Everyone has different needs and their own specific health history. These are the things that helped me in having a positive experience with Isotretinoin (commonly known as Roaccutane or Accutane, a drug for treating severe acne). Do not take supplements without consulting your pharmacist or your doctor, as they can interact with illness or other conditions you are suffering from. This article is for informational purpose only. Please take from it only what would suit you.
Taking Isotretinoin as a treatment for acne is a long process and it will take months, so you need to optimise it to suit you and your lifestyle. After nine and a half months of treatment, I prepared a list of things that I think will really help. These are the things that I did in order to have a positive experience:
Lifestyle Changes or Appointments
- I took the Isotretinoin pill after a meal every time and long before I lay down or went to bed, to ensure that I did not get heartburn.
- This does not prevent side effects, but it is an amazing tip. I tried to make the appointments earlier than the four week mark, so I stack on some additional pills. This is because sometimes you can only attend your next appointment in five or six weeks, and so it ensures that you have pills left to take (no one will care if you have gaps in your treatment).
- I lowered the dose when I felt more side effects and I remained on a low dose for a long period of time.
- I avoided physical exercise when possible, as my body would get quite sore. If not possible (job or whatever else), I lowered the dose and drank plenty of water.
- I always asked about my blood results at appointments and asked to be explained how they look, why did they change and if there is anything to worry about. No one will take better care of you than yourself, so show interest and insist to be informed of your health during the treatment. The nurses and doctors you meet during your appointment will not even mention the blood results, so make sure to ask and keep on track with how your body is reacting.
- I stopped drinking alcohol completely (this is not an advice. You have to do it)
- I also stopped wearing my contact lenses (everyone should)
- I tried to drink as much water as possible.
- The key point is to read and inform yourself and not expect anyone to take care of you other than yourself. For example, my nurses and doctors did not give me any advice about topical creams or warned me against using anything. It was my research and from online interviews with professionals that I learnt what I am allowed to use topically on my skin and what not.
- I kept taking the mini-pill during the treatment, instead of changing on the combined-pill as everyone says you have to do. I was very firm in my decision not to change the pill, as it brings new mood and hormonal changes as well as new side effects. I advise that if you are already on a contraceptive pill to continue on it rather than change it because the system imposes that you have to – it will save you from a lot of inconveniences. Discuss about this with your dermatologist as mine absolutely recommended me not to change the pill.
- I took a pill of Omega 3 (fish oil) every time before taking my Isotretinoin pill. There is also a vegan version of Omega 3 and there are many options on the market. This assured the intake of fat which is supposed to make your body absorb the Isotretinoin better. It is a personal preference, as I found it easier than only cooking meals with fat.
- I took hepato-protectants. The hepato-protectants will also help with glycaemia and cholesterol, all three being affected by the treatment with Isotretinoin. These were for prevention.
- During the winter months when I tend to get ill a lot and feel tired and sad, my long-term pharmacist also gave me a plant-based supplement focused on immunity. You need to be very careful not to take any Vitamin A though, as most multi-vitamins contain it, even if in very low dosage. For me, a plant-based supplement worked very well. I had four colds in two months after starting the treatment with Isotretinoin. However, after taking the immunity supplement, I had no colds for the rest of seven and a half months.
Products and routines
- I used sunscreen even in winter (and in Scotland!!! Better to be safe than sorry).
- I put all my acne-fighting products in a box that I put away (see Skin History cover image) so I am not tempted to use them during the Isotretinoin treatment. It is usually not encouraged to use acne-fighting ingredients on your skin during it (Salicylic Acid, Benzoyl Peroxide, Antibiotics are a big no-no etc.) I stopped using any Retinoids, topical antibiotics or other acne-fighting ingredients. Simple is the best – a good cleanser, a good day moisturiser, a good makeup remover and a night moisturiser. Masks are fantastic as well.
- I invested in professional hair products and I only used those in washing my hair which significantly saved my hair from being bristle and dry during the treatment. My hairstylist said (in the fifth month of my treatment) that my hair felt amazing. I also used hair oil generously on the tips.
- Speaking of oils and hydration, I used a hydrating hair mask after each wash, I tried to use body cream after each shower, used plenty of moisturising creams and masks on my face and lots of lip balm. Whether you are a man or a woman, this is the time to look in drawers and bathroom cabinets for all the hydrating products you have and use them concomitantly (they will be your best friend).
- I invested in good, professional skincare and haircare, as much as possible. It is almost impossible to avoid alcohol and perfume in skincare products nowadays, but I tried my best to stick with simple formulations or with products that my cosmetician recommended (and that broke the bank ultimately – but they worked!).
- I replaced my shower gel with a shower oil for sensitive, dry skin.
- I sometimes used lubricant eye drops (your absolute friend in the early mornings)
Your body is weak during the treatment, some might feel more emotional, others might feel stiff and sore, others just get ill a lot. Love your body and take good care of it while taking Isotretinoin. Use body lotions as often as you can, moisturise your hair really well, use lip balms, hand creams, wear soft clothes and look carefully at the ingredients of anything (supplements, creams etc.) You don’t need to have a PhD to understand that a long-term treatment like Isotretinoin can weaken your body and that you need to love it and pay extra attention to it.
Find what works the best for you and don’t be afraid to talk to your local pharmacist about your treatment and prevention of side effects. I often found that the monthly appointments to the dermatology were a bit useless. To minimise side effects, I asked my hair stylist for product recommendations, and I also asked my beautician for skincare suggestions. This, combined with having a tight relationship with a pharmacist, lead to a successful and pleasant treatment. My overall advice would be to listen to your body and make informed decisions.
To be continued…
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This blogpost is not sponsored. I did not mention the names of the supplements I took on purpose. If you want to take supplements to help with the treatments’ side effects, please speak to your pharmacist and let them recommend the best option for you based on your course of Isotretinoin treatment and medical history.
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