Illustrated by Daniel Koppich.
Accutane is no joke: For people with severe cystic acne, it can be life-changingly effective. But, it's definitely one of those "it gets worse before it gets better" situations. So, what's the right way to treat your skin when it's going through such extreme phases? Do you have to passively suffer through the bad times in order to reach the clear-skin times?
According to Dr. Ava Shamban, Beverly Hills dermatologist and Allure Insider, "It takes 30 days for Accutane to reach therapeutic blood levels, which is why people may still experience breakouts during that time." Dr. Shamban continues, "So, if that's happening, you can continue your topical acne skin-care program — that may include benzoyl peroxide, retinoid, or topical antibiotics."
One of Accutane's most infamous side effects, though, is the severe dryness. So, what's the best way to treat that delightful experience? Make sure to use a nondrying cleanser and a lightweight moisturizer, the dermatologist says. "All acne medications are drying," she notes, so if you're looking to treat the breakouts without contributing to the Sahara-like situation the Accutane is causing, make sure you use a non-comedogenic moisturizer with it — no matter how you're treating the breakout.
"If you start Accutane with oily skin, you will be able to tolerate most drying acne medications, including benzoyl peroxide and retinoids, which happen to be the most effective topical acne treatments," Dr. Shamban says. However, she notes that if you started with dry or extra-sensitive skin, there are new acne medications that won't irritate you and still be effective. Just make sure you ask your dermatologist what your options are.
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