Accutane was the brand name the Swiss multinational healthcare company Roche used to market isotretinoin. Isotretinoin is a drug for treating severe acne.

Accutane was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1982.

In 2009, after the medication was linked to serious side effects such as birth defects and Crohn’s disease, Roche withdrew the brand name from the market. They continue to distribute generic versions of isotretinoin.

Currently available brand-name versions of isotretinoin include:

  • Absorica
  • Amnesteem
  • Claravis
  • Myorisan
  • Zenatane

Hair loss, which can include a reduction in hair count and hair density, is an undesirable side effect of isotretinoin treatment. A 2013 study showed that this hair loss was temporary, although hair thinning may continue after treatment has stopped.

According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), about 10 percent of Accutane users experience temporary hair thinning.

A 2018 study, however, found that isotretinoin doesn’t affect short-term hair growth. It also concluded that hair growth is only affected when people take very high doses of the drug.

People who use isotretinoin can take steps to limit and possibly prevent hair loss and hair thinning.

Increase your intake of B vitamins

According to a 2014 study, isotretinoin treatment may cause a deficiency of B vitamins — specifically folate (vitamin B-9).

If you experience a deficiency, consider talking to your doctor about vitamin B supplements or increasing your intake of foods rich in folate. This includes avocados, broccoli, and bananas.

Shop for vitamin B supplements.

Reduce stress

Stress can play a factor in hair loss. If you’re taking isotretinoin, stress could potentially make hair-loss symptoms worse.

Consider trying stress-relieving activities such as meditation or yoga. Read about other ways to relieve stress.

Try moisturizing

Isotretinoin can severely dry out hair and skin. This can lead to brittle hair that breaks easily. Ask your dermatologist for a recommendation for appropriate shampoos and conditioners.

Avoid chemical treatments

Consider refraining from bleaching, dyeing, or using other chemical treatments on your hair if you’re taking isotretinoin. Many of these products can weaken your hair, which could worsen hair thinning.

Be careful about brushing

You can avoid additional hair damage by not brushing your hair while it’s wet. Run your fingers through it instead.

Protect your head from the sun

Consider wearing a hat or scarf when you’re outside to protect your hair from the sun’s UV rays.

Adjust the dosage

Talk to your doctor about adjusting the dosage so that the medication still effectively treats acne but doesn’t cause hair loss.

If you’re taking isotretinoin to treat severe types of acne (such as nodular acne), you might experience thinning hair as a side effect.

The hair loss is likely temporary, and your hair should start growing back when you stop taking the medication.

You can also take certain steps to prevent or limit hair loss caused by isotretinoin. Preventive steps can include avoiding the sun, increasing your folate intake, moisturizing, and adjusting your dosage.

Talk to your doctor or dermatologist to see if they can suggest other actions that may address your concerns.

Q:

What are some treatments for severe acne that won’t cause hair loss?

Dena Westphalen, PharmD

A:

Using salicylic acid, azelaic acid or benzyl alcohol topically can be effective acne treatments that will not cause hair loss. These can generally be purchased over the counter, or there are higher strengths available by prescription.

Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed along with these topical treatments to kill the extra skin bacteria, but antibiotics are generally not recommended on their own. A prescription gel called dapsone (Aczone) can also be an option that does not cause hair loss but can treat acne.

Healthline Medical TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.