Reader Question: I’m on Accutane — How Can I Help My Super-Dry Skin and Lips?

by Janine on 28 January 2013 · 42 comments

Chanel_FW2012This post’s headline is a compilation of questions I’ve received from people struggling with the terrible dryness caused by Accutane, a prescription acne medication that pretty much shuts down the body’s sebum production. With its supply of natural oils cut off, skin can’t retain moisture. Aaaand it’s winter — the very worst time of the year to be stuck dealing with Accutane-dry-out, which can lead to painful cracks in the skin and the lips (my friend Susan underwent Accutane treatments several winters ago — torture, until she got to know several key Avene and La Roche-Posay products).

To soothe the extreme dryness and make skin and lips more comfortable, start with these two steps:

Get a humidifier — or get two, one for your living room or home office and one for your bedroom. Your poor skin needs any extra moisture you can put in the air.

Stock up on La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Recovery Accelerator ($19, — the stuff is miraculous for traumatized skin and lips — read about Cicaplast here. Apply it after serum to flaky skin, and to lips, too.

Now here’s what you need for face, lips and body. You’ll notice a lot of La Roche-Posay and Avene mentions; both lines specialize in soothing stressed-out skin. In fact, Avene has a cleanser and moisturizer designed specifically for people coping with severely dry skin as a result of acne treatments.

CicaplastFace Care

1) Switch to a creamy cleanser. Try Spectro Derm cleanser for dry, sensitive skin ($7.79,, or Avene Clean-AC Cleansing Cream ($27, drugstores) for face and body, which is formulated to soothe irritation and reduce inflammation in skin undergoing harsh acne treatments.

2) Mist face with thermal water.Try Avene Thermal Spring Water Spray ($16, Let moisture sit for a minute, then apply serum/face cream while skin is still a bit damp. (I tend to go on about thermal water, La Roche-Posay and Avene in particular, because they’re sooo good for delicate and upset skin. Read more about La Roche-Posay and Avene thermal spring water here.)

3) Apply hydrating serum on damp skin. Try any of these: all-natural Consonant HydrExtreme ($72/10 mL,; Guerlain Super-Aqua Serum ($150, Guerlain boutiques and department stores); Avene Soothing Hydrating Serum ($44, drugstores); La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Serum ($38.50, drugstores); and Vichy Aqualia Thermal Daily Care Serum ($38, drugstores).

4) Moisturize with a face cream designed for sensitive and/or traumatized skin. Try Avene Clean-AC Hydrating Cream ($24, drugstores), which moisturizes with thermal spring water, helps skin retain moisture with safflower oil, coconut oil, shea butter and glycerin, and reduces inflammation, too. Sunscreen is a must; La Roche-Posay Hydraphase UV SPF 30 ($41, has it built right in. La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Rich Texture ($38, could work as a night version. The La Roche-Posay Toleriane soothing moisturizers are also good bets.

5) Treat super-dry patches with La Roche-Posay Cicaplast. (Seriously, amazing stuff.)

Live Clean Baby Non-Petroleum Jelly_Burt's Bees Baby Bees Multipurpose Ointment_Vaseline Lip Therapy_Polysporin Lip Health Overnight Renewal TherapyLip Care

1) Do not use a toothbrush to buff your lips smooth. That’s just too rough. Instead, very gently rub lips as smooth as you can with a wrung-out hot washcloth.

2) Dab lips with hydrating serum before you apply balm. This one little move made such a difference for me that it’s my new favourite winter tip.

3) Treat lips with Cicaplast if necessary.

4) Layer on a highly emollient, conditioning lip balm formula that helps keep moisture in while it attracts moisture from your surroundings. A waxy balm is not going to do the trick — you need something more like an ointment, a soft texture. Try La Mer The Balm or Rodial Glam Balm Lip. If you’d like something at a lower price point, consider Live Clean Baby Non-Petroleum Jelly ($7.49,, or Burt’s Bees Baby Bees Multipurpose Ointment ($13.29,, both of which are non-petroleum alternatives to Vaseline. They’re made of natural oils and beeswax, which will help nourish your lips as well as keep moisture in. (Vaseline might actually help; it’s so good for noses rubbed raw by tissues when you have a cold.) Also, the new Polysporin Lip Health Overnight ($5.99, drugstores) balm, a creamy, unmedicated blend of petrolatum, lanolin, mineral oil and cocoa seed butter, is pretty good.

La Roche-Posay_Lipikar BalmBody care

1) Use a moisturizing body cleanser. Try La Roche-Posay Lipikar Surgras Concentrated Anti-Dryness Shower Cream (drugstores) or CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser ($17.49,, or previously-mentioned Avene Clean-AC Cleansing Cream ($27, drugstores), which can be used on the face, too.

2) Apply body lotion to still-damp limbs. Try La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm ($34,, or CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion ($17.49, or CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($25.49, Note: if your skin stings when you apply body lotion or cream, don’t freak out. Traumatized skin can do that sometimes; the stinging will go away as the skin heals.

3) Keep a thermal water spray around in case you need to re-apply body moisturizer — mist skin first so there’s moisture to seal in.

Has anyone else had to deal with Accutane? In winter? Do you have any tips to share?

Opening image: Sigrid Agren for Chanel, Fall 2012 haute couture.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

paiiige 28 January 2013 at 11:35 am

Oh god, I still remember the lip balm addiction I experienced during my Accutane days. It was so bad that if I left the house without a tube I would have to immediately go to a drugstore and purchase something new. (And if only I had known about these products back then!)

Another thing for Accutane peeps: DO NOT get anything waxed while you’re on it. Unless you want to replace the hair removed from your eyebrows, say, with giant scabs.


Janine 29 January 2013 at 6:31 pm

I’m like that about balm everyday! And thanks for the waxing tip — such an important reminder. (Also, you have such lovely skin!)


paiiige 30 January 2013 at 12:50 pm

Why thank you :) I did the Accutane thing when I was 15…. and didn’t have a single pimple or blackhead for 7 years. (But the last 7 years… not so much.) My skin is certainly better now than when I was 14 but I wish the results could have lasted longer!


Mascara Mom 29 January 2013 at 9:26 pm

is this something like, if not better than, the celebrated eight hours skin protectant by EA? I can’t decide between the two. Come winter my skin gets super-dry and the upper line of my lips is a disaster…i’ve tried almond oil, argan oil, hydrating serums…apart from the usual lip balms, to soothe the irritated skin, nothing works.


Janine 29 January 2013 at 9:35 pm

Actually, I love EA’s Eight Hour Skin Protectant! I think the key is that whatever you use needs to be rather thickly emollient and have good staying power — the staying power of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, frankly. Petrolatum is a serious sealant; that’s why it works. So far I’ve found the Live Clean and Burt’s Bees versions hold up pretty well and nourish the skin with natural oils and antioxidants.

Did you apply balm over the oils/serums?


Mascara Mom 29 January 2013 at 11:33 pm

yes, have a serious balm addiction…have to have a tube of it everywhere!
So you suggest 8 hours? my skin is pretty ok otherwise, no major healing issues. It just needs to keep that moisture in!


Janine 30 January 2013 at 1:20 pm

Definitely worth trying — and actually, this month Elizabeth Arden released a brand new Eight Hour Cream Intensive Lip Repair Balm ($28) you might want to try. It contains petrolatum as well as shea butter, palm tree butter, an essential-fatty-acids complex, honey extract and antioxidants.


Ferney 3 February 2013 at 6:27 am

I did a long course of Accutane in my early 20s. I have since developed many skin allergies and have continuing problems with dry skin.

I am now 37 and dealing with a non-melanoma skin cancer on my face. (Can’t help but think Accutane may be partially to blame).



Janine 4 February 2013 at 10:14 am

Have you tried Avène or La Roche-Posay for your skin, Ferney? Those two brands are so well known for their soothing abilities. Am so sorry to hear about your ongoing struggle. Thank you for the hugely important reminder about SPF!


Ferney 6 February 2013 at 1:42 pm

Hey Janine,

Thanks for your well wishes.

Yes I am a huge fan of Avène which a dermatologist put me onto years ago. My poor skin just loves it!

I have less experience with La Roche-Posay, but am thinking about picking up some Cicaplast for the scarring post-op.


Janine 6 February 2013 at 1:52 pm

Cicaplast is SO GOOD! I’ve been stocking up on Cicaplast Balm every time I go to Paris; it should soon be available in Canada, but I couldn’t wait. (Liza’s fault — she brought a tube of the balm back for me a few months ago, which triggered an obsession…)


Gabriela 11 February 2013 at 8:00 pm

EUCERINE aquaphor soothing skin balm was the ONLY thing that seemed to work on my cracked horrible lips when i was on accutane couple of months ago.. try it out.


Janine 13 February 2013 at 10:37 am

So many people love Aquaphor — thanks for your suggestion, Gabriela!


Sherry 2 May 2013 at 11:15 pm

Hi, thank you so much for your helpful tips! I was recommend the Avene products which lead me to this post. I have just started Accutane, today is only day 2. So I plan to be well prepared and will also document what products I have used and that worked the best. I wish you could just make me a shopping list of things to buy! Thanks agian! :)


Isabel 8 August 2013 at 4:15 am

Hey! I am on accutane and dealing with horribly dry itchy skin. I just got a tube of cicaplast, after reading this page. But how do I use it? It says on the box to use it on cleansed dry skin. Do I wash my face and just apply it all over? Can I use my cream moisturizer over it after? Or does cream go first then the cicaplast? Also, since the cicaplast contains so many silicones, do I have to use an oil based cleanser to wash it off when I wash my face? Or would a normal gentle cleanser do? I dont want it to clog my pores. Help , please!


Janine 8 August 2013 at 4:25 am

Hi Isabel,

If you have a hydrating facial mist and hydrating serum, use those first then apply the Cicaplast instead of your moisturizer. You shouldn’t need an oil-based remover to wash your face at the end of the day, but an oil cleanser (such as Dermalogica Pre-Cleanse or Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil) is probably a good idea anyway because it won’t strip your skin.

You can also use Cicaplast over your moisturizer if Cicaplast on its own isn’t enough (Cicaplast Baume B5 should be available at Shoppers any day now; that’s the moisturizer version of the Cicaplast ointment). As for clogging pores, I doubt that will be a problem. Keep us posted?


Isabel 8 August 2013 at 1:56 pm

You replied! You’re so kind! Most bloggers I know ignore their readers haha. Feeling a wee bit touched right now. And sadly I live in Malaysia so I have to count on friends coming back from Singapore for my beloved La roche posay line of products. And I am not sure if Singapore has the Cicaplast Baume B5 yet since its so new so I am currently using the LRP Toleraine Ultra as my cream moisturiser.

Anyhoo.. I tried my first application of Cicaplast tonight over my poor skin. I washed with a gentle cleanser, sprayed with Avene Mist, then applied the Cicaplast on damp skin. The itching stopped!!!!!!!! Its still rough but omg its not itchy anymore!!! I can sleep in peace tonight!

I still have questions, would you be so kind as to answer them pretty please? :)
1. I do have Dermalogica Pre-Cleanse, but can I use that alone? It says on the bottle to use it first then follow up with my regular cleanser. Is that really necessary or will the cleansing oil alone be enough? I do double cleanse with the oil first then my regular gentle cleanser after a full day of makeup, but what about in the mornings when I just have my Cicaplast on?

2. And lets say I wanna stick to my regular gentle cleanser instead of the oil for mornings (cause the oil is very very expensive here!) will it be enough to wash off the Cicaplast I put on overnight? I mean that stuff is so chock full of silicones (as a barrier protection I guess). I’m afraid of residues of silicones left and clogging my pores. When you had your microdermabrasion accident and used the Cicaplast day and night, how did you wash your face and reapply it? With just regular cleanser?

3. Can I use the Cicaplast as my daily makeup primer? Since it is so siliconey. Which goes on first? SPF or Cicaplast?

4. I can’t find a serum here that suits my sensitive skin (I’ll keep searching!) so for now I use my LRP Toleraine moisturiser. Its a cream but quite light. If I find that Cicaplast isnt enough on its own, do I use my moisturizer under or over it?

A)Cleanser, Face mist, Toleraine moisturizer, Cicaplast
B) Cleanser, Face mist, Cicaplast, Toleraine moisturiser

and day time..
A) cleanser, face mist, cicaplast, spf, makeup
B) cleanser, face mist, spf, cicaplast, makeup

Ha, that was quite long but basically I am just very confused as to the order of my products and how I should wash the siliconey cicaplast off, esp in the mornings so it won’t clog my pores and I can put my products on fresh clean skin.

Your excellent beauty advice is very much required. Please and thank u! <3


Janine 8 August 2013 at 4:36 pm

Hi Isabel,

I’m so glad your skin likes the Cicaplast! Two things right off the top (the rest will take some time to answer *grin*):

1) Don’t worry about the silicone content of Cicaplast at this point. It simply sits on the top of the skin (exactly as you guessed, it’s barrier protection to seal in the moisture you’ve applied prior) rather than penetrate, and because Accutane shuts off your sebum production, you won’t have trapped-sebum — aka clogged pores — issues. Your gentle cleanser will be just fine.

2) Cicaplast Baume b5 has been available in Europe for a much longer time than it has in Canada. You might get lucky and find it (or have friends who will find it for you) :-)

Stay tuned for answers to the rest; hope to have it ready for you very soon :-)


Isabel 8 August 2013 at 2:27 pm

And oh! my sunscreen is both chemical and physical based. Its La Roche Posay too. The Uvidea XL (available in asian regions). It combines Mexoryl with titanium dioxide. I just read your post about the order of moisturiser n sunscreen. Now im even more confused about the order of my products :’(


Isabel 10 August 2013 at 4:38 am

I found this amazing site! Check it out.
It has aaalll the LRP line of products and Avene and Vichy and so much more and ships for only 2 pounds plus! So u can order from there next time if need be :) I myself ordered a tube of Cicaplast Baume B5, Bioderma Sensibio Micellar solution (curious how that really works, like no water, really?) A real techniques brush, etc etc :) dying to get my hands on the Baume b5. Will use the regular as a primer?? If its possible. Hehe. Just wanted to let u know! Hugs!


Janine 24 August 2013 at 9:32 pm

Hi Isabel! So sorry for the delay! Here are the rest of your answers:

Q. I do have Dermalogica Pre-Cleanse, but can I use that alone? It says on the bottle to use it first then follow up with my regular cleanser. Is that really necessary or will the cleansing oil alone be enough? I do double cleanse with the oil first then my regular gentle cleanser after a full day of makeup, but what about in the mornings when I just have my Cicaplast on?
A. I think it’s best to stick to the cleansing directions on the Pre-Cleanse bottle. In the morning, you can go straight for your gentle face wash. (I used a gentle cleanser when I used Cicaplast after my microdermabrasion ouch. BTW, Bioderma Sensibio is my cannot-live-without-it cleanser. Love it. Here’s an explanation of how micelle cleansers work.)

Q. Can I use the Cicaplast as my daily makeup primer? Since it is so siliconey. Which goes on first? SPF or Cicaplast?
A. Yes, you can use Cicaplast as your daily primer if you like. If your sunscreen has chemical SPF, apply it first, or you won’t get the protection the product promises. (Skin needs to absorb the chem sunscreens in order for them to work.)

Q. I can’t find a serum here that suits my sensitive skin (I’ll keep searching!) so for now I use my LRP Toleraine moisturiser. It’s a cream but quite light. If I find that Cicaplast isn’t enough on its own, do I use my moisturizer under or over it?
A. Use the thinner, more fluid consistency first. In your options, the answer is (b) cleanser, face mist, spf, Cicaplast, makeup.

You may want to consider switching from Toleriane to the LRP Hydraphase range, which is more about boosting hydration. Your skin needs that right now, and it should still feel soothing (well hydrated skin is happy skin). You definitely want to try the Hydraphase masque once or twice a week.

Have you tried Dr Jart’s SPF 45 BB cream? Is there a shade that will work for your skin tone? The SPF is via titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, mineral sunscreens only. It’ll allow you to skip the SPF before Cicaplast, and get your sun protection from your BB as the makeup step.

Don’t forget your body — Accutane doesn’t differentiate between sebum glands on the face and glands on the body. You might want to try the LRP Cleansing Oil in the shower, or at least snap up some Lipikar Baume AP to use after bathing. :-)

Keep me posted! How do you like the Cicaplast Baume b5 so far?



Isabel 2 October 2013 at 3:10 pm

Omygosh you are so helpful and kind. So sorry for the late reply but its 4am here right now, way past my bedtime. I will reply u tomorrow! Lots of new updates for you :) amazing products I found. The bioderma micelle solution (LOVE) and I found a serum!! Bioderma hydrabio serum. Tell u more tmr! Hugsssss you deserve the world’s best beauty blog or something, you are amazing.


Sarah 21 November 2013 at 7:41 am

Hello, I was on Accutane a couple of years back for the third time, at 33. I had been on it at 14 and 16. I was really surprised that I had to use it again in my 30s.

The one benefit of going through it again when I was older, was that I was able to research how to look after and protect my skin .Especially with the internet at my disposal.

I was given Avene tester products, however I didn’t find that they effectively moisturized nor treated the extreme dryness that Accutane causes. Everywhere!!

What I did find worked wonderfully as a moisturizer and barrier cream was Dermaveen moisturizer. I used it on my face and body. I’d find that with every Accutane dose increase I’d have a break out or worsening dryness, especially on the backs of my hands.

Dermaveen worked like a charm. I rarely had notable peeling, flaking or horribly dry skin. I also used the soap free wash for my face, with a gentle wash cloth to exfoliate. My third experience with Accutane was so much better using better products.

It’s important to use skin care and cosmetics that are non comodegenic, oil free and ideally fragrance and colour free, as whilst on Accutane your skin is so fragile.

I’d definitely recommend Dermaveen to anyone on Accutane. In fact I was so happy with it, 3 years on, I’m still using it!

Also, I found my eyes got super dry. I found using a contact lens solution to lubricate and moisture my eyes and it worked really well.


Katie 17 July 2014 at 4:26 pm

This is entirely off topic, but the eye look in the picture with this story is divine! Do we know any product details at all?


Janine 26 July 2014 at 7:22 pm

Hi Katie,

Actually, it’s from a Chanel runway show a few years ago. Unfortunately I can’t remember which season, but if I find out, I’ll get back to you :-)


Janine 26 July 2014 at 7:39 pm

Found the info, Katie! The photo of model Sigrid Agren (a Chanel favourite face) is from the Fall/Winter 2012 Chanel haute couture runway show. This blog, CafeMakeup, received the brand’s behind-the-scenes breakdown of the look and how it was done. Enjoy!


Susan 21 July 2014 at 11:21 am

Janine! This is how you and I met – you saving me from Accutane, and how my love of beauty blogs began! YOU’RE THE BEST!


Janine 21 July 2014 at 11:48 am

You KNOW I thought about you the entire time I was writing this post, right Susan?? In fact, I wrote it BECAUSE of you!! xoxoxo

(How’s your skin these days? Your Accutane days are years behind you now!)


Susan 21 July 2014 at 12:57 pm

My skin is great! Well, it’s acne free. I find that it’s dull recently despite at-home gentle enzyme peels and kind of feel at a loss as to what to do. But my super dry accutane days are over – thanks to you!!


Janine 21 July 2014 at 8:08 pm

Okay, let’s discuss. What are you using to cleanse? How often are you using enzyme peels? What are you using to moisturize? Are you using a serum of some kind? Anything brightening?


Susan 22 July 2014 at 10:52 am


Makeup removing: Garnier micellar water for sensitive skin(amazing)

Cleansing: 1 of three – Either Body Shop Chamomile Oil, Body Shop Chamomile Cleansing Balm, or Iwostin Cleansing Wash for Sensitive Skin (

Toning: (I’m really bad at this step) Caudalie Moisturizing Toner

and this is where I get irregular with my use ….
Day Moisturzer; LRP Hydraphase UV Intense Riche
Night Moisturizer: Ziaja Olive Oil Moisturizer (

Today I just picked up …Dermedic Hydrain Hialuro Mask (5% Hylauronic acid, 5% Urea

Bielenda Power Serum w Hylauronic Acid, Biomimetic peptides and Lactic Acid

As you can see, all of this is mega moisturizing, I think I need something else for the brightness/even look, eh? I was looking at a Loreal brand brightening toner, but I want to know everything else! I have all the Loreal lines here in Poland, and the French pharmacy brands – please make me beautiful!


Janine 5 August 2014 at 12:38 am

Whoopsie! Sorry about the delay, Susan!

So is your skin as hydrated as all these products suggest it should be? How often are you using your enzyme peels?

I think you might need something with vitamin C, but I hesitate to add yet another step to your routine. LRP has a vitamin C treatment you might like to try, though…

But wait — have you confessed up there to being less than diligent with your night moisturizer? How often do you skip it?


Hannah 14 August 2014 at 9:03 am

Just tried the Cicaplast balm for the first time and it’s made my face all red and itchy..:( when previously it was just very dy/flaky. Has anyone else had this problem? Should I just try again (on a small area) and hope it’ll improve when my skin gets used to it?

I’m reluctant to throw it out as I’ve got a whole tube and it’s not cheap..also from what everyone’s saying, it seems to be pretty amazing stuff.


Janine 14 August 2014 at 11:22 am

Oh dear — that IS odd, Hannah. Do try it on a small patch and see what happens. I can tell you that when I put it on my face after a Very Bad Microdermabrasian made it all angry red and welty, it stung like a b*tch for about a minute. But then it settled down and the throbbing I’d been experiencing before application started to fade. A few hours later when my face started to hurt again, I re-applied Cicaplast. Again, it stung like a b*tch. But it took less time to settle down, and less time to ease the throbbing, and so it went from there.

If your skin is turning red after you apply Cicaplast though, proceed with caution. Patch test again, and if it flares up again, take it back to the store. An alternative similar product is Avene Cicalfate, which has a different texture and slightly different ingredients that your skin may like better.

Please keep me posted?


Adetola 10 October 2014 at 5:09 am

Good morning,
Am Adetola from Nigeria in west Africa,have been battling with acne and pimple for years,I ran through a blog which make me to understand that Accutane can be of great help to planning to go under the treatment of accutane in weeks now but am little bit scare because of the effect of the skin and lip dry that is going to cause my body…….
I would appreciate if get in details of what l will face during Accutane and a solution to the challenges upcoming..



Janine 13 November 2014 at 10:57 pm

Hi Adetola,
Sorry about the delay in getting back to you. I haven’t had personal experience with Accutane, but from what I know via friends who have used it, it dries up the natural oils (sebum) in your skin. Oil helps your skin retain water, so when you have no oil, your skin gets terribly dry and dehydrated, tight and itchy. In dry and cold conditions (Canadian winter), skin can crack and bleed. You need to keep skin moist and supple; always make sure skin is damp (not wet) before you apply moisturizer. Drink lots of water, too!


Shanthi 13 November 2014 at 10:43 pm

Hi such helpful site, I was looking for a solution for my really dry/flaky skin after 4 weeks of accutane and i found u… :)

I was lost what to do with my very dry skin…and now I will try to get Avène or La Roche-Posay and try it.

I notice my eyes is so itchy after I started accutane, any suggestions?



Janine 13 November 2014 at 11:00 pm

Hi Shanthi,

I bet you need re-wetting eye drops. Not eye drops to remove redness, but some kind of artificial tears. Might be a good idea to ask your doctor or a pharmacist for a recommendation. And re: your skin, make sure it’s damp before you apply moisturizer — you want to seal water in your skin. Good luck!


jackie 16 November 2014 at 11:06 pm

Would using a serum clog your pores?


Shanthi 20 November 2014 at 10:04 pm

Hi Janine,

Thanks for your reply.

Yes I have started the eye drops and the itchiness have stopped.

My hubby just came back from UK he manage to get me the Avene Clean – AC Cleansing Cream, Avene Skin Recovery Cream, Thermal Spring Water and Lip Balm.
I love the cleansing cream, its easy to use but just worried whether its clean enough since u don’t wash with water?
Another doubt, can I mix my sunblock and Avene Skin Recovery Cream before applying to my face.



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