Is Accutane recommended for mild acne too?

I know Accutane is effective in clearing severe acne, but should I take it to treat mild acne? 


F, 27, California

As you mentioned, Accutane is a very effective treatment usually reserved for patients who have more severe forms of acne vulgaris — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be used for mild acne, too. If you have chronic adult acne that does not respond to other acne treatment options, your doctor may prescribe Accutane.

The reason Accutane isn’t regularly prescribed for mild cases of acne is that it carries the risk of some serious potential side effects such as hair loss, mood changes, and increased sun sensitivity. It is also very dangerous for unborn babies and can cause all sorts of complications during pregnancy.

With these facts in mind, I recommend exploring all possible treatments before starting Accutane. Please consult an experienced dermatologist for more information about the best treatment options for your specific skin type.

Generally speaking, Accutane and it's competitor Absorica are prescribed for patients who have severe cystic acne and acne that causes scarring.

However, if you have adult acne that is not responding to less intensive acne treatments, then your dermatologist may agree to prescribe Accutane.

You should be aware that Accutane has potentially serious side effects including clinical depression and hair loss.

Accutane also has extremely serious implications for pregnant women. You will be required to go on birth control during Accutane treatment. You may also have to take pregnancy tests while taking the drug.

You should also be aware that Accutane does not cure acne, and that users commonly experience a relapse after they stop treatment.

That having been said, Accutane is an excellent weapon against severe and persistent acne. It has positive, life-changing effects on patients for whom other avenues of treatment have failed.

My advice is to exhaust all avenues of treatment -- including skin cleansers, benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics and light therapy (photodynamic therapy) -- before using Accutane.

If you have persistent acne after trying the less aggressive approaches, I advise you to consult with your dermatologist to determine whether or not Accutane is right for you.

The short answer is that Accutane works on all types of acne, from mild to cystic acne.

For patients such as yourself, however, who only have mild or mild to moderate acne, it may be overkill to use Accutane.

If your acne consists of just whiteheads, blackheads and minor blemishes, this is generally not considered an indication for Accutane.

Isotretinoin, the active ingredient in Accutane, is a naturally occurring isomer of Vitamin A. It has common side effects like dry skin and dry lips, but more importantly has serious potential side effects as well.

It’s because of these more serious side effects that Accutane is usually prescribed to patients with more severe acne. (Severe acne is typically defined as acne with nodules and cysts -- or that leaves serious acne scars.)

However, if less powerful acne treatments have already proven ineffective and you still have persistent acne, it's possible low-dose Accutane may be the recipe for clear skin where all else has failed.

I can't offer any medical advice here without a direct examination, so I advise you to consult with a local board-certified dermatologist to determine whether or not a lower dose Accutane is right for your particular situation.

A very good questions and may be more aggressive than you may need for your acne. It may be worth getting a few different opinions from dermatologists in your area before making any decisions. Good Luck!

Accutane is indicated for nodular cystic scarring acne unresponsive to other medications. For mild acne we have  many different options. Consult with a dermatologist with expertise in acne to advise you on good skin care including cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens and makeup as well as an appropriate topical acne regime. The dermatologist can evaluate your skin to see if you also need a medication by mouth as well. G