This website uses cookies so that we can provide you with the best user experience possible. Cookie information is stored in your browser and performs functions such as recognizing you when you return to our website and helping our team to understand which sections of the website you find most interesting. We do not share any your subscription information with third parties. It is used solely to send you notifications about site content occasionally.

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Dear Pharmacist,

My teenage son’s dermatologist suggested Accutane (isotretinoin) for acne. I looked it up on the Internet and it scared me. Can you suggest some alternatives?

--B.A., Orlando, Florida

Answer: Any teenager dealing with acne has my compassion. It’s such a difficult age, when they’re trying so desperately to be attractive to peers. You’re reservations regarding isotretinoin are spot on. The medication has potential risks including liver damage, depression, and suicidal ideation; lawyers advertise on TV in order to gain clients. Because it can increase risk of birth defects doctors won’t even prescribe it to young women who could get pregnant. Alternatively, antibiotics such as doxycycline, come with their own set of risks that can lead to long-term health issues such as digestive problems, leaky gut and Candida fungal overgrowth. If you take an antibiotic long-term, you definitely need a probiotic to replenish the healthy flora.

Fear not, I have a few suggestions that have every likelihood of success. My first suggestion is a skin clarifying system called TRIA that zaps the bacteria that cause acne. The heart of this three-step acne clearing system is a blue light that penetrates the skin surface and attacks the pathogens that cause acne. This kit did a terrific job on my son’s skin when he used it, and we could see results the first week. I recommend this product because it is non-medicated, in fact, the clarifying cleanser doesn’t even contain benzoyl peroxide which can be irritating to some individuals.

Now, more about this blue light. It causes a warming sensation on the skin. Blue light treatments are FDA-approved and some dermatologists use this technique in their offices. The TRIA product that I’m suggesting is over-the-counter, but is still professional strength. You can learn more at

Many dermatologists- at least the ones who are behind the times- still maintain that diet has nothing to do with acne breakouts. Nothing is further from the truth according to new medical studies. For more about what to eat to support beautiful, clear skin I strongly recommend picking up a copy of The Clear Skin Diet written by dermatologist Valorie Treloar, M.D., and naturopathic physician Alan C. Logan, N.D. (Cumberland House, 2007).

This book does a good job of outlining what to eat (and what to avoid) to promote clear skin and it offers recommendations for dietary supplements. You could easily implement Dr. Treloar suggestion to avoid dairy products; reason being the hormones used in dairy products adversely affect skin. According to Dr. Treloar, this step alone could go a long way to clear up troubled teenage skin. One more thing, teenage acne, has been tied to low zinc. Supplements of natural zinc lozenges are inexpensive and sold at health food stores nationwide. You might also try dabbing the spots with natural 100 percent Tea Tree Oil.

Did You Know?

A compound in green tea called L-theonine has just been shown to help you focus on your daily activities and stress less.

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website,

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)