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Not seeing the results? Here’s how long Accutane takes to work

Let’s face it; acne is one of the worst things that can happen to your face. Sure, it doesn’t hurt you or causes any long-term harm. But, acne can pop up in the worst possible time and ruin that commitment you were planning for so long.

Acne is worse for some people than others. It causes much-unneeded stress and anxiety, especially among teenagers. So, scientists have come up with various medications to treat this dreadful condition.

Accutane is one of those medications which you may be prescribed. But, how long does Accutane take to work? That’s what we’ll be talking about here.

Table of Content

What is Accutane?

As we’ve said, Accutane is one of the drugs used to treat acne. Accutane is a trading name. The generic name of the drug, which is the name used worldwide, is isotretinoin.

how long does accutane take to work

Isotretinoin is a retinoid. Retinoids represent a group of compounds that are structurally related to vitamin A. So, if you’re wondering how long does isotretinoin take to work, you’re in the right place.

How Does it work?

So, how is it that this drug treats acne? Accutane or isotretinoin inhibits the functions of the sebaceous glands.

How Acne Develops

You have multiple sebaceous glands in your skin. Their function is to secrete an oily compound called sebum. Normal levels of sebum are helpful for your skin. They can help retain moisture, fight off bacteria, bring helpful vitamins, etc.

Related: Can Sexual Frustration Cause Acne?

But, if their production is more than necessary, they can have a harmful effect. The openings of these glands can get clogged up. So, the excessive sebum inside the glands can accumulate. Then there can be inflammation, and acne can develop.

Sometimes, there’s also infection by the bacteria Propionibacterium. This can accelerate acne as well. If there’s overproduction of sex hormones, then it can lead to acne as well.

What Accutane Does

So, how does Accutane work to stop this process? Accutane directly inhibits the sebaceous glands from producing excessive sebum. Scientists aren’t a hundred percent sure as to how this happens. But, there has been evidence that isotretinoin can minimize the normal function of the sebaceous glands.

Isotretinoin is also a form of Vitamin A, as we’ve seen earlier. One of the prominent functions of Vitamin A is to maintain the integrity of the epithelium. The epithelium is the thin layer of cells surrounding every major organ, including the skin.

So, Accutane also helps in maintaining this epithelium. Various complex processes usually make your skin function. There has to be a proper balance among these processes. And vitamin A can help in this function in multiple ways. They act as receptors for various ligands and help in gene expression.

How long does Accutane take to work?

Now, let’s answer the question, how long does Accutane take to work? For most people, it takes around two weeks to a month for Accutane to start working. However, there are individual variations. The dose is important as well.

Some have said that they saw results within a week or two. Again, for others, the results took even two months to show.

Your doctor can tell you the best. They can evaluate your condition and give the proper dose. Based on those, they can tell you when you can expect to see results.

However, for the majority, it’s around a week to two weeks. But don’t be panicked if you do not see the desired results. Most drugs for acne can effectively treat 50-75% of the acne. So, you can’t expect your acne to go away completely.

Research has shown that Accutane is effective among 80% of individuals for treating acne. That means four out of five people see positive results. So, you might be the unlucky one and not respond to the treatment. In that case, you and your dermatologist can try other options for treatment. They include various antibiotics, antiseptics, hormonal therapy, oral contraceptive pills, etc.

Why it takes this long to act

Many drugs can act within a few hours of ingestion. So, you might have the question, why does isotretinoin take this long to act.

This is because isotretinoin acts on the nucleus of the cell. It gradually shrinks the sebaceous glands and slows down their functions. All of these take place inside cells at a genetic level. And genetic expression takes time to be modified.

That is the reason why Accutane takes this long to act.

Are there any signs that Accutane is working for you? At first, there might be a worsening of your skin condition. Then gradually, your acne will go away.

Isotretinoin dosage

Accutane is a drug that is used for a long time. It also shows individual variation. So, dermatologists adjust the dose accordingly.

That being said, research has shown that a starting dose can be between 0.5-1 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. The dose is split in half and given twice every day. So, the dosing largely depends on the weight of the individual.

how long does accutane take to work

In severe cases of acne, 2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day have also been used. During treatment, the dosing needs also change. So, the dermatologist can adjust the dose to lower or higher depending on the response and the need.

Accutane side effects

If you have the question, how long does Accutane take to work? You may be anxious about the side effects of the drug as well. Accutane has several short-term and long-term side effects.

Short term side effects

If you’ve just begun to take the drugs, you may notice a worsening of your skin. The acne can become much worse, and you can even notice your skin peeling and purging. However, these do subside with treatment. It will help if you inform your doctor in case you experience these.

You may also notice that your eyes and your skin are drying easily. This drying of the skin is called xerosis. This can happen to the inner layer of your nose as well. This can lead to nosebleeds. It’s a common side effect as well.

Accutane makes your skin more sensitive. So, you may have skin burns easily if you’re out in the sun too often.

Like any other drug, Accutane too can cause hypersensitivity. So, be on the lookout for these reactions in the first few doses of therapy.

Accutane side effects long term

There hasn’t been much concrete research regarding the long-term side effects of Accutane. However, some side effects have been speculated from past patients. These include:

Musculoskeletal problems

These problems are among the more important ones in the case of long-term therapy with Accutane. These manifest as muscle and joint pain. You can find your bones hurting as well. Accutane can even stunt skeletal growth.

So, you should give it carefully to teens. These side effects might sound terrifying, but, in most cases, they were mild.

Skin problems

It might be ironic, but Accutane itself can cause some skin problems in the long term. They can cause skin peeling, rash, and blisters. If you have other skin conditions like eczema, then it might be worsened by Accutane.

Metabolic abnormalities

Accutane may harm your body’s metabolism as well in the long term. But, there’s no concrete evidence as of yet that isotretinoin was the definitive cause.

The primary abnormality which happens is the worsening of lipid profile. Bad cholesterol increases, and good cholesterol decreases. This can even lead to insulin-resistant diabetes mellitus.

The chances of developing these side effects are significantly higher if you’re obese, lead a sedentary life or have a family history. So, it’s best to make lifestyle changes and seek the doctor’s help.

Other side effects

They include:

  • Mood swings and depression, even suicidal thoughts
  • Headache, nausea, vomiting
  • Feeling drained, lack of energy
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Excessive growth of bone
  • Skin infection
  • Issues with hearing
  • Vision problems like blurring of vision, double vision, etc.


When Will I See Improvement from Accutane?

It varies from person to person as well as the dosing of the drug. In general, you can expect to see improvement after 15 days to one month. It can be as low as 1 week or even as high as 2 months. So, don’t be disheartened. Be updated with your dermatologist regarding your progress.

Just started Accutane, will 20 mg/day work?

The dosing of Accutane depends on your weight. Generally, 0.5-1 mg/kg of body weight/day is considered ideal. However, it can be as low as 0.1 mg to as high as 2 mg/kg of body weight/day, depending on the severity of the condition.

If your dermatologist has prescribed you 20 mg/day, then that’s probably what will work for you.

What is the shortest time you can be on Accutane?

The recommended course for Accutane is around 15-20 weeks, which makes it around 4-5 months. However, depending on your condition, your dermatologist might start you on a shorter course as well.

Does Accutane work in 3 months?

You can expect to see results within one month on Accutane therapy. However, it is crucial to complete your treatment because your acne might relapse after the initial improvement of Accutane.


Some drugs take time to set in and do their thing. Accutane is one of those drugs.

It can take anywhere between fifteen days to as long as two months to make any visible changes.

So, now you know the answer to how long does Accutane take to work. It’s best to consult with your doctor and wait patiently for the drug to start working.

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