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 skincare routine
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:
- Removed my makeup with Garnier Micellar Oil-Infused Cleansing Water
- Washed my face with Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser or Simple Moisturising Face Wash
- Applied The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid Serum to my skin whilst damp
- Dabbed a tiny bit of The Ordinary Argan Oil around my nose and under my eyes
- Moisturised with Science of Skin Rescue No.One
- Protected my skin with La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF50+
- Put La Roche Posay Cicaplast Lip Balm on my lips
- Dabbed Aquaphor on any particularly dry areas
This was a simple, budget-friendly routine, which 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.
- Gentle makeup remover
- Soap-free face wash
- Hydrating serum or oil
- Fragrance-free moisturisers
- Hydrating eye cream
- Non-comedogenic SPF
- Hydrating lip balm
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-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 roaccutane; it’s extremely important to prevent burning (and tbh, tanning in general) whilst on this medicine.
Roaccutane skincare essentials
Now, into 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.
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
If you’re on a budget and looking for gentle, accutane-friendly products, Simple is an all-round great brand. This 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.
Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil
Told you I loved Simple! If oil is more your jam, try this one. 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!
Garnier Micellar Water
This one’s a 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.
La Roche-Posay Eye Make-Up Remover
La Roche-Posay is a fail-proof line to try during your treatment. All of their products are hypoallergenic and made with sensitive skin in mind. If you have a bigger budget and want a product that’ll remove your makeup in a literal flash, this is a good bet. It’s probably the best eye make-up remover I’ve ever tried (I’m just a bit of a bargain hunter and prefer to go for cheaper products for everyday use).
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
On a budget? You can pick up this vegan, moisturising, fragrance-free, soap-free (that’s a good thing) 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!
Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm
I’ve only discovered the Inkey List in the past year or so (I love them!), but I’m confident that this face wash would be perfect for anyone on accutane. 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!
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
This was my go-to face wash on accutane. I’d describe this as an extremely gentle, no-frills face wash that simply does the job you want it to do. Don’t expect anything super creamy or luxe, but do expect a non-irritating cleanser that’ll remove all traces of make-up. If you are experiencing sensitivity accutane, this will be a good choice for you.
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
CeraVe is a popular choice amongst the accutane community on Instagram; and for good reason. This affordable face wash 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.
The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser
Who doesn’t love The Ordinary? This simple 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!
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
This insanely budget-friendly 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
I told you Simple would feature throughout this guide! This 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.
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 4 are around the same price, while the La Roche Posay is quite pricey. I would say I noticed much more of a plumping and hydrating effect from this one—but honestly, it’s not necessarily worth the extra cash unless you really do have the money to spare. The others are just fine!
- The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid
- Q&A Hyaluronic Acid
- Revolution Hyaluronic Acid
- Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid
- La Roche Posay HyaluB5 Hyaluronic Acid
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.
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 Squalane
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 is one of The Ordinary‘s cheapest products too, so it’s a win-win if I ever did see one. The Inkey List has one too.
The Ordinary Argan Oil
This was my personal accutane go-to! I love Argan Oil as it’s useful for both hair and skin. It’s packed with skin-loving vitamin E, which can help to improve water retention in the skin. I found that it really helped to soften dry patches, which is why I used it around my nose during my accutane treatment (for some reason, my nose really suffered!). I love how The Ordinary’s Argan Oil is just argan—a lot of others are bulked up with unnecessary ingredients.
Botanics Simply Calm Facial Oil with Hemp
This is one I’ve discovered 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.
I discovered this lesser-known brand through GlossyBox and—omg—instant new fave. They have a few different oils containing 1 or 2 natural ingredients at the max, which is great for your accuante skincare routine. I’ve tried both the strawberry and hemp and enjoyed them both. They mix well with moisturiser and leave my skin feeling soothed and soft.
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
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. It’s got 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.
Science of Skin Rescue No.One
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.
Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion
This super simple, fragrance-free moisturiser 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.
CeraVe Moisturising Cream & Lotion
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.
It’s also worth noting the CeraVe Moisturising Lotion SPF25. I haven’t tried it personally, but if you’re looking for a moisturiser/SPF duo in one, it could be a good bet.
La Roche Posay Toleriane Ultra
If you asked a dermatologist what brand they’d recommend on accutane, I can bet you they’d say La Roche Posay. I’ve used their Toleriane Ultra cream in the past after totally overdoing it on acne-fighting products (think utra-dry, scabby skin) and it completely healed my skin. It’s made to ‘soothe sensitive, reactive skin prone to dryness, tightness, redness, itchiness or burning’, which, let’s be honest, is exactly what anyone with dry, sensitive skin needs.
I’d also recommended La Roche-Posay Nutritic Intense Moisturiser Riche; while I haven’t tried it myself, it sounds like it could be very well suited to accutane skin.
Avene Tolerance Extreme
I tried this 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.
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!
CeraVe Eye Repair Cream
This simple eye 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?
Avene Eau Thermale Soothing Eye Cream
I know, it’s predictable—but honestly, Avene is just the perfect brand for accutane. Their soothing eye 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.
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 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
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.
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.
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 as the one below is my absolute holy grail.
La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF50
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.
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.
Nipple cream (yes, really)
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!
La Roche Posay Cicaplast Repairing Lip Balm
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 it 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!
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.
Blistex Relief Cream
If you’re looking for a lip balm that you can grab for under a fiver at any old UK shop or supermarket, this 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.