Post-Accutane: Update & Skin Care Routine

After my Accutane treatment, I thought my days of pimples, spot treatments, and heavy concealers were behind me, but these past 9 months have proven me very wrong.

If you have read my Accutane story, you’ll know that I started my treatment in May 2015 and ended it in November of 2015. At the time that I wrote that post, I was acne free.  About a year after the end of my treatment, I started having breakouts again. The breakouts were definitely less severe than what they were before Accutane, but after going through all the discomfort and inconveniences of treatment I really wanted clear skin. I started using this routine religiously 2 months ago, and in the past 2 months, I have seen a great deal of improvement in my skin, both in the frequency and length of breakouts.

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In December of 2016, I determined that my “new post-Accutane breakouts” were heavily motivated by my hormones, as they were worse around the time of my period. I decided to start birth control in an attempt to regulate my hormones and clear up my acne.

After 3 months, the birth control that I was on did not do anything to change my skin. I called my doctor and she recommended that I switch to Yaz. I have been on Yaz since April and I’ve noticed a significant difference in my skin. My breakouts are almost entirely during the week of my period and even then are fewer and less inflamed.

My new skin care routine is my favorite though. I centered my routine on 3 things: thoroughly cleansing, maintaining moisture, and treating breakouts and enlarged pores. For each, I sought out specific active ingredients to help heal and clear my skin.

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For a while after Accutane, I was still using the same Dove soap bar to cleanse my skin morning and night. I learned the hard way that this soap bar was now too gentle for my skin and was clogging my pores. My post-Accutane skin needed something gentle, but pore-clearing. The active ingredient that I looked for in cleansers was Salicylic Acid. Salicylic Acid is derived from the Willow Tree and is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid). It is a chemical exfoliant and effectively removes the outer layer of skin to prevent clogged pores. I did a lot of research before deciding which face washes to use, but I knew I wanted something different for morning and night. For the morning I decided to go with a very basic, but effective cleanser, Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Wash with 2% Salicylic Acid.  For my night-time routine, I did not want any active ingredients in my cleanser because night is when I use a harsher acne treatment and did not want to combine ingredients. I decided to go with Neutrogena’s Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser it is fragrance-free and designed for sensitive skin (which hello, after 6 months of Accutane I definitely have sensitive skin). I wash with this foaming cleanser twice at night; once to remove my makeup, and then again to actually cleanse my skin.

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Your skin has a natural moisture barrier that regulates and protects your skin. I am a firm believer in using moisturizers to counteract any dryness and maintain this moisture barrier. To seal in moisture and prevent excess water loss, it is important to include emollients and humectants in your skin care routine. Ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin draw water into the skin and help the skin maintain its natural moisture barrier. I look for moisturizers that contain both ingredients and have them listed early on the ingredients list. After I cleanse my face, I do not dry my face with a towel, as the fibers of the towel can be rough and abrasive on your skin instead, I pat dry around my eyes, lips, and chin and leave the rest of my skin slightly wet. Then, I apply Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Gel-Cream and wait for my face to dry. After my face is dry, I apply Cerave’s Moisturizing Lotion, at night that is the final moisturizing step before treatment.In the mornings, I apply an acne treatment and then follow it up with a moisturizing sunscreen, Cerave’s Face Sunscreen with SPF 30 or 50. All of Cerave’s products have ceramides, the fatty acids that your skin cell’s membranes contain high concentrations of. Providing your skin with ceramides helps replenish its levels and promotes healthy skin.

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My skin care routine includes a harsh prescription medicine from my dermatologist, 0.1% Tretinoin Cream as well as an over-the-counter 2.0% benzoyl peroxide treatment, which both can be very drying to the skin. These two products are the reasons for my heavy-handed moisturizing routine. I use the Neutrogena’s Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Daily Leave-On Mask in the mornings to help clear current breakouts and prevent future ones. Benzoyl Peroxide is anti-bacterial and causes the skin to peel to heal the acne faster. My skin reacts well to Benzoyl Peroxide as long as it is a low percentage. I have tried treatments with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide before and have found the drying, redness, and peeling to be nearly unbearable while my acne improved the same as it did with lower concentrations. At night, I use the prescription Tretinoin Cream which is a retinoid that helps decrease acne breakouts and encourage faster healing through faster skin cell turnover. Lower percentages are also prescribed to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. A pea-size amount of both products is plenty to cover your face. It is also really important to not use other active ingredients like Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide with the retinoid.

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This is what my morning routine looks like!

and…

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…this is what my night routine looks like!

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I went back to my dermatologist while using this routine about a week ago. He was happy with my skin at the time of the visit but unhappy to hear that I still have the occasional breakout. He did ask if I wanted to go on another round of Accutane, but that is not something I want to do right now. If my acne worsens in the future I may reconsider, but with my current diet, birth control, and skin care, I feel like I have a handle on my skin and don’t feel that putting my body through another Accutane treatment is necessary.

I really hope this helps anyone struggling with acne or just coming off Accutane.

Let me know if you have any questions!

  • As always, I was not paid to say anything in this post. I use these products every day and love them all. Also, as a disclaimer, I am not a doctor and am not recommending Accutane to anyone. Isotretinoin is a very serious drug that should be taken only under close supervision of a dermatologist.

Love always,

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