For many people suffering from chronic cystic acne, Accutane offers relief and resolution — but not without compromise. After enduring months of severe dryness, body aches and often emotional chaos, it becomes up to us to heal.
While we always encourage those struggling with skin issues to seek holistic solutions, we also acknowledge the reality that pharmaceuticals happen. (See our piece on The Adderall Detox here.) If you’ve tried Accutane to heal persistent skin flare-ups, there are a few things you should be aware of according to celeb-adored Sadie Adams of Take Care Center. Sadie is a natural aesthetician and an expert in holistic, regenerative therapies. Her approach to beautiful skin aims for a balanced state of being, rooted in a deep knowledge of Ayurveda and her own sharp intuition. Here is her advice on how to deal with life after Accutane…
The Chalkboard Mag: What does Accutane do inside the body, during + after?
Sadie Adams: Unlike natural vitamin A, vitamin A in the form of retinoic acid works in the skin cells and not the liver, making it possible to take larger doses, as seen in Accutane treatments. This way of employing retinoic acid reduces the size and functionality of the skin’s oils glands diminishing the environment of acne causing bacteria. It also slows down the production of skin cells and reduces inflammation. It can also decrease bile flow from the liver to the small intestines. This can allow a build-up of toxins in the body, including vitamin A toxicity, wherein the body stores Accutane in fat cells leading to possible long-term side effects including musculoskeletal pain, dry membranes, as well as fatigue resulting from liver, lung, kidney and mitochondria response to excess vitamin A.
TCM: What’s the Ayurvedic perspective on rehabilitating body/skin after Accutane?
SA: A fundamental principal of Ayurveda is “like increases like,” referring to the influence of qualities or “gunas.” Accutane can dry up the body and increase qualities of constitutional physiology. The Ayurvedic approach to post-Accutane recovery depends on a person’s unique balanced state, as well as the qualities enhanced by the current season.
In general, Accutane will diminish qualities associated with pitta dosha – the element of fire contained in the element of water. This is seen in dry hair, skin and even a decrease in functional bile. Bile ducts are pathways for bile to move from the gallbladder into the small intestines. A decrease in bile and bile flow means an increase in toxins, and the small intestines are considered the seat or home of pitta dosha.
Pitta has five subtypes expressed throughout the body. Each pitta subtype has unique and deeply significant connections with our central organ of detoxification – the liver! The liver participates in fat storage, metabolism, hormone creation and generation of color in the body (including the blood cells). It is involved in regulating blood pressure, blood volume and pH levels in the body. It protects the body from toxins and can even repair itself if given the opportunity to do so, through enough balanced support and downtime.
Through categorizing subtypes of pitta, Ayurveda offers more specific ways to understand the liver in relation to the stomach, the small intestines, the eyes, the skin, the brain and the heart, as well as our body’s central agni or digestive fire, and detox medium, bile. It gives perspectives on the liver as it relates to perception; the processing of emotions, information, stimulus, topical products; and the transformation of food into the elements. In this way, Ayurveda lends light to the most relevant and effective ways to offer support and care, post-intensives such as Accutane.
A healthy liver can be the physical basis for transforming anger into contentment, aversion into acceptance, hatred into cooperation, resentment into contentment, envy into confidence, over-achievement into enthusiasm, impatience into surrender and fear into courage. It is important to mention that these negative emotions harbored over time can harm the liver and therefore the many tissues, organs and systems that depend on the liver for their vitality — most notably for this article: the skin!
TCM: How can we cleanse the affected organs?
SA: We are all unique, and cleanses can be tailored to the relevance of the times. Dr. Cory Reddish, ND at Feel Better HQ, is my go-to for cleanse strategies. She takes into account the unique situation and intention of each cleanse. For general post-Accutane recovery, she suggests a gentle liver support of turmeric, artichoke and milk thistle, as well as vitamin, mineral and amino acid co-factors that support liver detox such as glutathione, n-acetylcysteine, methylated B-complex vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C.
Bitter herbs and bitter foods support the liver. In addition, focus on foods that are good for the liver including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, turnips, radishes, pomegranates, sesame seeds, broccoli sprouts, green, oolong and rooibos teas, burdock root, ginger, arugula, beets, beet greens and green juices with kale, cucumber, parsley and lemon.
TCM: How can we rehab skin externally?
SA: Less is more, post-intensive. Use an all-natural sunblock and avoid using topical forms of vitamin A. Sonage High Endurance Cream, which builds immunity, is recommended to use post-Accutane as it promotes tissue repair, calms redness, speeds healing and stabilizes free radicals. Alternatively, Sonage Botanica Soufflé crème is a lighter anti-inflammatory hydrating formulation with hyaluronic and echinacea.
TCM: What are some general lifestyle/skincare tips to maintain clarity + vibrancy post-Accutane?
Nourish from Within. Consume bitters, greens, turmeric, essential fatty acids and MSM supplements to prevent skin hardening (calcification), which can be a side effect of excess vitamin A.
Take Supplements. Consider supplementing with coconut oil to support the bile, bile acids to get bile back up, tauroursodeoxycholic acid to build the liver cells, and vitamin C to increase the body’s antioxidant capacities.
Drink Lemon Water. Drinking lemon water first thing in the morning supports the agni or digestive fire and helps to detox the GI tract. Lemon water is alkalizing and can sooth accumulated pitta while kindling a balanced fire. It supports liver detox while gently stimulating the liver as well as bile production.
Eat Clean. Avoid processed foods, refined sugar, dairy, saturated fats and coffee.
Cut Back on Boozing. Rest the liver. Take a break from alcohol and be sure to consume liver detoxifying foods.
Sweat It Out. Get cardiovascular exercise three times a week.
Meditate. A regular meditation practice can cultivate presence and peace in body and mind. Meditation and breath awareness are powerful and empowering tools to help dramatically reduce day-to-day inflammation.
Practice self-contentedness. Choosing gratitude and contentment can greatly decrease tension and improve clarity.
Be Gentle With Yourself. Employ self-care methods that address stress management and lymphatic drainage.
Squelch Stagnation. Stagnation or blockages in the lymphatic system can mitigate filtration processes, therefore increasing the amount of toxins in the blood and lymph, requiring more of the liver. Supporting the mechanisms in the body that remove toxins is essential post-Accutane. Good circulation and coherence in the various layers of tissue are reflected in healthy, glowing skin.
TCM: Anything else we need to know about healing post-Accutane?
Fatten up. Essential fatty acids (fish oil, flax oil) can be helpful, especially with lots of symptoms of dryness.
Get More Vitamin D. Taking vitamin D will help to balance the high doses of vitamin A that can disrupt the metabolism of other fat-soluble vitamins.
Monitor Your Mood. If one experiences symptoms of depression and suicide on Accutane, ceasing consumption of it will resolve the symptoms. If not, give the body natural neurotransmitter support.
Plan Ahead. For long-term skin health, take a look at blood sugar and hormonal imbalances, which can contribute to acne.
Discover how jaw tension might be to blame for your breakouts with this fascinating piece from Sadie.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.