarette use and isotretinoin can increase the risk of lung cancer
- Alcohol – Accutane can be difficult on your liver and combining the therapy with alcohol can cause complications such as liver damage or changes in blood lipid levels. Your dermatologist will instruct you to avoid drinking alcohol throughout the duration of the treatment.
- Sun exposure – isotretinoin is a retinoid, a type of vitamin A. Just like topical formulations containing vitamin A, Accutane can also make your skin sensitive to the sun and its UV rays. For that reason, you should avoid exposure to direct sunlight and apply sunscreen with minimum SPF30. Wear sunscreen even when it’s not sunny outside.
- Chemical treatments, lasers – dermatologic treatments that include the use of lasers and chemicals may be too harsh to your skin since Accutane can make it too sensitive.
- Blood donation – the main active ingredient, isotretinoin, remains in the blood. So complications may occur if donated blood is given to a pregnant woman.
- Other acne treatments – Accutane makes your skin sensitive and combining it with other acne treatments can only amplify these effects and may lead to redness and a burning sensation.
- Cosmetic procedures and elective surgery – this treatment is associated with relatively slow skin healing. Bearing that in mind, you should avoid elective surgeries and other cosmetic procedures while you’re taking Accutane.
While you shouldn’t avoid exercise and physical exertion entirely, you should limit them and reduce their intensity. You see, some patients taking Accutane may experience aches and pains in muscles and joints. It may be more difficult for the body to recover properly after strenuous workouts, meaning your pain could become worse.
How Long Does It Take for Blackheads to Go Away on Accutane?
Most people want to know how long does Accutane 20mg takes to work. The answer may not be the same for everyone, since each patient may respond to the therapy differently. Most patients notice desired results within two to three months into the treatment. The capsules may start working in 10 days into the treatment, but visible improvements need more time to appear. The same thing applies for Accutane 30mg, 40mg, 10mg, and other doses.
In other words, results do not appear instantly and for some people, it may get worse before it gets better. Several weeks are usually necessary to notice improvements in your skin. You may notice dryness and peeling before your complexion begins to clear out.
While we’d wish for blackheads to go away entirely the moment we start taking the therapy, the reality is different. Accutane doesn’t work like that. While it’s easy to feel disappointed and believe the therapy doesn’t work, you shouldn’t give up. Remember, everyone responds to therapy in a different way and Accutane needs several weeks to produce improvements because it addresses the root causes of your acne. For that reason, you should adhere to the recommendations of your dermatologist, follow their instructions. With patience and persistence, you can see the results.
Generally speaking, one treatment course of Accutane lasts for 16 to 24 weeks (or four to six months). Your blacks usually keep improving for eight weeks post-treatment.
Accutane Blackheads Before and After
Accutane therapy is not like the others in terms of the whole process involved. Before you can even start the therapy you have to register on the iPLEDGE program at the first visit to the dermatologist’s office. This process is a little bit different for men and women.
Women sign consent forms, take a pregnancy test and receive counseling regarding contraception. They don’t get the prescription immediately, but during the second visit once the 30-day waiting period is over. Prescription is issued once a patient provides two pregnancy tests taken 30 days apart as well as lab results that document their liver function, general health, cholesterol levels.
On the other hand, men need to see a dermatologist where they can also register on the platform and take lab tests. They get the prescription immediately, without having to wait for 30 days. In the section below we’re going to discuss Accutane treatment among women where you will find out the reason behind the waiting period.
One to two days before a monthly visit to the dermatologist’s office you need to obtain fasting labs. That means you shouldn’t eat or drink anything, other than water, for eight hours before the test. A dermatologist will take a look at the results immediately, or you will be contacted in two to three days regarding the results and prescription. Additionally, women should take a pregnancy test before each prescription. In fact, for women, the prescriptions expire six days from the date of the pregnancy test. It’s important to fill the prescription in a timely manner. Any delays may result in a 19-day lockout on the web platform of the iPLEDGE program.
Once the treatment is over, female patients need to take a pregnancy test. The test is taken 30 days after the Accutane treatment.
After the treatment with Accutane for blackheads, it’s important to focus on your skincare regimen. Your daily routine should include the daily use of a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, and occasional use of topical retinoids.
Your dermatologist will advise you on proper skincare after the treatment. Adherence to those recommendations is crucial for healthy skin.
Going on Accutane as a Woman: Is It Easy or Complicated?
For women, Accutane treatment can be quite complex. You see, this medication is teratogenic. That means it can cause birth defects in developing fetuses if taken during pregnancy. Accutane is also associated with miscarriages, premature labor, and death in babies. For that reason, women who are pregnant, plan to conceive, or those who may become pregnant accidentally should not use this medication.
These particular effects of Accutane are not surprising. According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, about 20% to 35% of fetuses exposed to retinoids during pregnancy develop birth defects. One of the best-known retinoids is isotretinoin.
In order to prevent fetal exposure to Accutane, many countries have introduced regulatory procedures. Some of these procedures include the use of contraception methods during retinoid treatment and after. Regular pregnancy tests are also necessary.
Back in 2006, the US introduced the iPLEDGE program in an attempt to eliminate exposure of fetuses to isotretinoin. This restricted distribution program allows registered patients to obtain the medication. Under this program, only those patients that meet all criteria can receive Accutane. JAMA Dermatology published an analysis in 2019 which showed reports of abortions, pregnancies, and fetal defects have decreased since 2006. While these complications still happen, their prevalence has largely decreased since the introduction of iPLEDGE.
Since iPLEDGE is an FDA-regulated program, it comes with strict rules. For example, to pick up the monthly prescription you need to have an appointment with dermatologists who will keep an eye on adverse reactions. You also need to take a pregnancy test, provide a blood sample, log in iPLEDGE to confirm you’re not pregnant and that you’re using two birth control methods.
Women who want to start with Accutane therapy need to start using adequate birth control one month prior to the treatment and one month after it. The best thing to do is to consult a doctor on when it is safe to get pregnant after the treatment.
In other words, Accutane treatment for women can be quite stressful and complex. But it is necessary for your safety and to avoid complications that may occur if you are or plan to get pregnant.
Accutane is an effective medication that takes care of cystic acne but works for blackheads or whiteheads too. Your doctor, however, may not prescribe this medication for blackheads and whiteheads only, since they’re milder forms of acne. Consult your doctor and weigh out all the pros and cons before you dedicate yourself to the treatment.
Do blackheads return after Accutane?
In most cases, Accutane offers long-term, and often permanent, relief from blackheads. However, in some cases, blackheads may return. This happens in one-third, or 20%, of patients.
Factors that determine whether you will relapse are numerous including the severity of acne, your age, dosage and treatment length, your gender, whether the underlying cause of acne is still present. It also matters how your body metabolizes Accutane and whether or not you’ve been on anti-androgen treatment.
If blackheads return, consult the doctor, you may need to continue the treatment.
How long does it take Accutane to get rid of blackheads?
Generally speaking, acne starts improving one to two months into the treatment. In some cases, Accutane gets rid of all blackhead lesions in four months.
Do blackheads get worse with Accutane?
With Accutane, blackheads may get worse before they get better, in some patients. This is especially the case with persons who have long-standing acne. Blackheads may get worse due to purging wherein the treatment pushes out debris and dead skin cells.
Your skin may become red and dry, which is why blackheads may appear inflamed and more obvious. The “worsening” is short-term, but you can inform and consult your doctor if you are concerned.
Does Accutane unclog pores?
Accutane is formulated to decrease the amount of sebum produced by oil glands. Sebum clogs pores and leads to acne. By reducing the production of oil, Accutane could help unclog pores.
Does everyone purge on Accutane?
No, purge doesn’t happen to everyone using this medication for acne. A common belief is that this is how Accutane works, but purge primarily affects persons with long-standing acne problems. More precisely, only 5% to 10% of patients experience Accutane-related purging and worsening of their acne at the beginning of the treatment. When it happens, a purge usually takes place within the first month of Accutane therapy.
Does Accutane get rid of acne forever?
Most patients can get rid of acne forever with Accutane treatment. Acne problems may relapse in a small percentage of patients, in which cases the treatment should continue.