As dermatologists move away from the use of antibiotics to treat persistent acne, Accutane has become more and more prevalent. This drug, which is also sold under the names Isotretinoin, Claravis, Zenatane and Absorbica, has an 85% success rate in treating moderate to severe acne. Unlike most acne treatments, which are applied directly to the skin, Accutane comes in a pill form. However, it also comes with some serious side effects, forcing many to seek effective over-the-counter Accutane alternatives.
Why Do Acne Sufferers Want Alternatives to Accutane?
Most side effects to Accutane are mild and range from chapped lips and dry skin to increased cholesterol. On the other hand, pregnant women are warned against taking Accutane because of the possibility of birth defects. Accutane is also a so-called black-box drug because of dangerous potential side effects, which can include an increase in suicidal thoughts and depression. While the odds of experiencing these side effects are very low (less than 1 percent, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology), many teens and adults with acne are eager to explore alternative Accutane treatments first.
Because of these negative effects, people who take Accutane are required by doctors to submit themselves for blood tests regularly and get a new prescription every 30 days. This can be quite intimidating, which is why Accutane is often a treatment of last resort for particularly severe cases of acne.
Before being prescribed Isotretinoin, many acne sufferers have already explored many over-the-counter acne treatments. If you have severe or stubborn acne that won’t go away, talking to a dermatologist is always a good idea. While there are many over-the-counter Accutane alternatives available today, the active ingredient in Accutane, Isotretinoin, is only available by prescription. Of course, there are many other treatments for acne, but the only Accutane alternatives that contain Isotretinoin are other prescription drugs.
Below, we’ve rounded up eight of the most powerful OTC acne treatments. While these alternatives are not the same as Accutane medically, they can be effective at treating mild to severe acne. Take a scroll through and find the right option for you.
1. Differin Adapalene Gel
Accutane, which is also known as isotretinoin, is an oral retinoid. Therefore, popular alternatives to Accutane also fall into the retinoid category. However, most over-the-counter options are topical applications, like this Differein Adapalene Gel. All retinoids work to unclog pores and slow down the skin cell renewal process so pores don’t get clogged again in the future. Use this FDA-approved, topical cream once a day for the best results.
2. Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 Acne Medication
This acne medication was once only available through a doctor’s prescription, so it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular OTC Accutane alternative. Like many of the most effective acne treatments, this Clean & Clear Maximum Strength gel contains Benzoyl Peroxide. What sets this treatment apart is that it contains 10% Benzoyl Peroxide. Typically, a prescription is required for higher dosages of this drug. This fast-acting acne treatment helps fight breakouts and restore clear skin.
3. Clean & Clear Acne Triple Clear Facial Cleanser
BEST DAILY SALICYLIC ACID CLEANSER
Clean & Clear Acne Triple Clear Cleanser treats acne on three fronts: it removes pore-clogging oil from the face, calms inflamed skin and stops future breakouts. Specifically, this acne treatment contains salicylic acid. After Isotretinoin and Benzoyl Peroxide, salicylic acid is one of the most effective acne treatments, and it is available without a prescription. This daily facial cleanser can help fight acne and stop embarrassing breakouts.
4. Tea Tree Oil
MOST NATURAL TREATMENT
If you’re searching for a more natural alternative to Accutane, consider using tea tree oil. This essential oil has been used medicinally for decades thanks to its anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. Recent studies also show that the oil may also be anti-inflammatory. All of these properties add up to a recipe for success in treating some forms of acne. The oil works to kill the bacteria causing the acne, resulting in clearer skin. Just be sure to mix the essential oil with a carrier oil before using it on your skin.
5. Eva Naturals Niacinamide Vitamin B3 Serum
Niacinamide is a water-soluble derivative of vitamin B3, which has been shown to slow cytokine release and to inhibit the expression of the interleukin-8 gene, which promotes inflammation in genetically predisposed individuals. It’s available in both an oral OTC and topical OTC treatment, but we recommend this Eva Naturals Niacinamide Vitamin B3 Serum. It’s designed to promote the fading of acne scars and dark spots from your skin. And, as an added bonus, it may also work to firm up your skin, providing a younger appearance for your face.
6. NOW Supplements Pantothenic Acid
One of the most popular natural alternatives to Accutane is pantothenic acid. This supplement works to limit the secretion of excess sebum just like Accutane, and it can help decrease the intensity of breakouts. Pantothenic acid is also known to benefit healthy cellular metabolism while aiding in the production of energy from fats. In particular, the NOW Supplements Pantothenic Acid comes with 250 capsules of this B-complex vitamin.
7. CeraVe SA Cream
If you feel that exfoliation helps your acne but you don’t want to damage your skin, try using a salicylic acid cream like the CeraVe SA Cream. Salicylic acid can actually help prevent your pores from becoming clogged. This CeraVe cream also contains three ceramides to restore your skin’s natural protective barrier and therefore prevent future breakouts while treating any current pimples.
8. Dr Song Benzoyl Peroxide Wash
Benzoyl peroxide is probably the second most popular OTC acne treatment available after retinoids, which is why it’s one of the best Accutane alternatives. This topical application works to kill acne-causing bacteria and rarely causes serious side effects. If you have mild to moderate acne, try the Dr Song Benzoyl Peroxide Wash, which can be used on the face, body or back. Just remember to wash your hands thoroughly after use as this solution can have a bleaching effect on clothing and towels.
9. Olay Vitamin C Face Mask Kit
BEST FACE MASK
Using a chemical peel is one of the easiest at-home treatments for persistent acne. Peels help to remove excess sebum and therefore unclog pores. There are several types of peels, including those made from glycolic acid, synthetic ingredients and alpha hydroxy acid, but we recommend trying the AHA peel included in this Olay Vitamin C Face Mask Kit. It’s formulated to leave you with brighter, healthier skin.
10. Lightstim® for Acne
BEST ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT
Blue light therapy has been used successfully to treat pimples that are resistant to oral and topical medicines in recent dermatological trials, and light therapy for acne has been a hot trend in the beauty world this year. We recently featured a luxury red light therapy device, which is also touted as a curative for a variety of medical problems. Lightstim® for Acne is an FDA-cleared light therapy device that combines blue and red wavelengths of light to treat mild to moderate acne.