Three years ago, at the age of 25, my skin seemed to regress to my teenage years, and I started to get spots – way too many of them for my liking. After trying various antibiotics, with limited success, I got a referral to a dermatologist who recommended trying Roaccutane. This well-known acne treatment is said to be very effective, but it comes with numerous side effects. Primarily, because it works to reduce the production of sebum, it also causes a lot of skin dryness. So the question I’m really trying to answer with this article is: what is the best moisturiser to use with Roaccutane?
This what I’m looking for in a good moisturiser to use alongside Roaccutane:
1. Very effective at moisturising, getting rid of flakey skin and leaving it feeling soft and smooth.
2. Preferably white-based and non perfumed, as recommended by my dermatologist.
3. Non-greasy formula, so as not to cause any more spots.
4. Value for money – the cheaper the better, so if it’s expensive it has to really be worth it. I didn’t look at any prices until I wrote this up, so they wouldn’t sway my initial reaction.
5. It’s recommended to use a high SPF sunscreen while on Roaccutane, but because I use make up with SPF 50 every day (the excellent Heliocare Color Gelcream Light) I’m not looking for SPF in a moisturiser.
When I say thoroughly tried and tested I mean it – I used each moisturiser morning and night for a week to really examine its quality and effectiveness in conjunction with Roaccutane. This is what I found, in the order in which I tested the products.
Dr Nick Lowe Oil Control Day Cream
What’s it supposed to do? ‘A light and easily absorbed daily moisturiser to help regulate surface oils and deliver ultimate hydration. The powerful formulation helps reduce the surface skin oils, pores and refine the skin’s texture, all of which help reduce breakouts and spots.’
Does it work? Housed in a heavy, luxe frosted glass pot, this is a way posher moisturiser than I’m used to. The luxuriously thick cream spreads easily but absorbs so quickly you wouldn’t know it’s there, leaving my skin clear, thoroughly moisturised and ready for make up. It’s only week one of my trials but this stuff is going to take some beating.
Price: £15.49 for 50ml from the Dr Nick Lowe website; £30.98 per 100 ml
Final score: 8/10 – as good as you would expect from famed Dr Nick.
Sudocrem Skincare Cream
What’s it supposed to do? ‘Mantains healthy skin. Ideal for spot prone skin, after sun and irritations. Soothes and protects.’ Plus, this traditional nappy rash and burn cream is apparently favoured by those ever beauty-conscious ‘celebs’ from The Only Way is Essex as a spot preventer.
Does it work? Having not used it since childhood, I had forgotten just how thick Sudocrem is. Spreading it over my face as I would a normal moisturiser it felt like white face paint and left a residue on dry areas – two weeks into my Roaccutane treatment I had flakiness around my nose, mouth and chin. For that reason, I couldn’t use it in the morning, but put on at night almost like a mask to soak in over night it feels very protecting. Ultimately I had to stop using it because it didn’t moisturise my dry skin enough, but if you suffer redness I think Sudocrem could be a good primer for under make up.
Price: £2.04 for 30g from Superdrug; £6.67 per 100g
Final score: 5/10 – not great for Roaccutane-ravaged skin.
Boots Simply Sensitive Day Moisturiser SPF15
What’s it supposed to do? ‘This oil free daily moisturiser has been specially formulated with vitamin E and SPF15. It helps keep skin supple and is formulated to be non pore blocking.’
Does it work? This is my usual day cream, I swapped back to this after I abondoned the Sudocrem. It’s a great little moisturiser, an opaque white cream that seems to last ages. Most importantly, it’s the cheapest moisturiser you can find in Boots that contains SPF15, which I believe is absolutely essential (see criteria above). I still love this stuff (so much so that I blogged about it previously), but using it after the Nick Lowe cream made me realise it’s actually a little bit greasy, although that’s not visible under make up.
Price: £1.39 for 125ml from Boots; £1.11 per 100ml
Final score: 8/10 – unbeatable value for money
Nelsons Pure & Clear Balancing Moisturiser
What’s it supposed to do? ‘Thanks to its special light and oil-free formulation it is rapidly absorbed, providing a deep hydrating experience to help control shine without blocking pores.’
Does it work? This moisturiser has a gel like texture similar to the Dr Nick Lowe oil control cream, but it comes in a bottle with a pump top, which makes it easier to dispense. It also means there’s no contamination from sticking my fingers in a pot of moisturiser – an important consideration seeing as I’m suffering a major acne breakout this week (my dermatologist warned the Roaccutane would make my skin worse before it got better). The Nelsons cream absorbs and moisturises well, however, a drawback for me is that it left my skin feeling a bit tight. I think that’ll be the tea tree anti blemish properties. So it’s not great for my super dry skin but it may well suit more oily skin types better.
Price: £8.45 for 125ml from Holland and Barrett; £6.76 per 100ml
Final score: 6/10 – too much tea tree for dry skin
H2O+ Face Oasis Ultra Hydrator
What’s it supposed to do? ‘Hydrating marine botanicals provide instant hydration to visibly plump and smooth dry skin; Nutri-spheres deliver a surge of antioxidant vitamins to help protect against aging free radical damage; Light-reflecting particles lightly illuminate skin to cast a subtle, youthful glow’
Does it work? I was a bit confused by this product at first because the blue gel has little white beads in it, much like an exfoliator. But then I bothered to read the pot and it said to rub a dollop in your hand until the ‘nutri-spheres’ burst. And what a difference that made. The fresh seaside-scented gel emulsified into a lovely creamy consistency that spread lusciously over my skin. It absorbed really well, leaving my skin feeling so moist, plump and soft that it was as if I’d used a primer too. This is an exceptionally good moisturiser.
Price: £32.50 for 50ml from Marks and Spencer; £65 per 100ml
Final score: 9/10 – lives up to its name, an exceptionally hydrating moisturiser
Crystal Clear Illuminate
What’s it supposed to do? ‘An instant ‘beauty boost’ to hydrate, brighten and firm dull, lifeless skin…visibly reduces uneven skin tone, diminishes age spots and creates the perfect base for long-lasting luminous make-up.
Does it work? Sounds pretty radical doesn’t it? And for ageing skin this ‘instant radiance moisturiser’ may well be a godsend, but for someone taking Roaccutane it’s not really suitable. I realised after a couple of applications that it didn’t feel like a moisturiser so much as a serum. The concentrated white formula left the dry patches on my skin, particularly around my mouth, looking flaky, and I sadly (because I had high hopes) had to switch back to my usual moisturiser. However, I’ll be giving it a more thorough test once I’ve finished my course of Roaccutane as there are some dark spots starting to show around my eyes that I would really like to stop in their tracks.
Price: £60 for 50ml from the Crystal Clear website; £120 per 100ml
Final score: 5/10 – too concentrated for use with Roaccutane
Benecos Natural Day Cream Q10
What’s it supposed to do? ‘A light textured facial moisturiser which contains hyaluronic acid and Q10 to help replenish the skin providing moisture to brighten, tighten and soothe the skin’
Does it work? I love the way this creamy, ivory coloured moisturiser melts onto your skin. Rather than light textured, I found it quite rich compared to some of the other moisturisers, but in a really good way. Maybe it’s because while I tested it the weather was swelteringly hot, but this cream slides over the skin beautifully, giving a dewy look that gradually absorbs, taking with it all traces of Roaccutane-caused dryness or flakiness on my face. Overall I was very impressed, and I think it’s rare to find a moisturiser that contains super-moisturising hyaluronic acid and Q10 (an antioxidant which gets depleted over the age of thirty) in the sub-£10 price bracket.
Price: £5.95 for 50ml from the Benecos website; £11.90 for 100ml
Final score: 9/10 – excellent quality for the price
Skin Repair All Over Me
What’s it supposed to do? ‘An intensive moisturiser, containing Evening Primrose Oil, for extremely dehydrated and irritated skin. Its skin similar ingredients will help to strengthen and protect the skin whilst its additional skin loving components help reduce scaling, itches and rashes.’
Does it work? The light silky consistency makes this feel like a cream moisturiser, but on application it melts into the skin and feels more like a balm. In the morning it’s a little bit too slick to use under my make up, but as a night cream it’s incredibly effective, absorbing any dryness and leaving a protective layer to lock in hydration overnight. A very good match for Roaccutane-related dry skin.
Price: £24.99 for 50ml from the Skin Repair website; £49.98 for 100ml
Final score: 8/10 – particularly good overnight
As with my tests on cleansers, I found that price made a big difference in my ratings for moisturisers. Being a pretty frugal person myself (generally, I’d rather put money away for a house deposit than spend it on beauty products) I had hoped price wouldn’t make a difference but it turns out the more expensive products are generally better. In this case, there are two winners. My overall favourite was the H2O+ Face Oasis Ultra Hydrator, a supremely great moisturiser. If that’s out of your price range, the Benecos Natural Day Cream Q10 is also really effective and afforable too. So my advice is, if you’re looking for an excellent day cream to use with Roaccutane, buy the best you can afford.