For those with cystic acne, an often-inheredited skin condition that doesn't easily clear up with over-the-counter products or antibiotics, achieving clear skin can be an especially difficult journey. Those who have failed over and over to clear up their skin often opt for taking prescription Accutane (also known as Isotretinoin), which is an oral medication that works to shrink your sebaceous glands and drastically decrease the production of oils on your face.
Once you have clearance from your dermatologist to take the oral medication—which only comes after multiple blood tests and consultations—be prepared to battle a new set of skin woes: dry skin, chapped lips, and sensitivity to sunlight are common reactions to the drug. Although Accutane has been at the center of controversy for years because of its harsh side effects, including possible birth defects and reported cases of depression, many users find the promise of clear skin outweighs the possible side effects.
If you're starting an Accutane regimen, here are five additional products you'll want to keep close at hand:
If you're lucky, you'll find a big basket of sample-sized Aquaphor Healing Ointments at the front desk of your dermatologist, and even luckier if you come across the sympathetic receptionist who doesn't mind if you take one or six home with you. If not, Aquaphor Healing Ointment is easy to find in any drugstore. Fragrance-free, it's also a great option year-round since it can help relieve flaking and heal sunburns in the summer and prevent chapped skin during the winter.
2. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream
Accutane users will find that their skin becomes extremely rough and dry, possibly lasting months into their regimen. Avoid being mistaken for a reptile by keeping yourself moisturized as much as possible. Elizabeth Arden's Eight-Hour Intensive Moisturizing Hand Treatment is great for reversing dryness and preventing the flaking and peeling that many Accutane users experience. Although it's designed for hands (which typically experience more dryness and roughness than the skin on your face), this extra-moisturizing treatment will do more for your super-dry skin (especially on the nose) than a typical facial moisturizer. The non-greasy cream doubles as a long-lasting lip balm—a total lifesaver when you leave your Chapstick or Vaseline behind. And obviously, it will work great on dry hands as well.
3. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry- Touch Sunscreen (SPF 100+)
When you become sensitive to sunlight, regular sunscreen just won't cut it for you. In reality, sunscreen won't really be as helpful to your skin as avoiding sunlight will be, but Neutrogena's Ultra Sheer Broad Spectrum Sunscreen (SPF 100+) is water-resistant, lightweight, and free of pore-clogging oils. Plus, you'll find it affordable enough to generously slather it on throughout the day. You might be used to grabbing some SPF 30 when heading to the beach, but with Accutane, you'll need at least an SPF 80+ formula since the medication causes sensitivity even to mild sunlight exposure.
Unfortunately, before your skin gets any better, you'll find that your breakouts might become temporarily worse—and possibly even painfully so—for a couple months into your treatment. Since Cetaphil's Gentle Skin Cleanser has a soap-free formula and comes in salicylic acid–free varieties, it's gentle enough for everyday use and will prevent dirt buildup and alleviate peeling. Your derm will make you promise never to use salicylic acid–based face washes or products with strong fragrances and colors, so you'll want something designed for sensitive skin.
5. Milani Moisture Lock Lip Oil Treatment
Almost immediately after you start taking Accutane on a daily basis, you'll notice heavy peeling on your lips and skin. It will be similar to dealing with a really bad sunburn, except this side effect might persist well after your prescription ends. To ensure that your peeling doesn't leave dark scars, slather Milani Moisture Lock Lip Oil Treatment on your lips and the areas around your mouth before going to sleep. The jojoba-, avocado- and tsubaki-oil–infused treatment tubes come in 8 different flavors, each with an additional oil, so you'll be able to switch things up a little during your regimen. By helping peeling soften overnight, you'll reduce the appearance of cracked skin.