What Big Pharma Doesn't Want You to Know About an Accutane Prescription

Acne is no one’s friend. 

Chances are you (or your loved ones) have struggled with acne at some point. So you know how trapped + isolating it can feel to deal with red, bumpy, and inflamed skin.

During a frustrating journey, it’s easy to give in to the “traditional” or “doctor-recommended” way of treating acne that just won’t let up. Unfortunately, these “popular” ways tend to be strong, potent oral medication. Yep, an Accutane prescription.

Accutane prescription is the most widely known remedy for severe, long-lasting acne.  

It’s often a last resort – pure desperation. And many (including doctors and dermatologists) praise the results of this drug.

Sure, you may be eliminating your acne, but at what cost? 

That’s why we’re having an important conversation about the risks that come with an Accutane prescription. Accutane side effects can’t (and shouldn’t) be ignored.

What Is an Accutane Prescription?

Before we dive into the risks associated with an Accutane prescription, let’s cover the basics. It's helpful to know what it is, how it came to be, and why it’s still prescribed today.

Isotretinoin (the generic name for Accutane) is a very powerful oral medication taken to “cure” acne. Occasionally it comes in a topical format, but it’s much more common as an oral medication. It’s created from vitamin A. 

*Note: Accutane no longer exists by the brand name. But for simplicity’s sake (and because it’s the most well-known name), we’ll call it Accutane throughout this post. 

How It Works

Accutane actually alters your DNA transcription to reduce glands + the amount of oil produced.1 The concept is that less oil = less acne. It also aims to clear acne-causing bacteria.2

Accutane takes anywhere from 2-3 months to work. Many who take an Accutane prescription go through an “Accutane purge.” This is where the skin is highly irritated, inflamed, and breaking out. In other words, it gets a lot worse before it gets “better.” 

So, how did Accutane become so popular?

History of Accutane

Accutane was first created to treat skin cancer in the 1960s, but Swiss researchers discovered it was effective at “curing” acne. Except there was a big caveat: they knew that vitamin A (which Accutane is made from) caused birth defects in animals. So when it wasn’t effective for skin cancer, they discontinued its use.3  

Fast forward a decade or two. Big pharma picked up Accutane to treat a rare skin disease – until they also discovered its power with acne. After that, it was history…3  

When it hit the market in 1982, it was hailed as the first drug that could really cure severe acne, with a success rate of 85 percent within five months.

Despite warning signs, the FDA ignored much of the evidence on potential Accutane side effects. They moved forward with a very rushed approval of this new drug. All this despite other countries placing very strict mandates on Accutane prescriptions. 

Not surprisingly, years of lawsuits over Accutane side effects like suicide and birth defects followed. Finally, the FDA put a black box warning on the label – the most serious kind of warning available. 

It was intended only for severe cases of acne – as a last resort. But today, Accutane prescription is widely used + accepted as a standard acne treatment. Enough is enough. 

There are plenty of Accutane alternatives that embrace natural ingredients + holistic practices. 

Take a few minutes to look at the insanely long + scary list of Accutane side effects, and you’ll see why we can’t get behind this drug.

Accutane Side Effects

An Accutane prescription may seem like a magic pill if you’ve witnessed the results of someone from afar. You may think, “Wow, their skin REALLY cleared up.” But behind the scenes, it’s often a different (and painful) story. 

Though the acne may go away eventually, the effects on the body can be severely dangerous to your health + well-being. Let’s dive into the side effects an Accutane prescription can have on your body – inside and out. 

Short-Term Effects Of an Accutane Prescription 

These are some of the short-term effects commonly experienced from an Accutane prescription.4

  • Severe dry skin – often peeling
  • Dry airways (mouth, nose, throat)
  • Skin that is very susceptible to sunburn
  • Bone/joint pain
  • Burning, redness, and itching eyes
  • Nosebleeds
  • Inflamed, dry, red scaling lips
  • Skin infection or rash
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Thinning Hair
  • Bleeding or inflamed gums
  • Increased pressure in the brain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Severe stomach, chest, or bowel pain
  • Hearing or vision problems
  • Blood sugar issues
  • Cholesterol issues
  • Lowering of red and white blood cells
  • Organ damage
  • Itching skin
  • Serious allergic reactions (like anaphylaxis)
  • Digestive issues, such as Crohn's disease, IBD, and ulcerative colitis 

(There’s debate on this having a direct link, but it’s worth mentioning since we know the state of the gut directly impacts the whole body – especially skin!)

And while these Accutane side effects may feel startling, it’s just the beginning. There are even more serious + long-lasting side effects from Accutane you could experience.

More Serious Reactions to an Accutane Prescription

As if those side effects weren’t enough? There are even more severe + detrimental reactions to an Accutane prescription. 

  • Birth defects – one of the most commonly known + most serious Accutane side effects. Pregnancy and Accutane are a dangerous combination.
→ Over 20 major birth defects were reported in 400,000 patients in the first 18 months of it hitting the market.3  
→ It’s also estimated that about 25% of babies have major congenital deformities. And a large number have severe learning disabilities.5  
→ About 40% of pregnancies exposed to Accutane end in miscarriage.5
There’s now a program (I-Pledge) that aims to reduce pregnancies while taking an Accutane prescription. Patients are even required to take two forms of birth control to avoid getting pregnant. And as we know, birth control negatively affects hormonal health.
But even with programs like this, the precautions are not enough. This risk is far too serious, especially when we think of the babies’ lives at risk.
  • Mental health issues – many taking an Accutane prescription report/experience feelings of aggression, depression, suicidal ideation, or psychosis.
→ Mental health is a critical issue that shouldn’t be overlooked. 
→ Of course, with mental health issues, it’s difficult to pinpoint “causes.” But there is a definite link between this medicine and mental health issues.6
→ This is the warning on Accutane prescriptions on mental health:4
“You should know that isotretinoin may cause changes in your thoughts, behavior, or mental health. Some patients who took isotretinoin have developed depression or psychosis (loss of contact with reality), have become violent, have thought about killing or hurting themselves, and have tried or succeeded in doing so. 
You or your family should call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms: anxiety, sadness, crying spells, loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, poor performance at school or work, sleeping more than usual, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, irritability, anger, aggression, changes in appetite or weight, difficulty concentrating, withdrawing from friends or family, lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, thinking about killing or hurting yourself, acting on dangerous thoughts, or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that do not exist).”
  • Muscle weakness – it's noted that with or without pain, this can be a sign of serious muscle damage. You should stop Accutane and call your doctor.
  • Drug interactions + medical conditions – there’s an extremely long list of drug interactions. There are also many medical conditions that are not safe with an Accutane prescription.7
  • Liver damage – if you experience jaundice, abdominal pain, or dark urine, these can be signs of damage to the liver. 

For us, this list is reason enough to avoid an Accutane prescription. Plus, the medical literature is always behind current data. So we can’t feel confident that these symptoms are even exhaustive. 

But they are definitely enough to say no to an Accutane prescription. Thankfully, as a holistic skincare company, we’ve got you covered with safe, non-toxic Accutane alternatives. ;)

Alternatives to Accutane

Unfortunately, many people aren't fully informed by their trusted doctors and specialists. They don't know the intense risks and side effects of Accutane. But here’s the good news: YOU now have the knowledge + power to choose alternatives to Accutane. 

But first, let’s address an important question: What if I’ve already taken Accutane?

→ No judgment! We’re here to support you with the best tips + advice to heal your skin and rebuild essential nutrients. It takes time to achieve balance within the body/skin. These tips will still help you to maintain healthy, clear skin.

Healing acne is a journey, but here’s a list of some of our most reliable Accutane alternatives. These will leave your skin feeling nourished + regenerated – instead of dry, flaky, and sensitive.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle plays a big role in the state of your skin. Here are a few areas to consider for healing acne naturally. 

  • Pay attention to hygiene. 

Proper hygiene is key when it comes to keeping bacteria away from your precious skin. Just remember hygiene isn’t about scrubbing and obsessive sanitizing. It’s about prioritizing cleanliness but leaving your skin’s good bacteria + moisture intact. ;)

Though fewer side effects, over-the-counter acne remedies can contain dangerous “chemical cocktails.” These “proprietary” formulas can have thousands of chemicals that mess with your hormones. They're known to leave long-term damage to your reproductive system.

Since acne is often affected by and/or caused by hormonal imbalances, it’s essential to support your hormones. Start with products free from harmful chemicals + toxins. You want to minimize your toxic load as much as possible so that your skin can heal from the inside out.

This circles back to toxins too. The easiest way to clean up your diet is to prioritize whole foods, healthy fats, and organic, pasture-raised meats/dairy.

Lifestyle choices and mindfulness play a big role in healing acne naturally. Don’t underestimate the power of your choices.

Next up, topical solutions.

Topical Alternatives to Accutane 

Of course, any plan to resolve acne needs to include topical solutions. Using a holistic, non-toxic approach helps your body heal from the inside out.  

This balances oil production instead of stripping your skin like an Accutane prescription. It protects your skin’s delicate moisture barrier and blocks acne-causing bacteria. All while locking in moisture + nutrients.
Our founder Bethany believes this was a huge key to resolving her acne. 
Tip: Try adding a double cleanse a few times a week with our Clarifying Bar. The charcoal helps detox + clear out acne but also soothes and balances oil production. (Clients at our holistic spa have reported this step made a huge improvement in their acne.)

Our clarifying products support your skin’s innate healing process. All while soothing + calming the irritation that comes with breakouts and inflammation.
They’re infused with nourishing oils, biocompatible animal fats, and potent plant power.

Tip: If you’re curious about CBD, we offer our soothing line in a CBD-infused alternative. Alternate a few times a week with clarifying products for the best of both worlds. This is also our Holistic Esthetician’s top suggestion for seriously clearing hormonal acne.

This daily spray balances pH + clears excess dirt/oil from pores. Tea tree oil and lavender calm inflammation and protect against bacteria.
  • Bakuchiol
Praised as a natural retinol alternative, try our plumping mask with bakuchiol. It helps cell turnover and regeneration for a fresh, blemish-free complexion.
    We offer a variety of holistic tools that address acne. They use the power of lymphatic drainage and gentle stimulation to clear skin + heal acne naturally.
    Tip: Be sure to work around active inflammation. As our holistic esthetician reminds us: 
    Always work around active breakouts. Clearing the neck is important for clearing out acne. It's especially important if the face is really inflamed and you don't have any other pathways to work. Targeting the neck opens up pathways for drainage and detoxification. This will help clear inflammation on the facial skin.” 
    – Courtney
    Our tried and true tools for addressing acne: 
    Facial Dry Brush gentle exfoliation keeps pores clear of buildup and congestion.  Also provides lymphatic support. 
    Facial cuppinga powerful tool for detoxing and acne clearing. It can even repair scarring from previous breakouts.
    Gua sha or rolling especially on the neck opens pathways for healing nutrients + detoxing inflammation. 
      The stronger of our two hand sanitizers is excellent as a multitasking product. Its highly antiviral + antibacterial properties make it an effective spot treatment for acne.
        CBD is a massive help for deeper cystic (and painful) hormonal breakouts. It’s a skin superfood with fatty acids, amino acids, and critical vitamins needed for strong skin + collagen production. It can minimize inflammation and prevent dead skin cells from building up.
        Deep healing comes with patience, time, and being open to unconventional remedies. What do you think of these holistic alternatives to an Accutane prescription? 
        We hope you’ll be open to giving holistic medicine a chance. 

        You’re Better off without an Accutane Prescription

        Many Western medicine doctors and skin specialists are skeptical about all-natural treatments. Especially about them working just as well – or better – than harsh creams and prescriptions like an Accutane prescription. 

        But for us, years of first-hand experience, proof, and testimonials from our PP community have taught us differently. Our bodies are capable of deep-seated healing if we learn to work with them, not against them.

        And we couldn’t be more thankful for this truth. 



        1. Science Direct | Isotretinoin Revisited: Pluripotent Effects on Human Sebaceous Gland Cells
        2. Science Direct | Isotretinoin
        3. The Pulse | The Story of Accutane: A Very Good and Very Dangerous Drug
        4. Medline Plus | Isotretinoin 
        5. LEDA at Harvard Law School | A History of Accutane Regulation in the United States
        6. National Library of Medicine | Retinoic Acid and Affective Disorders: The Evidence for an Association
        7. Mayo Clinic | Isotretinoin (Oral Route)

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