One of the most common side effects of Accutane treatment is the development of significant dryness of the skin and other body parts. Sometimes the degree of dryness can be very severe and can rarely even cause treatment to be discontinued.
Why does Accutane cause dryness?
The answer is found in Accutane’s mechanism of action. Accutane works to control acne by working at the root of pimple formation. Accutane shrinks and lessens the activity of the acne-prone oil glands found in acne-prone pores. By decreasing the activity of the oil glands, the steps that are involved in acne development fail to occur.
The good news is that Accutane makes acne stop and go away. The not so good news is that the trade off is a temporary dryness of just about everything. The skin, especially on the face, becomes very dry and sensitive due to the lack of oil production.
Accutane can cause dryness of the sensitive skin of the face
For Accutane related dryness of the face, moisturizer is essential in order to prevent the dryness from becoming too uncomfortable. Sometimes the skin can become flaky and red and sensitive and at times unbearable for some patients. With appropriate hydration, however, the dryness is usually well tolerated.
At the Advanced Acne Institute, we depend on Hydrating BaseTM, an acne-safe skin conditioning lotion, to maintain optimal skin hydration during the course of Accutane treatment. Hydrating Base paves the way for uninterrupted treatment without having to stop the course of Accutane because of intolerable skin dryness or discomfort.
Accutane can cause excessively dry, chapped lips and cracked corners of the mouth
The lips are a particular problem area. The lips tend to suffer the most from Accutane-related dryness. It is imperative that patients consistently apply effective moisturizer to the lips frequently in order to prevent severe dryness and cracking of the lips.
The corners of the mouth are also particularly prone to painful cracking and some patients may find it very uncomfortable to open their mouths, eat and talk. This degree of dryness, however, is very uncommon. Once again, it is essential that patients on Accutane treatment pay very close attention to the risk of severe dryness and maintain hydration consistently.
At times, although not very often, the lips become sensitive and uncomfortable enough to require a prescription-strength cream to alleviate the discomfort.
Some patients have such a negative experience with dry lips from Accutane that they avoid Accutane thereafter even if it becomes a necessary treatment again in the future. This degree of lip discomfort is fairly rare however, and the vast majority of patients tolerate the lip dryness very well by using lip balms and moisturizers successfully.
Vaseline, Aquaphor and various over-the-counter lip balms are usually quite effective in keeping the lip dryness under control.
Accutane can cause dryness of the skin of the body and may lead to eczema
Since Accutane affects the oil glands in the skin of the whole body, even the arms and legs and the rest of the body can be affected by dryness. Usually the body dryness can be addressed with an effective moisturizer.
Some patients, especially those with a history of previous eczema, can develop areas of eczema or an eczema flare. We see this occasionally on the backs of the hands and on the arms. It can be a little itchy. Moisturizer can often be all that is needed to treat the patches of eczema. However, sometimes a prescription-strength cream is needed to make the eczema go completely away.
The eyes often become dry from Accutane
The eyes are another site of dryness from Accutane. Although dryness of the eyes is a common occurrence during Accutane therapy, patients typically do not complain about dry eyes while on Accutane.
For those who do experience discomfort from dry eyes, the use of artificial tears or other moisturizing eye drops is usually all that is needed to alleviate the dryness.
For those who normally wear contact lenses, wearing glasses instead can be more comfortable if the dryness is very significant. Rarely, a visit with an eye doctor for prescription therapy for the dryness may be needed.
Accutane can cause significant dryness of the scalp and hair
Dry scalp is another potential consequence of Accutane treatment. It is not a very frequent occurrence and is usually treated fairly easily with a moisturizing shampoo. At times, a medicated shampoo may be necessary to provide complete control. This can be especially needed for patients with other dry scalp conditions that are made worse with the dryness of Accutane.
Dry hair is another very common side effect of Accutane treatment. Unlike dryness of other areas however, patients often welcome the decrease in oily hair. They typically comment that they no longer have to wash their hair every day. However, at times, the hair may become too dry and need moisturizing hair treatments to compensate.
Overall, dryness is a common side effect of Accutane therapy which the majority of patients tolerate very well and rarely requires any further intervention or discontinuation of Accutane treatment.
The Advanced Acne Institute is a unique dermatology practice located in Miami, Florida specializing only in the treatment of acne. We focus solely on providing the most effective treatments to help our patients achieve clear skin. We are pleased to share our insights and perspectives in acne treatment as an educational service, however this information is provided strictly for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice and is not a substitute for seeking the advice and treatment by an appropriate medical professional.