When Can I Get Laser or Chemical Treatment for Acne Scars After Accutane?

I am another victim of nodular acne, and thanks to Accutane, that problem was taken care of. Except for the scars.

I don't have a large amount of them, but I have several large ones, and a very noticeable one on the right side of my nose. So I am obviously looking to get a laser treatment/surgery for this. Now I have been told many different lengths of time to wait, I have heard 6 months, 2 years, and a couple other opinions.

But I never did finish my treatment of Accutane, as I only took it for 2 and a half months, as it was making me lose hair at a speedy rate. So does that still mean I should wait 6 months or 2 years? Or does that mean that maybe I could have it done sooner? My acne is very small now, and there are no more cysts, I just have these scars that haunt me. Please help.

Editor's Note: See related question, Accutane cures Acne but leaves Scars

Doctor Answers 5

6 months for medical -legal reasons

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The prelim papers in the 80s has made it a minimal clearance of 6mths. I take a more flexible approach, and look at your skin sensitivity post Accutane, also your last dose, eg 10 mg vs 60mg, and the strength of TCA 50 vs 100%, then factor all this into the equation. 

The thing is this, legally if anything goes wrong, papers and previous information on the 'wash out' period of Accutane are brought back to light. 


Dr Davin S. Lim
Dermatologist, Cosmetic and Laser

Have acne scar treatments a year after Accutane

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Thanks for your question.

I understand that you had been on Accutane for only a couple months, and did not finish the full course. But, it is generally advised to wait one year after any Accutane treatment before pursuing any kind of elective surgery or laser surgery. Of course, there are many variables, namely, what type of procedure you plan on doing (ablative laser, nonablative laser, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, etc). Any procedure that causes bleeding or scabbing must be done after waiting a minimum of one year post accutane.

In my opinion, a fractional CO2 laser (fractional ablative) is probably the best laser treatment for acne scarring. There are others such as the Fraxel and Palomar (fractional nonablative), but you get the most bang for your buck from the fractional CO2. To do this laser, I would strongly recommend waiting at least one year after accutane.

Hope this helps!

Don Mehrabi, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologist

Wait 6 months

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Thank you for your question. It is important to be off Accuatne for at least 6 months before starting any form of treatment. The redness will most likely fade out with time and whatever is left can be treated with IPL treatments and some very light peels.

Minimal wait of 6 months after completion of Accutane before scar revision treatment

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The risk of hypertrophic scarring is nontrivial for scar revision procedures such as laser resurfacing or TCA chemical peel performed within few months of Accutane. Therefore, it is advisable that one waits a minimal of wait 6 months after completion of Accutane.

William Ting, MD
Bay Area Dermatologic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Wait 6 months after Accutane before acne scar treatments

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I would still suggest that you wait 6 months because of that theoretical increased risk of scarring with any procedure that damages the epidermal/dermal barrier, which would include peels and laser treatments.

Another reason to wait 6 months, however, is that any acne recurrence is most likely to occur by 6 months after discontinuation of Accutane. In the event of acne recurrence, you may wish to consider a low-dose accutane regimen, since side effects are dose-related (the higher the dose, the worse the side effects).

Good luck.

Bryan K. Chen, MD
San Diego Dermatologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.