Isotretinoin (Accutane) is approved to treat people with severe acne. Typically, in order to achieve the best chance of long term acne remission, doctors are advised to prescribe patients relatively high doses of Accutane. Researchers have published two studies in the past two years attempting to gauge whether people with mild to moderate acne can achieve similar long term remission of acne with lower dosages of Accutane, and thus achieve similar success with lower side effects.

Study 1: Italian researchers looked at 150 people with “mild to moderate acne,” although most of them (114) were considered “moderate.” The average person only received around 3/4 of the amount of Accutane that is normally prescribed. After two years, only 13 people had relapsed, which comes to 9.35%, a very good relapse rate, even when compared with high doses of Accutane across the general population.  Note: After their Accutane course, the people in this study were then put on 1 full year of topical adapalene therapy which somewhat confuses the results of the study. 

Study 2: In this study, Korean researchers studied 60 people with “moderate” acne. These people were given either conventional treatment, low-dose treatment, or intermittent treatment (1 week out of each month). Although the amount of people studied was small, and thus we need to take these results less seriously than larger studies, outcomes were similar between people taking conventional and low-dose treatment. One year after therapy was discontinued, 2 out of 16 people in the conventional group and 3 out of 17 people in the low-dose group relapsed. Note: People on intermittent therapy did not fair nearly as well. More than half of these patients relapsed.

What I take from this: As usual, more research is needed on this topic. However, from what these researchers are seeing, as long as someone is not suffering with severe acne, they may be able to get away with less Accutane, and thus suffer lower incidence of side effects. I’ll keep you posted as more research on this topic comes to light. As always, please keep discussing your own personal experiences with Accutane on the messageboards so we can follow along with your particular dosage and results.


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  • Josh

    Now if i could just go to a dermatologist and get low dose accutane for my moderate acne. I just know if i go they’ll just tell me that i don’t know what i’m talking about then try to prescribe me more topicals that really aren’t any better than what you can pick up at CVS. I’m currently on Dan’s Regimen and it helps but i forever have some acne and the dryness/oilyness is killing me. Stupid acne.

  • Nicole

    I agree with Josh. I had used Accutane in my early 20’s for what I considered persistent moderate acne. It was not cystic. I am now 37 and have had moderate adult acne,not cystic again! I have tried so much oral and topical prescriptions that it is sickening. My dermatologist now refuses to put me on Accutane stating that Accutane is only used for cystic acne. It did wonders for me for many years before and I was almost handed the script upon request. I was in more “child bearing” years then. I was not on oral on birth control as I am now. I did however use an IUD and said I used another method. Now I am on oral birth control and I have already had the children I plan to ever have. The chances of me irresponsibly getting pregnant then where way greater then than they are now. I am only two weeks into the regimen and it is very frustrating. I am sticking to it though. I do have to say to however, Accutane is not a miracle. My skin was painfully dry everywhere,not just my face! .My lips cracked.I Slathered aquaphor several times a day to no avail..winter was worse. I was constantly nauseated for months even though I took it as recommended. In the end, it was worth it and my skin was the best it has ever been..gorgeous. But, it did come back in my early 30’s when that is the last thing you would ever expect. Hopefully, with the regimen, we can get similar if not the same results that last without the extreme side effects.