ROACCUTANE: A SKIN SPECIALIST’S GUIDE TO THE ACNE DRUG AND ITS SIDE EFFECTS

CONSIDERING ROACCUTANE FOR YOUR ACNE? SKIN DOCTOR DR TERRY LOONG EXPLAINS HOW ISOTRETINOIN WORKS TO GET RID OF ADULT ACNE, THE PROS AND CONS AND WHETHER IT'S RIGHT FOR YOU

Roaccutane; it gets a bad rap, but is its negative press deserved? Who can roaccutane help and how does it work? In a continuation of our clear skin feature, we tapped into integrative cosmetic and skin doctor Dr Terry Loong’s knowledge and experience with the renowned acne medication to find out about roaccutane side effects, how it really works and whether it's right for your skin...

Get The Gloss: What exactly is Roaccutane? How does it work?

Dr Terry: Roaccutane is a vitamin A derivative that is taken orally as a pill to treat severe acne. The true mechanism of how it works is not fully known but in essence it does the following:

  • Dramatically reduces the size of the oil glands (by around 35-58%)

  • Reduces the amount of oil produced by the gland itself (by around 80%)

  • Reduces skin cells clogging up the pores

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Indirectly reduces P.Acne bacteria that causes acne opportunistically.

GTG: Who is most likely to find it suitable?

DT: Severe inflammatory acne that has not responded to traditional or alternative methods will fare best. That usually means very oily, inflamed skin.

GTG: How long is a course of treatment? What should happen once a course is over?

DT: A course of treatment is typically 3-5 months (one cycle) depending on the severity.

Research shows that Roaccutane can achieve partial or complete clearance of acne in about 95% of people who complete a cycle. The majority of people who take it see their acne effectively cured, experiencing long-term remission of acne symptoms.

Studies show an average relapse rate of around 33%, and in these cases sometimes a second course is given.

GTG: What are the pros of taking Roaccutane?

DT: It reduces oil production on the face, dramatically improving acne and for some achieving flawless skin.

GTG: On the flip side, what are the cons?

DT: Plenty! As it's a systemic medication (taken orally), it affects many systems of the body. Approximately 80% of people taking Roaccutane will experience one or more of the below side effects:

  • Dry mouth

  • Dry, cracked lips

  • Dry skin

  • Nose bleeds

  • Hair loss or baldness

  • Skin rash or worsening eczema

  • Hair overgrowth in women (rare)

  • Sensitive skin

  • Increased risk of sunburn

  • Depression

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Hearing impairment

  • Visual problems

  • Joint pain

  • Bowel inflammation

  • Birth defects

  • Muscle pain

  • Arthritis

  • Liver problems

  • Dry eyes

Unfortunately the list goes on...

GTG: How can you counteract any side effects?

DT: It’s best to weigh up the pros and cons carefully before starting on it. Increase your supplement intake to reduce inflammation in your body, eat organic produce where possible, increase your antioxidant uptake and reduce any toxic chemical burden where you can to help to minimise the impact of side effects.

GTG: Should you also change the skincare products you're using?

DT: Yes, your skin will be drier so it's best to hydrate! Moisturise your skin and don't use products that have too strong active ingredients. You’ll want to avoid skin treatments that would be reactive or strip the skin, for example steer clear of skin peels or lasers that may be too harsh for the skin. Sunscreen is a must, even on cloudy days!

GTG: Is it worse to take it in winter?

DT: It could be as the weather will be dry so you should increase your moisture levels. However, during winter there’s less sunshine, so from this perspective it may be beneficial to start a course during the winter months.

GTG: Do you have any Roaccutane success stories? Or on the contrary, horror stories?

DT: I prefer not to use Roaccutane. My patients normally come to me after Roaccutane failed them or in cases where acne has resurfaced and they don't want to go through the side effects again. I had a patient who had such dry eyes after roaccutane that she couldn't wear any contact lenses for 3 years. It’s whatever works for individual patients.

Matt Bessent
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