How Does Accutane Work?

Accutane Treatment and Side Effects

Accutane is currently the closest science has come to an acne ”cure”. So how does accutane work?

Accutane (also known as Isotretinoin in the US, and Roaccutane in the UK) is one of the most effective treatments for severe and nodular or cystic acne.

It's Effectiveness Can't Be Ignored...

In most cases, a one-time four to six month treatment of will clear acne entirely or greatly reduce it.

More than half of people who receive Accutane, never struggle with acne ever again.

The FDA has recognized Accutane for being one of the greatest acne drugs in over the last 20 years and that it "is the only drug that has the potential to clear severe acne permanently after one course of treatment" (Source: FDA Consumer magazine, March-April 2001, http://www.fda.gov).

How does Accutane work so well against acne?

By accomplishing several things simultaneously:
  • helping the sebaceous glands to mature, which reduces the amount of oil produced
  • decreasing cell build up leading to whiteheads or blackheads
  • killing acne bacteria deep inside the skin, and
  • reducing inflammation.

Normal oil production in your skin will return when you complete your Accutane course. The sebaceous glands will slowly grow larger in size, but will never reach their original size.

Accutane is generally prescribed for stubborn moderate to severe or nodular acne that is resistant to several different treatments. It can quickly reduce severe acne inflammatory lesions by 90%. ( Source: Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, November 2001, Supplemental, pages 188–194).

But Accutane is not a true “cure” for acne and it does not always work 100% of the time.

Chances for Success :

For some people, Accutane doesn’t work the first time around and they are recommended to wait for about 6 months before they try a second course of Accutane. If their acne returns after the second course, the drug has likely failed.

For 10% of users, acne comes back after one year. For 25% of users, acne comes back after two years. Sometimes Accutane makes acne worse before it gets better. And sometimes, it makes acne much worse than it originally was and causes bad scarring.

Accutane Side Effects :

Despite the many success stories, dermatologists remain careful with who they give a prescription to due to the many serious Accutane side effects.

For instance, Accutane can cause severe birth defects in humans. Women who take this drug must always use a reliable contraceptive method during treatment.

Additionally, people often experience dry and cracked lips, dry skin, dry nose and mouth, and mild to moderate muscle or joint aches while taking Accutane.



Although the information above objectively answers the question “How does Accutane work?”, there is no way to know if Accutane will work for you or if you will suffer from any of its side effects.

You should always discuss all your acne treatment options with your doctor before deciding to follow any one specifically.



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