Accutane skincare routine & essential products: Ultimate guide

Got your tablets in hand and feel ready to kickstart your accutane acne treatment? Hold up a second; there’s one super important thing left to think about: your accutane skincare routine.

Accutane totally transformed my skin and, while I won’t deny that those 6 months were pretty tough, it was well worth it in the end. Hello, clear skin! Now that my time on accutane is over and done with, I want to share my experience in the hope that I can make your accutane experience that little bit easier.

The right accutane skincare products can make your treatment 10x easier to deal with. Don’t get me wrong; you’re likely to experience skin dryness and sensitivity on accutane no matter what products you use. It just comes with the territory. But getting stocked up on accutane skincare essentials could mean the difference between mild dryness and tightness vs flakes of skin quite literally falling off your face at every opportunity.

FYI, I know exactly how it feels to be skint with acne and not be able to afford the ridiculously expensive products that everyone recommends to you, which is why I’ve made sure to include plenty of accutane-friendly products for under £5.

With that said, here’s my accutane skincare routine and product recommendations.

Accutane for acne

Accutane skincare routine & tips

I’ve discovered so many more accurate-friendly skincare products since then, but here’s exactly what I used when I was on accutane in 2019:

This was a simple, budget-friendly accutane skincare routine that did a great job at preventing any horrendous skin dryness.

How to put together an accutane skincare routine

I’m no dermatologist, but I’d highly recommend following the accutane skincare routine template below. It will help to keep your skin balanced and hydrated during treatment.

At night, you can basically repeat the same routine, but skip the SPF and, if you want to, incorporate a hydrating mask. I’d also recommend having some ultra-moisturising, balm-type creams on hand to spot-apply on any super dry or irritated patches.

If you’re really not a 7-step-skincare-routine kinda gal (don’t worry, I get that), at the very minimum, get yourself a gentle face wash (soap and shower gel will only dry your skin out), a moisturiser and a facial SPF to prevent sun damage. Remember, your skin is more sensitive to sunlight whilst on accutane; it’s extremely important to prevent burning (and tbh, tanning in general) whilst on this medicine.

Check out my accutane for acne guide after you’re finished on this page. I cover everything I wish I knew (that’s a lot) before starting and share my experience and side-effects, too!

Accutane skincare routine essentials

Now, onto the good stuff! Here’s a list of all the products I’d recommend trying if you’re on accutane. I’ve split them into the categories I mentioned above, so that you can pick 1 from each if you do want to follow my 7-step routine suggestion. I’ve also made sure to include at least 1 super budget-friendly (£5 or under) product in each category if possible.

While I didn’t try all of these products whilst on accutane myself, I’ve tried them since and have made sure to only include products that I know are well-suited to dry and sensitive skin.

Accutane skincare essentials

Just a little disclaimer: I know that there are so many more incredible brands and products out there that I haven’t tried yet, but this is just what I’ve enjoyed for my own skin. I can’t guarantee they’ll work the same way on your skin.

Accutane-friendly make-up removers

If you wear heavy eye make-up or a heavy base, I’d recommend roughly removing your make-up using a cleansing oil or water before washing your face. This step will loosen your makeup, so you don’t have to scrub so hard whilst washing your face.

Your eyes are likely to be a little more sensitive whilst on accutane, but the products below won’t sting. Promise!

Simple Micellar Water: £2.95 – £4.95

If you’re on a budget and looking for gentle, accutane-friendly products, Simple is an all-round great brand. The Simple Micellar Water does exactly what it says on the tin (I still regularly use it now) – it removes make-up, even the waterproof kind, without causing any irritation. When stuff like this exists, I honestly don’t know why it’s worth spending more.

Available at: Boots | Amazon | Superdrug

Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil: £3.49 – £6.99

Told you I loved Simple! If oil is more your jam, try the Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil. I like to use an oil-based cleanser to remove heavy eye makeup. This one melts away stubborn make-up, without having to scrub, which you definitely don’t want to do on accutane!

Available at: Boots | Amazon | Superdrug

Garnier Micellar Water: £2.99 – £3.99

The Garnier Micellar Water is an absolute classic, right? It’ll remove your make-up with ease and feels like actual water, so there’s no need to worry about irritation. I’d particularly recommend the oil-infused version – it’s like micellar water and cleansing oil all in one. Plus points that it’s basically available in any UK supermarket, as well as Boots and Superdrug, and is often on offer.

Available at: Boots | Amazon | LookFantastic | Superdrug

Accutane-friendly face washes

Next up, it’s time to wash your face. If I could give you one single piece of advice for your accutane skincare routine it’d be to ditch any face washes targeted towards acne-prone or oily skin. Medicated face washes from the pharmacy, or any with acne-fighting ingredients (salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, for example), are also a no-go. All they’ll do is dry your skin out even more.

Most people wash their face twice a day, but if you are experiencing dryness on accutane, it’s worth scaling it back to once a day. Be gentle whilst washing your face (no scrubbing allowed!) and try not to let the face wash sit on your face for too long.

Here are a few non-drying, accutane skincare routine face washes to try.

Simple Moisturising Face Wash: £1.50 – £3

On a budget? You can pick up the vegan, moisturising, fragrance-free, soap-free (that’s a good thing) Simple Moisturising Face Wash for under £3. I’ve used this on-and-off since I was a teenager and it removes makeup and cleanses the skin really well, without stripping the skin. Accutane-friendly and budget-friendly? It’s a total winner!

Available at: Boots | Amazon | Superdrug 

2022 update: I love Simple Gel Face Wash even more than their moisturising wash and think it’d be a great one for an accutane skincare routine – it’s so light and non-drying! Find it at Boots, Amazon or Superdrug.

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser: £5.50

Who doesn’t love The Ordinary? Their simple Squalene Cleanser contains squalene, a hydrator that’s naturally found in the skin. I happily got through a bottle of this and found it noticeably less stripping than other face washes, making it super accutane-friendly. It feels lovely and balm-like when applied to the skin, too – insanely luxurious for the price!

Available at: Boots | Amazon | LookFantastic | BeautyBay 

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser: £7.75 – £10

CeraVe is a popular choice amongst the accutane community on Instagram; and for good reason. Their affordable Hydrating Cleanser is free from any nasties and contains 3 essential ceramides to help protect the skin barrier, as well as Hyaluronic Acid to help retain the skin’s natural moisture. I’m using it at the moment and it’s super gentle, but removes my make-up well. They have a foaming version too, but I’d recommend non-foaming face washes if you’re on accutane as they’re less drying.

Read my full Cerave Hydrating Cleanser review.

Available at: Boots | LookFantastic | BeautyBay | Amazon

Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm: £10.99

I’ve only discovered the Inkey List in the past year or so (I love them!), but I’m confident that their Oat Cleansing Balm would be perfect for anyone an accutane skincare routine. Everyone knows that oats are super soothing; and this product is formulated with oat kernel oil and colloidal oatmeal to hydrate and moisturise. The Inkey List themselves state that this would be perfect for sensitive skin and it doubles-up as a hydrating mask, too!

Available at: Boots | LookFantastic | Amazon

Accutane-friendly hydrating serums

A hydrating serum is by no means essential, but it will help to ward off extreme dryness, whilst helping to keep your skin hydrated and happy. My main tip for picking an accutane-friendly serum would be to avoid products with active ingredients like retinol, niacinamide, vitamin C and acids. They’re too harsh whilst you’re on accutane – look for simple serums with hydrating, calming ingredients instead.

Superdrug Simply Pure Hydrating Serum: £3.49

The insanely budget-friendly Simply Pure Hydrating Serum serum is incredible for the price. When it went semi-viral across Reddit’s SkincareAddictionUK, I gave it a try and totally understood what all the hype was about. It’s fragrance-free, designed to replenish and nourish sensitive skin (hello, accutane users), sinks into the skin beautifully and contains ceramides to lock moisture into the skin. Winner all-round, at a bargain price.

Simple Hydrating Booster: £6.49 – £6.99

I told you Simple would feature throughout this guide! The Simple Hydrating Booster is another budget-friendly, thirst-quenching product. It’s quite lightweight – the thin, watery texture feels like a literal ‘drink’ for your skin. I’d particularly recommend this one for hot summer days when you don’t want to load on too much product; or for anyone who doesn’t like the feeling of rich or heavy serums.

Available at: Boots | Superdrug | Amazon

Hyaluronic acid serums

I love, love, love hyaluronic acid. I used it throughout my spironolactone and accutane treatments and still use it every day without fail. A single gram of hyaluronic acid (HA) is able to hold up to six litres of water (I know, crazy), giving it a unique ability to retain moisture in the skin. And that’s a huge benefit for anyone on accutane!

There are so many Hyaluronic Acid serums out there, but these are the ones I’ve tried and enjoyed. The first 2 are around the same price, while the La Roche Posay and Hada Labo are a little pricier (you do get a much bigger bottle of Hada Labo, though!). I would say I noticed much more of a plumping and hydrating effect from these – but honestly, it’s not necessarily worth the extra cash unless you really do have the money to spare. The others are just fine!

✓ Revolution Hyaluronic Acid – £4-6: Boots | LookFantastic | Amazon | BeautyBay
✓ The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid – £6.40: Boots | LookFantastic | BeautyBay | Amazon
✓ Hada Labo Super Hydrator – £17.95:
Amazon | Superdrug
✓ La Roche Posay B5 Hyaluronic Acid Serum – £28.95:
Boots | Amazon | LookFantastic | Superdrug

Make sure to apply Hyaluronic Acid to damp skin. In order for it to hold onto moisture, the moisture needs actually to be there. I either apply it straight after a shower, or if I’ve waited a little too long, I’ll spritz my face with Avene Thermal Water before applying.

Accutane skincare serum The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid

Accutane-friendly oils

Scared of oils? I know that, if you’re an acne sufferer, slathering oil on your face could give you major anxiety. But don’t be scared of them – if you use the right ones, they won’t break you out. Plus, while you’re on accutane, oils will be much more effective than moisturising than most lotions and creams. I often used to mix a drop or two into my moisturiser and *bam*, it seriously took the moisturisation up a notch.

In terms of oils to avoid, it’d have to be coconut oil, mineral oils and olive oil. They’re heavy and comedogenic, meaning they could cause breakouts. The following oils would be a good addition to any accutane skincare routine:

The Ordinary Borage Seed Oil: £4.20

If you’ve got real oil fear, The Ordinary Borage Seed Oil is another great one to try. It’s super nourishing and really helps to soothe dry skin (mostly down to its high concentration of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), but is particularly well tolerated by those who’re acne-prone. For under a fiver, you really can’t go wrong.

Warning: It has a slightly funny smell!

Available at: Boots | LookFantastic | BeautyBay | Amazon

The Ordinary Squalene: £7.70

Squalene is naturally produced by the sebaceous (oil) glands in your skin to hydrate and maintain the moisture barrier. It’s non-comedogenic (won’t break you out) and will help to trap moisture in your skin. Such a good oil – actually, seriously underrated in my opinion. This Squalene Oil is one of The Ordinary‘s cheaper products too, so it’s a win-win if I ever did see one. The Inkey List has one too.

Available at: Boots | Amazon | LookFantastic | BeautyBay

Botanics Simply Calm Facial Oil with Hemp: £7.66

I’ve only dicovered the Botanics Simply Calm Hemp Oil recently, which I think would be a major boost for accutane skin. I love hemp-infused skincare products; they’re just incredibly calming. If your skin is feeling sensitive or stressed out, this will help. It’s very rich and will provide instant relief and nourishment. Plus points? Botanic is often on 3 for 2, so keep an eye out!

Available at: Boots

Accutane-friendly moisturisers

Moisturiser, moisturiser, moisturiser… if you get one thing right in your accutane skincare routine, make it this. Accutane works by literally reducing the amount of sebum produced by your sebaceous glands, so it’s essential to apply moisturiser religiously during your treatment. Slap it on morning and night, without fail – trust me on this one!

I asked on my Instagram story for suggestions for this one (from people who’ve been on accutane themselves), but only included the ones I’ve also tried and would recommend personally.

The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors: £5

If you’re on a real budget for your accutane skincare routine, this is the moisturiser I’d recommend. It’s under a fiver and, compared to other budget moisturisers (Simple, for example), it’s quite rich and nourishing. Natural Moisturising Factors has all those fancy ingredients you’d expect in a more expensive moisturiser (think hyaluronic acid, ceramides, amino acids), but comes at such a bargain price.

Available at: Boots | BeautyBay | Amazon | LookFantastic

Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion: £6 – £8.99

The simple, fragrance-free Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion is ideal if you have very sensitive skin. It’s extremely gentle, but still does a good job at hydrating and calming the skin. It’s so gentle, in fact, that I’ve used this over very sore spots and cracked skin in the past, with no issues. If your skin is feeling a little sore and you’re after something lightweight, rather than rich, this one’s a good’un.

Available at: Boots | Amazon | Superdrug | LookFantastic 

CeraVe Moisturising Cream & Lotion: £10 – £16

Who doesn’t love CeraVe? This brand is an all-round accutane winner. They have two different moisturisers, both of which are enhanced with 3 essential ceramides to keep your skin’s moisturiser strong. They both also contain hydrating hyaluronic acid, which (as you might have guessed by now) I love!

Here’s a quick run-down on what I thought of both:

  • CeraVe Moisturising Cream (tub): This one’s the thicker of the two, with a richer, creamier consistency. In my opinion, the best option for accutane.
  • CeraVe Moisturising Lotion (bottle): This one’s a little lighter/thinner than the cream, but is definitely still hydrating enough for day-to-day use. Might be a better option for anyone who really dislikes thick moisturisers. Read my full CeraVe Moisturising Lotion review.

Available at: Boots | Amazon | Superdrug | LookFantastic | BeautyBay

Science of Skin Rescue No.One: £14 – £18.99

I used this whilst on accutane and still to this day. As well as being super nourishing, this product is formulated to tackle and prevent the appearance of scars caused by spots or acne. It does this whilst being super gentle, unlike many other scar-treatments – which is why I think it’s a great product for accutane users. If you get an initial breakout (where your skin gets a little worse, before it gets better), you can use this morning and night to reduce the likelihood of scars.

It’s also packed with natural ingredients like green tea and Magnolia Bark to calm stressed-out, sensitive skin and reduce the appearance of redness and, let me tell you… it really does work. Read my full Science of Skin Rescue No.One review.

Available at: Amazon

Avene Tolerance Extreme: £15.85

I tried the Avene Tolerance Extreme while I was on spironolactone (my skin was incredibly dehydrated for the first few weeks!) and it was helpful. This rich, soothing and hydrating daily moisturiser only contains 7 essential ingredients to leave skin feeling nourished, but not stifled. It almost feels like silk when it goes on and is really good at calming redness, too. I’ve loved all the Avene products that I’ve tried, especially when my skin is feeling sensitive, so they’re a great brand to check out in general during your accutane treatment.

Available at: Boots | LookFantastic | Amazon

Accutane-friendly eye creams

Eye creams definitely divide the skincare community –necessary or a complete waste of time and money? I sit somewhere in the middle!

If you’re on a budget, your regular moisturiser should do just fine. However, if your under eyes are particularly dry or you simply enjoy investing in skincare, adding this extra step can give your under eyes that extra (and often much-needed) dose of hydration on accutane.

I only have a couple of tried-and-tested eye cream suggestions (and they’re pretty damn predictable). Let me know if you know of any others that  I should add to the list!

Avene Eau Thermale Soothing Eye Cream: £8.7 – £10.75

I know, it’s predictable – but honestly, Avene is just the perfect brand for accutane. Their soothing Eye Contour Cream is incredibly gentle and does a great job at calming and hydrating irritated under-eye skin. It’s also hypoallergenic and free from fragrance and other nasties, so I’m confident it’s a great choice for your accutane skincare routine.

Available at: Boots | LookFantastic | Superdrug | Amazon

CeraVe Eye Repair Cream: £12.50

The CeraVe Eye Repair Cream has the same ceramide plus hyaluronic acid formulation as the CeraVe moisturiser, but feels thicker and creamier for that much-needed under-eye moisture boost. This is definitely a basic, budget eye cream, but basic is normally the best choice for sensitive accutane skin anyway. Simple, light, affordable, hydrating and non-irritating—what more could you really need?

Available at: Boots | Amazon | Superdrug | LookFantastic | BeautyBay

Accutane skincare routine recommendations

Accutane-friendly balms & ointments

What do you mean ‘balms & ointments’, I hear you say? I mean some intensely rich, moisturising, thick, repairing creams. You probably wouldn’t want to apply these sorts of creams over your entire face (unless it’s as a 10-minute mask/treatment), but they’re great to have on hand to dab on any stubborn or irritated dry patches of skin.

Aqueous Cream: Around £3

Aqueous cream is normally used for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, but trust me when I say it’ll be your new best friend on accutane if you’re on a budget. It works by trapping water into your skin; hence, helping to retain moisture on the skin’s surface. It’s non-irritating and suitable for even the most sensitive of skins on accutane. Keep some handy for your driest patches and thank me later—it’s normally only 2 quid or so!

La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5: £8

Good old La Roche Posay! Their Cicaplast Baume (a Caroline Hirons fave!) is a soothing, protective, multi-use balm. It can be used on your lips or on dry or cracked skin for instant hydration and relief. Pop one of these in your bag and slather it on whatever area needs a bit of immediate TLC. You get 100ml for less than a tenner and a little goes a long way.

Available at: Boots | LookFantastic | Amazon | Superdrug

Aquaphor: £9

If you look on Reddit or Instagram skincare communities, you’ll see that this is a cult classic amongst accutane users. Aquaphor ‘supports the skin’s own regeneration process, while conditioning and moisturising the skin’ and can be used on the lips, hands, body and face, making it a real accutane multi-tasker. This is the priciest in this category, but I’d say it’s the most effective option for anyone with particularly painful/cracked areas of skin.

Available at: Amazon | Boots | LookFantastic

Accutane-friendly SPFs

Accutane makes your skin extra sensitive to sunlight, so an SPF 30+ is an absolute must-have in your accutane skincare routine. You should apply it daily, even in the winter, but make sure to be extra careful on hot/sunny days. Accutane sunburn can be bad – I’ve seen some real horror stories! So, wear sunglasses, stay out of direct sunlight and make sure to apply SPF throughout the day. 

In total honesty, I haven’t tried many SPFs so the two below are my absolute holy grails.

Cetaphil Daily Defence SPF50: £12.99

Fragrance-free, super gentle and non-irritating… sounds like an accutane skincare routine perfect match! The Cetaphil Daily Defence Moisturiser with SPF50 is thicker than the La Roche Posay option I linked above, which may actually make it a better option for an accutane skincare routine. It definitely packs a moisturising punch – so much so, that I often don’t feel that I need a moisturiser underneath it. Great for anyone who wants a moisturiser and SPF in one simple step!

Read my Cetaphil Daily Defence SPF50 review.

Available at: Boots | LookFantastic | Amazon | Superdrug

La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF50: £13.50 – £18

This is my favourite of the bunch! It’s light and thin – almost watery, in fact – but I like that it absorbs so easily and doesn’t feel greasy on the skin. This one is specifically formulated for sensitive skin, with high-protection broad-spectrum SPF (basically, it’s a good’un). It doesn’t leave a white cast either, unlike most other SPF50 creams.

Available at: Boots | LookFantastic | Amazon | Superdrug

Accutane-friendly lip balms

One of the most common side-effects of accutane is dry, cracked lips. I’ve experienced this personally; it was probably the worst side-effect I had. The side of my mouth was cracked on-and-off for the entirety of my treatment and the only thing that would heal it is the constant application of lip balm. While I love classic Carmex and Vaseline, they didn’t quite cut it for my accutane skincare routine. Make sure to stock up on medicated and ultra-nourishing balms – here are my recommendations.

Blistex Relief Cream: £2.99

If you’re looking for a lip balm that you can grab for under a fiver at any old UK shop or supermarket, the Blistex Relief Cream is the one. This is a medicated balm to relieve chapped lips and has a weirdly thin, almost runny texture compared to other lip balms I’ve tried. Regardless, it definitely does what it claims to. I reckon this one would work really well with a dab of Aquaphor on top as an overnight lip treatment.

Available at: Amazon | Boots | Superdrug

Nipple cream (yes, really): £5 – £15

I know this sounds weird, but hear me out a second. If you’re on a budget, nipple cream is a great option for your lips during accutane. They’re completely safe for your mouth (remember, they’re made to soothe the nipples of breastfeeding mums) and are incredibly hydrating. Cover your lips in a pea-sized amount of nipple cream and watch the magic happen!

Available at: Amazon | Boots

La Roche Posay Cicaplast Repairing Lip Balm: £5.25 – £7

This was my go-to lip balm on accutane! It’s extremely soothing and helped to heal my lips when they were flaking and chapped when nothing else would. La Roche Posay claims the Cicaplast Lip Balm has a ‘physical and biological barrier treatment to soothe and nourish the skin, preventing future chapping’ and I’d agree entirely. Love this stuff – highly recommend it!

Available at: Boots | LookFantastic | Amazon

Eucerin Aquaphor: £9

Remember the Aquaphor balm I mentioned earlier? Yep, slather the same one on your lips – it works like a charm! Eucerin also has an Aquaphor Intensive Lip Balm that I’ve tried (albeit not while I was on accutane), which did a great job at hydrating my lips. Regardless, my gut says to just go for the standard cream and use it as a multi-tasking product.

Available at: Amazon | Boots | LookFantastic

20mg accutane tablet

Accutane skincare routine

Wow, that was a long one! I hope this accutane skincare routine guide has helped you to find some suitable products for your treatment. I’m sending you lots of love – I hope your treatment goes well. If you have any questions, advice or simply need a pep talk to get you through accutane, feel free to message me on Instagram or email me on alicelang@live.com.

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