Can Accutane Cause Faster Aging?

Acne is often considered a hallmark of puberty and adolescent hormonal changes. For some, however, acne isn't a teenage rite of passage — it's a severe skin condition that lasts for years. In fact, 20% of acne cases occur in adults (per WebMD). And the presence of pesky bumps and blemishes during a person's 20s, 30s, and even later can be especially difficult to deal with. "Because fewer of their peers have it, adult acne is more socially isolating than teenage acne, and it can have a tremendous impact on a person's life," Dr. John S. Barbieri, an acne specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told The New York Times.

Treatments are available, from topical creams to chemical peels (per Mayo Clinic). One of the strongest treatments for severe and stubborn acne, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), is isotretinoin, often referred to by the brand name Accutane.

There are several commonly noted side effects of Accutane including skin irritation, aches and pains, digestive issues, and depression. Could faster aging be another effect that's often overlooked?

It's all in the side effects

Accutane has a powerful effect on blemished skin, clearing most acne lesions within a few months, as per the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD). However, it may also affect the skin in ways that could speed up aging.

Although Accutane works by limiting the skin's oil production, leading to fewer breakouts (per WebMD), this often leads to dryness and chapped skin, a side effect that impacts up to 90% of users (via AOCD). As Mayo Clinic explains, dry skin may lead to premature wrinkles and creases.

Another common side effect of Accutane, says the American Academy of Dermatology Association, is sun sensitivity. People taking the medication may be more likely to get a sunburn, especially if they forego sunblock and protective wear. Sun damage can cause faster aging, including fine lines and dark spots on the skin (per Yale Medicine).

Though the effects of Accutane could include premature aging, the jury is still out, according to While there is some anecdotal evidence that the acne treatment could hurt skin in the long run, more research is needed.

Can Accutane save aging skin?

While Accutane could have the potential to cause faster skin aging, some evidence also suggests the opposite — that it may actually treat signs of aging. One 2009 study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology & Venereology showed that low doses of isotretinoin improved the appearance of sun-damaged skin. Another 2015 study published in Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia revealed that the medication might increase collagen and improve elasticity in the skin.

However, given the conflicting evidence and risks associated with Accutane, it may not be worth trying for just anti-aging. According to First Derm, most dermatologists would unlikely prescribe the medication to treat aging skin alone due to its severe side effects. Additionally, a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology also concluded that Accutane shouldn't be used for aging until more research is done on its safety and efficacy.

People worried about skin aging, whether they've taken Accutane before or not, can slow down wear and tear by slathering on sunblock, quitting smoking, and using topical skincare products containing antioxidants and peptides (per WebMD).