Vitamin A or Roacutanne - Natural Alternatives for Acne


Vitamin A or Roacutanne?

— Natalie explores natural alternatives for acne.



Natalie Earles
Naturopath BHsc. / Content writer


If you suffer from Acne chances are you have heard of, tried or thinking about trying Roacutanne (also known as Accutane or Isotretinoin). We’ll discuss its role in the treatment of acne, how it relates to Vitamin A and the natural alternatives for treatment.

Roacutanne is a prescribed medication with the active ingredient Isotretinoin. It’s indicated for those with severe cystic acne. It belongs to a group of medicines called retinoids, similar to Vitamin A, however is a synthetic retinoic acid.

Image via  @desiree.pais

Image via @desiree.pais


The list of possible side effects is long, and covers everything from changes in skin colour, itchy rashes, eye problems, stiffness in bones and muscles, right through to mental health issues such as depression and emotional instability, and in some cases, serious side effects such as psychiatric disorders.

It may also cause birth defects (damage to unborn babies), therefore is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women and strict birth control must be used for one month prior, during treatment, and one-month post treatment. For these reasons, the Australian Government advises it should be reserved for patients with severe cystic acne who have been unresponsive to other conventional therapy.

For those with severe acne it can be a lifesaver, helping to get their condition under control. The way it works is by reducing the amount of sebum (your skins natural oils) made in the glands in your skin, helping to reduce bacterial quantities on the skins surface, reducing inflammation and opening clogged pores.

Vitamin A whilst similar to Roaccutane is not the same, Roaccutane is a medical drug and as such is a synthetic retinoic acid rather than being the same Vitamin A that you consume in foods.

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So, the question is can a Vitamin A supplement replace Roaccutanne? The simple answer is no. Unfortunately, it’s not as strong nor does it work in the exact same way, however Vitamin A as found in foods is needed to support optimal skin integrity and may still be beneficial. Some research indicates that those with acne do have lower plasma levels of Vitamin A and the lower the levels of Vitamin A the more serve the case of acne. Vitamin A also helps to reduce inflammation and support the immune system response reducing the effects of acne causing bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes. Like Roaccutane high amounts of Vitamin A are to be avoided in pregnancy and breastfeeding, when taking in excess of 3000 micrograms retinol equivalents, Vitamin A can also cause birth defects.

When it comes to acne, I find it really is a condition of excessive sebum secretion, when sebum secretion is high, it blocks pores and creates congestion, leading to skin outbreaks. High amounts of sebum also create an ideal breeding ground for acne causing bacteria. With that in mind, oily skin isn’t the problem (so don’t go pulling out those skin drying, anti-bacterial cleansers), it is actually what is causing the excess oil that’s the problem. We need sebum as it supports a healthy skin microbiome , so we just need to get it to a normal level.  

So if Roaccutane isn’t for you, or you have tried it only to have your acne come back you may need to look at the root cause of why you are producing excess sebum in the first place. Diets high in dairy and high on the glycaemic index, increase hormones in our body such as insulin-like growtfactor1 (IGF-1), these hormones turn on sebocytes to produce more sebum – swapping to a dairy free and Low GI diet may be helpful for some. There may be hormonal factors at play too and getting to the bottom of these can be helpful in clearing your acne for good, hormones such as Androgens (including testosterone) can increase sebum secretion and for women with hormonal conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) getting your Androgen levels within a normal range can help reduce acne breakouts. Oh and Stress!! whilst it may not just be linked to a higher increase in sebum secretion, stress does tend to increase the severity of acne.

And let’s not forget our skin is an organ of elimination, a way for our body to release toxins, so if our other organs of elimination (Liver, Kidneys, Lungs, Intestines, Lymphatic system) aren’t working optimally our skin tends to bear the burden. It might be time to give your skin a simple detox to clear congested skin.


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