The Best Hair Products While On Accutane

Those pesky side effects can extend to your scalp, too.

Written by Marissa DeSantis
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If your pursuit of clearing up cystic acne has led you (and your dermatologist) to the prescription medication isotretinoin (aka Accutane), you’re probably well acquainted with its most visible side effect: dry skin. But that dryness can extend to your scalp and hair as well, and it requires a different plan of action. “Accutane decreases oil production, leading to skin dryness and sensitivity,” says dermatologist Sheila Farhang, who spoke to Elite Daily for this article. “It can cause dry scalp as well as dry, brittle hair,” she adds. To combat that dryness, the best hair products while on Accutane — which include shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, and styling products — contain moisturizing and strengthening ingredients like coconut oil, argan oil, shea butter, and hydrolyzed keratin. When it comes to signs that your scalp is dry, “Look out for redness and tightness of the scalp,” hairstylist Christopher Naselli tells Elite Daily. “If your scalp feels itchy, it’s definitely a sign that you need to address.”

The Experts

Dr. Sheila Farhang, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist, reconstructive skin cancer surgeon, and cosmetic surgeon based in Tucson, Arizona. She is the founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics, a dermatologic practice with offices in Arizona and California.

Christopher Naselli is a New York-based hairstylist whose celebrity clients include Jessica Biel, Alicia Vikander, and Sarah Michelle Gellar. He studied in Paris and London, and his expertise includes editorial shoots, advertising campaigns, and red carpet events.

What To Avoid While On Accutane

“I tell my patients to try to avoid dyeing their hair or doing any strong chemical treatments as their hair is so dry and it could lead to breakage,” explains Dr. Farhang of why you’ll want to stretch out your color appointments. At the very least, don’t try to do your own color at home while you’re on isotretinoin. Instead, make an appointment at your salon and be sure to let your colorist know that your hair has been more fragile because of the medication you’re taking.

At home, your hair care routine and styling habits will also impact any hair and scalp dryness that you experience from isotretinoin. “Avoid any products that have a high alcohol content in them,” Naselli says. “This will only make matters worse and make the scalp and hair feel even worse.” Naselli’s advice applies to drying alcohols like alcohol denat, isopropyl alcohol, and benzyl alcohol, while alcohols like cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol are actually fatty alcohols that are quite moisturizing. While you may not need to choose a product that’s entirely alcohol-free, if you notice any of the drying alcohols towards the top of the ingredients list, steer clear.

Additionally, you’ll want to limit your use of hot styling tools. When you do use them, always use a moisturizing heat protectant (you’ll find several options on the list ahead) and set your tool at the lowest setting possible to get the job done (try not to go above 350 degrees Fahrenheit). And don’t worry about washing your hair so much. “You don’t need to wash as often because isotretinoin does reduce oil production,” Naselli says. “When on Accutane, it’s best to wash two to three times a week with a moisturizing shampoo, then add two additional days of just conditioning with a moisturizing conditioner.”

Shop The Best Hair Products For Accutane

In a hurry? Here are the best hair products while on Accutane:

  1. Best Shampoo & Conditioner: Biotera Ultra Moisturizing Shampoo & Conditioner
  2. Best Hair Mask: Amika Soulfood Nourishing Mask
  3. Best Heat Protectant: Color Wow Speed Dry Blow-Dry Spray
  4. Best Curl Cream: SEEN Curly Creme
  5. Best Hair Oil: Moroccanoil Treatment
  6. Best Scalp Oil: JVN Pre-Wash Scalp Oil
  7. Best Hair Serum: OGX Nourishing Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum

1. Best Shampoo & Conditioner

To combat dryness no matter what the cause, Naselli’s go-to cleansing products are the Biotera Ultra Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner. “They are sulfate and paraben-free,” he says of the color-safe shampoo and conditioner. “They’re also infused with coconut yogurt, ginseng, and marula oil for moisturizing to maintain a healthy scalp,” he adds. The coconut yogurt and ginseng extract are pre- and probiotics that help to balance the scalp’s microbiome, while ingredients like coconut oil, marula oil, and shea butter provide plenty of much-needed moisture.

Key Ingredients: Marula Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Panax Ginseng Root Extract Size: 32 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

2. Best Hair Mask

When you need a richer, more concentrated conditioner for your hair, incorporate a product like amika’s Soulfood Nourishing Mask into your routine. It can be used once weekly as a post-shampoo treatment that you let sit in your hair for five to seven minutes before rinsing it out, or you can use it as an everyday conditioner that you wash right out. The vegan and cruelty-free mask is formulated with hair-healthy ingredients like jojoba seed oil and sea buckthorn seed oil, which are rich in fatty acids that help to repair breakage and restore moisture to damaged, dried-out hair.

Editor’s note: Also consider a scalp mask, which may be beneficial if you’re dealing with isotretinoin-induced scalp dryness.

Key Ingredients: Jojoba Seed Oil, Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil, Panthenol, Vitamin E Size: 8 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

3. Best Heat Protectant

When you do need to style your hair with a hot tool, start by misting a heat protectant through your hair while it’s still wet. Color Wow’s Speed Dry Blow-Dry Spray is an alcohol-free formula that was designed to reduce blow dry time by up to 30%, resulting in less exposure to heat. Formulated for all hair types, but particularly those with dry hair, the heat protectant is also infused with moisturizing ingredients like hydrogenated castor oil, hydrolyzed keratin, and panthenol.

Key Ingredients: Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Keratin Size: 5 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

4. Best Curl Cream

If you have curly hair and prefer to put in a richer cream while your hair is still damp, try this SEEN Curly Creme instead. The multi-tasking product helps to define curls and restore moisture with ingredients like glycerin, squalane, and hemisqualane (the latter is a sugar-derived alternative to silicone). You’ll notice reduced frizz and added shine, but the cream also helps protect your hair against UV rays, pollution, and heat up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The entire line was founded by a dermatologist looking to create products for those with sensitive and acne-prone skin, so the curl cream is also noncomedogenic and free from common irritants like silicones, phthalates, parabens, dyes, and fragrances.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Shea Butter Esters, Squalane, Hemisqualane Moringa Seed Extract Size: 6 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

5. Best Hair Oil

There’s no wrong way to use this Moroccanoil Treatment, which knocks out frizz and leaves hair immediately smoother and more nourished with just a few drops. You can apply it to towel-dried hair as the first step of your styling routine or use it on dry hair throughout the day to tame flyaways and soften split ends. No matter how you use the treatment, ingredients like fatty acid-rich argan oil and linseed extract help to leave dry, brittle hair smooth and soft — as well as stronger over time with consistent use.

Key Ingredients: Argan Oil, Linseed Extract Size: 3.4 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

6. Best Scalp Oil

You can technically use the Moroccanoil Treatment on your scalp, but it is quite a heavy oil, so it may make your hair look (and feel) greasy if applied on or near your roots. If you’re dealing with a dry scalp from Accutane, you can use this JVN Pre-Wash Scalp Oil instead. Designed to be applied to your hair and scalp before shampooing, it helps promote full, soft, healthy hair using botanicals like moringa seed oil, hemisqualane, and rosemary and turmeric extracts. It also contains plenty of nourishing and scalp-soothing ingredients, so it can help not only with scalp dryness, but with itchiness and flaking, too. Apply a generous amount to your scalp, massage it in, and let it sit for about 15 minutes before following up with shampoo and conditioner.

Key Ingredients: Hemisqualane, Moringa Seed Oil, Turmeric, Rosemary, Basil Root, Bisabolol Size: 1.7 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

7. Best Hair Serum

Whether you’re opposed to heavier oils or you’re still in need of some extra moisture, Naselli recommends using a hair and scalp serum twice a week. OGX’s Nourishing Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum is a lightweight hydrator that also helps to minimize breakage by fortifying the hair with silk amino acids and egg white protein. In here, hydrolyzed milk protein gives hair a glossy finish while coconut oil, shea butter, and glycerin replenish and restore dried-out strands. Plus, it smells amazing.

Key Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Hydrolyzed Milk Protein, Silk Amino Acids, Shea Butter, Glycerin, Egg White Protein Size: 4 oz. Cruelty-Free: No

You May Also Like: A Silk Pillowcase

You don’t need a silk pillowcase, but the experts believe that they can be helpful when it comes to reducing frizz. Not only does a silk pillowcase create less friction, which in turn means less frizz, but the silk material won’t absorb as much moisture (or moisturizing product) from your hair as a cotton pillowcase will. Those same benefits translate to your skin, too, as the silk won’t absorb as much of your skin care products. (Plus, anecdotal evidence points to silk pillowcases being beneficial for acne-prone skin.)

Available Colors: 15


Dr. Sheila Farhang, M.D., board-certified dermatologis and founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics.

Christopher Naselli, New York-based celebrity hairstylist.