AviClear VS Accutane: Which one is right for my acne?

By: Bay Area Cosmetic Dermatology


From the occasional flare up to recurring cystic breakouts, treating acne and its many root causes is a lot of what our expert skincare team does every single day. For more than 20 years, we’ve relied on combinations of topical products and oral prescriptions like antibiotics, birth control, and Accutane to combat acne, all of which can be highly effective for the right patient. We also frequently include chemical peels, red or blue light therapy and lasers such as the Vbeam (vascular laser) in our acne treatment plans.

But we’ve always hoped for an alternative; one that doesn’t require significant downtime, unwanted side effects, daily pills or frequent in-office appointments. This is why BACD is so delighted to now offer the first and only FDA-approved laser for the treatment of mild, moderate and severe acne: AviClear. 

Today we’re sitting down with Cynthia Chaghouri, BACD Physician  Assistant and Acne Expert  to explain how AviClear works, why it’s different from other treatments and if it may be right for you. 

Hi Cynthia! Can you start by telling us in layman's terms what AviClear is? 

AviClear uses the power of laser light to selectively target and suppress sebaceous glands (the oil-secreting glands in our skin). By stopping this production with AviClear’s laser, we eliminate acne at the source without the need for prescription medications.

How is AviClear different from Accutane or antibiotics treatment? 

Great question! I love all three treatments for different reasons. 
Antibiotics can be really effective for a quick fix. But we only prescribe them for a short period of time because most people shouldn’t be on antibiotics long-term.
Accutane (isotretinoin) is an oral prescription that clears up acne by reducing the skin’s oil production. Accutane treatments are usually a 6 month course of daily oral medication and 1x/month check-in appointments. Although Accutane dosage is lower than it used to be, it also brings with it a range of possible side effects. The most commonly experienced reaction is dry skin, but on rare occasions more serious side effects have been reported. For anyone who is able to get pregnant, we must also confirm birth control during Accutane.  
As a provider, I love Accutane because I see how incredibly effective it is for my patients but I also know it’s not for everyone.
AviClear is a great option for anyone who doesn’t want to 1) commit to taking pills daily 2) may be concerned about Accutane’s side effects 3) or is currently taking other medications that could interfere with an oral acne prescription. 
Another benefit to a lot of our patients is AviClear is easier to fit into a booked calendar. Rather than monthly appointments, we’ll only need to see you three times for laser treatments (after initial consultation). Summer break is an ideal time for highschool and college age kids to knock out a series of treatments. Start when you get home and be wrapped up before you head back in the fall. 

Some lasers can’t be used for deeper skin tones, is AviClear safe for everyone?

Yes! AviClear is considered a ‘universal skin type laser’ which means we can safely and effectively treat all skin types and colors.

We always need to know….what does it feel like?

Like a lot of lasers, AviClear treatments feel similar to a rubber band snap which can be more uncomfortable around sensitive areas like the nose, chine, or jawline. We offer both Pronox (laughing gas like you may have had at a dentist appointment) or Tylenol to help make the treatment more comfortable. 

What’s the downtime like? 

No down time for most people! The AviClear device has a built-in cooling mechanism that prevents redness and swelling. Most of our patients look the same directly after treatment as when they came in and confidently return to their day. 

How long until you start seeing results? 

Most patients will begin to see real benefits including fewer outbreaks and overall clearer skin 3-6 months after their first AviClear treatment with improvements continuing for up to a year.
It’s not unusual to experience a bit of a ‘purge’ after the first session but even these flare ups tend to be less severe than what people are accustomed to.
Also good to know, since we’re targeting oil glands with AviClear, some dryness is expected for 1-2 weeks post treatment. Luckily this can be managed with a topical moisturizer. If you have a favorite moisturizer, I encourage you to bring it into your appointment so we can review the ingredients together and ensure it’s appropriate for both acneic and post-procedure skin.

How much are AviClear treatments? 

AviClear treatments are $1200 each. We realize this is prohibitive for some patients and I’m happy we offer CareCredit to split the cost across more manageable monthly payments. Our Front Desk is available to help set up financing. 

Can I do just one AviClear treatment? 

AviClear is designed to be a 3 treatment series and we package them together for this reason. The results from AviClear are progressive and unfortunately, not much benefit would come from a single session.

Will I need maintenance treatments?

The clinical data for AviClear shows patients experience a 50-87% reduction in acne and breakouts after the first 3 treatments. Those on the lower end of that range may find touch up maintenance treatments to be beneficial. 

Thank you Cynthia!


Acne is one of the top 3 reasons people first visit BACD. We are intimately familiar with how frustrating acne can be and know everyone’s skin is different. If you’re fed up with acne and want an effective treatment plan designed just for you, schedule a consult today. Our acne experts would  love to meet with you and map out the best options for you to get clear, glowing skin. 

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.