The Regimen

Accutane vs. Benzoyl Peroxide: What You Need To Know

Accutane vs. Benzoyl Peroxide: What You Need To Know


If you have severe acne, you know that the effects of the disease go much deeper than the surface of the skin. Because the scars are emotional as much as physical, you may have found yourself, at various times, willing to try just about anything to heal and repair your skin and your psyche.


Case in point, Accutane. Some 500,000 Americans take the acne drug despite its laundry list of potential side effects. In the UK, the use of Roaccutane (as it’s known there) has increased 6-fold in recent years. Why do so many opt for a drug associated with so many risks? Because clear skin is a powerful motivator.


Before you settle on the nuclear option, let’s take a closer look at Accutane’s pros, cons, and alternatives.  


Isotretinoin, better known as Accutane or by one of its current generic names, was developed to treat severe cases of cystic acne. It’s a daily pill that puts a clamp on skin’s oil production and derails clogged pores to break the acne cycle. Its success rate is high. But that success comes at a cost.


Accutane is a potent systemic drug that affects every system of the body. Along with drying out oil follicles, it tends to make lips and nasal passages feel like the arctic tundra. Maybe you can live with that, but there’s more. The risk of serious birth defects is so great that women have to agree in writing to take two specific forms of birth control to avoid pregnancy before Accutane can even be prescribed. It’s also been linked to other conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, memory loss, depression, joint and muscle pain, eyesight trouble, and liver damage. Giving blood while taking this medication is illegal.


Accutane has been referred to as “the scorched earth solution”  for good reason. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it should be used only after other acne medicines have been tried and have failed. This is a drug of last resort.


Fortunately, there are other options. Benzoyl peroxide is an antimicrobial agent that, unlike some other antibacterial treatments, does not result in resistance. It works by releasing oxygen into the pore to kill acne bacteria, while benzoic acid stimulates exfoliation to unplug pores. It also reduces inflammation, the prime driver of acne lesions.


A study comparing Accutane and benzoyl peroxide revealed that benzoyl peroxide had a more rapid effect on inflamed lesions, with significant reductions at 4, 8 and 12 weeks, while isotretinoin (Accutane) didn’t show significant improvement until 12 weeks. Both treatments significantly reduced inflamed and non-inflamed lesions. The study also suggested that with Accutane acts primarily on comedone formation, whereas benzoyl peroxide has an effect on both comedones and inflammation.


A more recent study found the use of benzoyl peroxide in conjunction with a vitamin A retinoid to be highly effective in the treatment of patients with severe acne. While BP can cause hyperpigmentation in darker skin, that’s a temporary issue that pales (pun intended) in comparison to the risks of Accutane.


We are big believers in both benzoyl peroxide and vitamin A therapy, having been at the forefront of the development of both. With a consistent regimen based on this combination, you have the power to safely clear, control, and conquer your acne issues.


Our Accutane alternative recommendations:

BP 3% Acne Wash

A creamy and soothing, yet vigorously cleansing anti-bacterial wash for acne-prone skin. Flushes out impurities, peels away impactions, refines pores and minimizes scarring. 


Normalizing Tonic Forté

An advanced toner with salicylic and citric acids for added micro-exfoliation. Removes impurities, refines pores, promotes cell renewal and restores skin’s optimal pH balance while prepping skin for better absorption of additional treatments. 


BP 10% Gel Medication

Formulated with Vivant’s patented benzoyl peroxide stabilizing gel in a vanishing gel base for rapid penetration. Kills acne-causing bacteria and prevents future breakouts. 



A transformative, targeted corrector serum for skin new to Vitamin A treatment. Boost cellular metabolism to clear impactions and promote healthier skin structure. If you’ve already been using a vitamin A therapy, level up with Exfol-A.


Related Articles

What to Try When You Think You’ve Tried Everything

Cystic Acne: Getting Clear Without Accutane (Isotretinoin)

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