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Isotretinoin for Acne and Side Effects

picture isotretinoin for acne
isotretinoin for acne

Many people struggle with acne, and they're willing to do various treatments and medications only to get rid of their acne. People who suffer from severe and chronic acne often need special medication due to the ineffectiveness of over-the-counter medication to treat their acne.

There are many types of medication that can be used to treat severe and chronic acne, and one of the last choices often prescribed by doctors is isotretinoin. Since this drug is very potent and can cause dangerous risk side effects, therefore doctors are always very cautious when prescribing this medication.

What Is Isotretinoin

Isotretinoin is a very potent drug from vitamin A derivatives, used to treat acne conditions that are difficult to treat with antibiotics or other skin treatments. 


You may often hear about this Roaccutane, but still wondering what is Roaccutane actually. Roaccutane is the original name or trademark for the drug that contains isotretinoin active ingredients, produced by Roche in the United Kingdom in 1983.

These active ingredients work to treat chronic acne by reducing keratin production on the skin and suppressing the oil glands to produce excess sebum or oil.

Besides treating severe and chronic acne, Roaccutane is often prescribed to treat hidradenitis suppurativa and rosacea.

Roaccutane is a strong medication, and the use of these products can develop side effects that are not only limited to your skin face but also to your body organs. Due to this fact, doctors will only prescribe these drugs as the last resort if your various acne treatment and medications still did not solve your problem.

Are Roaccutane and Accutane the Same?

Yes, they both are medicine that contains isotretinoin active ingredients. The difference is, that Roaccutane are marketed in the United Kingdom by Roche in 1983, while Accutane was marketed in the United State of America by Roche and approved in 1982.

Nowadays, you can find products that contain isotretinoin with the trademark such as Amnesteem, Absorica LD, Zenatane, Claravis, and Myorisan.

Isotretinoin for Acne and Side Effects

The most common condition that is treated with isotretinoin is cystic acne or nodular acne. Cystic acne is characterized by pimples that are located inside the skin, are large, red, and cause pain.

Isotretinoin works by suppressing the production of natural oil glands or sebum in the facial skin. Excessive sebum production will trigger acne and if this condition is not treated immediately, it can cause permanent scarring on the facial skin. 

In addition, isotretinoin also works to reduce inflammation caused by acne. Isotretinoin is usually used in the form of capsules, soft capsules, and gels for topical usage.

  • Isotretinoin capsules

Soft (oral medication) Adults and adolescents over the age of 12 years: 0.5 mg/kg per day. If needed, the dose can be increased to 1 mg/kg per day. 

Generally consumed for 4-6 months. Isotretinoin capsule must be consumed in its entirety. It is not recommended to chew or destroy the capsule before swallowing.

Consuming isotretinoin when eating is recommended. The absorption of drugs into the bloodstream is better when isotretinoin is consumed with food.

If you forget to consume isotretinoin, it is advisable to do it as soon as you remember, if the break with the next consumption schedule is not too close. If it's close, ignore it and don't double the dose.

  • Isotretinoin gel

Gel (topical) Adult: Apply a gel containing 0.05% isotretinoin 1-2 times per day, in the area of ​​acne.
Before applying isotretinoin gel you should first clean the area to be treated, using soap and clean water with a temperature not too hot or cold.

Then, use a cloth gently to dry the face. Apply isotretinoin according to the doctor's recommended dose to the spots that are overgrown with zits.

Wash your hands with clean water after using isotretinoin gel. Please do not immediately use isotretinoin if you have previously done treatments that cause the skin to peel. 

Wait for several days for the skin to recover. Remember to avoid using the gel in areas of skin that are irritated, painful, injured, or sunburned. 

In addition, protect the eye area, inside of the nose, and mouth from direct contact with isotretinoin gel. And also please avoid sunlight when using isotretinoin so that the skin is not too sensitive.

If the condition of the skin becomes very dry, use a moisturizing cream or sunscreen that contains a sun protection factor (SPF).

If your skin feels very dry, you may use a water-based moisturizing cream which made without fragrance. Don't use topical isotretinoin with makeup and don't use creams that contain lots of oil or ointment because it can clog pores.

What are the Side Effects and Dangers of Isotretinoin

Isotretinoin Side Effects

Even though Isotretinoin work wonders for acne, isotretinoin also has side effects, especially for pregnant women.

Drugs in this category are contraindicated in women who are or are likely to get pregnant. Studies show people who consume isotretinoin have shown abnormalities in the fetus or a risk to the fetus. Isotretinoin is not yet known whether it can be absorbed into breast milk or not. 

The other isotretinoin side effects generally will subside along with the body's adjustment to the drug. Listed below are some of the side effects of isotretinoin that can occur:
  • Small swelling of the eyelids or lips.
  • Skin irritation such as red skin, dryness, burning and peeling.
  • Dry lips and mouth. To deal with this you can consume low-sugar candy, broken ice cubes, or drink more water.
  • The hardness of the layer of facial skin.
  • Nosebleed.
  • Stomach ache.
  • Thinning hair.
Besides the above side effects, isotretinoin also can cause serious side effects following,
  • Severe Diarrhea
  • Jaundice
  • Hallucinations, Depression, and anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Ringing the ears
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
Consult with your doctor before taking this drug, so that the doctor can weigh the benefits and risks.

Isotretinoin Warnings

Here are some warnings before consuming isotretinoin
  • Not recommended for children under 12 years.
  • Pregnant, breastfeeding women or those who are trying to have children are prohibited from using isotretinoin.
  • Do not donate blood while taking this drug, or at least a month after taking the drug.
  • Not recommended for consumption by people who are sensitive to vitamin A.
  • Please be careful with sufferers of dry eye syndrome, kidney disorders, impaired liver function, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
  • Beware of using isotretinoin for people with mental disorders, such as depression or suicidal ideation.
  • Inform your doctor about other prescription drugs you consumed such as supplements, or herbal products.
  • Topical isotretinoin or gel is not recommended for someone with eczema and skin cancer.
Please also take note of drug interactions that can occur if using isotretinoin together with other drugs,
  • If taken together with tetracycline drugs, it can cause increased pressure in the brain.
  • If used with vitamin A supplements or other vitamin A derivatives, it can increase the adverse effects.
  • If used together with topical keratolytic, such as salicylic acid it can increase the risk of local irritation.
  • Reducing the effectiveness of progesterone.
  • Benzoyl peroxide can reduce the effectiveness of isotretinoin gel.

Isotretinoin Overdose

Symptoms of an isotretinoin overdose can occur in the form of headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and loss of balance. See your doctor immediately if the side effects don't go away or if you experience symptoms of an overdose, to get the right help.

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