Accutane & Zinc

A teenager is holding up his hair to show his acne.
Image Credit: Olena Zhuchkova/iStock/Getty Images

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition that can cause pimples, clogged pores, blackheads and pitting scars. This condition can become chronic and disfiguring for many people, causing emotionally distress. The oral medication Accutane -- a brand-name drug with the active ingredient isotretinoin -- has been shown to successfully treat acne, but can cause side effects. The mineral zinc is needed in trace amounts for healthy body function including immune health, which may help reduce acne symptoms. Consult your doctor before you take any supplements of any kind. Additionally, follow prescription guidelines carefully when you take Accutane.



Accutane is a prescription drug prescribed by doctors and dermatologists for severe or nodular acne that is not treatable with other treatment methods such as topical ointments. The potent medication has a high rate of success in treating acne, but can cause a range of side effects. Isotretinoin is a compound derived from vitamin A and is termed a vitamin A analog or retinoid. Retinol is a form of vitamin A in the body.


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Zinc and Vitamin A

Zinc interacts with vitamin A in several ways. As zinc is a required to synthesize a retinol-binding protein in the body, it is necessary for transporting vitamin A through the blood. This mineral is also needed to produce the enzyme or catalyst chemical that converts retinol to another form of vitamin A called retinal, which is important for night vision. A deficiency of zinc is linked to decreased release of vitamin A from the liver, which may contribute to poor night vision. Isotretinoin is a vitamin A derivative, however, it is not known whether zinc is responsible for transporting the medicine in the body.


Immune System

Bacteria on the skin and in the pores can cause or worsen acne lesions. Topical or oral antibiotics such as erythromycin and clindamycin are often prescribed to treat milder cases of acne. A strong immune system can help reduce bacterial infection in acne lesions and reduce skin inflammation. Adequate levels of zinc are important in maintaining a healthy immune system. Zinc deficiencies may increase the risk of infections, particularly in children. Healthy level of this trace mineral may help decrease acne outbreaks by strengthening the immune system.


Birth Defects

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that Accutane is a teratogenic agent. This mean that it can cause serious birth defects in developing fetuses if it is ingested by pregnant women. Accutane contains high amounts of the active ingredient isotretinoin, which is derived from vitamin A and can cause malformations in developing babies, particularly in the first trimester of the pregnancy. These severe deformities can involve the face, head, heart and spinal cord of the fetus. This risk is so critical that female patients must undergo blood tests to ensure that they are not pregnant before they begin Accutane and are advised to use two forms of birth control while they take this medication.




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