In all the years I’ve been researching acne, I’ve consistently read in most dermatology texts, “there is no cure for acne.” Until a few years ago, I echoed this prevailing wisdom in my writing for Acne.org. However, during my rewrite of Acne.org for our mobile-friendly web site–which is coming soon–I decided to start referring to Accutane (isotreinoin) as a “cure” more plainly in certain circumstances. This is not to say that I feel any differently than I ever have about Accutane. My personal opinion is that it is best left for more severe cases of acne, especially if one tends to scar.

Merriam-Webster defines cure as “a complete or permanent solution or remedy.” This is what Accutane provides for the majority of people who take it. Clinical research shows long-term remission of acne symptoms in approximately 2/3 of people who take an adequate dosage (1mg/kg). Therefore, I feel it is time for me to plainly use the word “cure” in certain circumstances when referring to Accutane, while at the same time noting that it cures most people, but not all people.

A still unanswered question?: I do not recall reading any studies on Accutane (isotretinoin) which follow up with participants past the five year mark, checking in on remission. If any of you have read a study like this, please contact me to let me know. If we do not have good data on this, then we cannot comment with complete certainty on long-term remission. However, anecdotally, based on years of input from Acne.org members, the effects of Accutane tend to be permanent.

A note on the permanency of Accutane: The permanency of Accutane is a reflection of the drug’s power, but also brings urgency to the need to consciously enter into a careful decision-making process alongside a trusted physician if you decide to pursue Accutane treatment.