About-face: Change to long-standing advice on acne drug

Patients taking isotretinoin can have other 'cosmetic-like' treatments

Patients taking oral isotretinoin do not need to avoid laser hair removal or other non-invasive skin treatments, according to new guidance.


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The Australasian College of Dermatologists' long-standing advice has been to avoid “cosmetic-like” treatments such as chemical peels or non-ablative laser therapy for up to 12 months after stopping the drug.

But its new position statement on the retinoid cites evidence that "a bit of relaxation" is okay, according to Sydney dermatologist and college spokesperson Associate Professor Stephen Shumack.

“New evidence suggests that even while you’re on isotretinoin, there are no adverse effects," he says.

Mechanical dermabrasion and fully ablative laser therapy are still not recommended.

The position statement also states that the evidence linking isotretinoin to depression or suicidal ideation is contradictory.

Acne alone is independently linked with psychiatric ­disorders, it adds.

“There is no hard evidence,” Dr Shumack says. “We haven’t really considered it a controversy, although quite a few patients who read and watch the media do think of it that way.”

The statement says patients on isotretinoin should be screened and monitored for signs of depression.


Read the guidance here