This $10 Green-Tinted Moisturizer Saved My Post-Accutane Skin

I felt a rush of confidence.

Woman with acne

Getty Images / Imagedepotpro

There’s something to be said for a quick fix. I’m all for long-term effects. Bring on the retinol. Yes, to consistent routines and gradual change. I’ll take a slow burn. But if an arduous journey to make peace with my skin (think: hormonal acne) has taught me one thing, it’s the unsung brilliance of immediate results—specifically, green-tinted moisturizer. 

Four years ago, after reading dozens of Reddit threads and watching so many Youtube testimonials, I went on Accutane (medically referred to as Isotretinoin). The process was intense. Even arriving at the process was intense. My dermatologist  Dr. Cebele Fishman put me on antibiotics out of the gate. Nothing worked. I spent hours in infrared saunas and cut out dairy for weeks. It didn't help. I remember crying in her office, the unforgiving lighting highlighting my despair. "I just want it to be done," I said to her. She sighed, crossed her arms, and told me it was time. 

Accutane was rolled in like a last-ditch Hail Mary pass. The side effects scared me, but I was committed to the process. Every month, I was early for my blood work. I slathered on sunscreen, even for a bodega run. I gave up the beach, harsh toners, and makeup altogether as I babied my newly sensitive skin. There were tears, and nights where the tightness and cracking of the skin around my lips frightened me, but I slept eventually—repeating "long game" in my head like a mantra. 

There were tears, and nights where the tightness and cracking of the skin around my lips frightened me, but I slept eventually—repeating 'long game' in my head like a mantra.

Thankfully, the results were intense, too. While my complexion on the other side was smooth and mark-free, the powerful drug left me with near-constant residual redness and skincare fatigue. I was tired of things "getting worse before they got better." The high power cell turnover left my naturally pale, prone to blushing skin somewhere in the baby pink color category. Permanently. During my last visit before my final round of the drug, I begged my dermatologist for advice. The usual spiel about drinking more water was not going to cut it. 

She wrote down "Eucerin Redness Relief ($10) and CeraVe Gentle Cleanser ($17)" on a monogrammed notepad. I bolted out of the elevator of her office into the nearest drugstore. I purchased both products and a bag of peanut M&Ms for good measure. Back in my apartment, I rushed into the bathroom and pumped the Eucerin moisturizer onto the back of my hand. 

It was green. It wasn’t expired, despite my frantic research. It wasn’t mislabeled. The green goop I was expected to slather my face in was intentional. Dr. Fishman was on to something. "If you look at a traditional color wheel, the colors opposite each other are neutralizing," she explained in a recent email exchange. "Red and green are across from each other, so green tends to neutralize red. Green pigment maximally absorbs red light (the classic example is chlorophyll), so when you put green on the skin, the red pigment in the skin is less apparent as absorbed by the green pigment." My insecurity could be boiled down to basic color theory. I felt a rush of confidence as I blended the sage green cream into my skin. It disappeared, leaving me with a feeling of sweet, momentary relief. 

I felt a rush of confidence as I blended the sage green cream into my skin.

And that’s what’s so helpful about a quick fix—its ability to inject a short-term sensation of tranquility. The green-tinted moisturizer didn’t reduce the issue. But it alleviated me from the pressure of trying to discover a miracle antidote for my redness and permitted me to focus on life beyond my redness. I felt the confidence to shut the medicine closet and focus on being a better partner or meet my friends for dinner that would turn into drinks that would turn into dancing. 

It’s important, of course, to note the underlying issues the physical manifestation of the color could be pointing to, like a medication reaction or an infection. But in my case, redness is the result of turning my skin inside out on Accutane (and genetics). While experimenting with beauty products has its time and place, I’ve learned to accept the truth of my pale pink complexion. Most fundamental truths about our bodies benefit from acceptance in place of attempts at alteration. 

I’ve since graduated to Dr. Jart’s "Cicapair" collection, specifically the Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment ($52). The price tag is higher than Eucerin, but the texture is easier to combine and offers barrier protection. I mix it with a hefty dollop of EltaMD UV Clear Sunscreen. What made the biggest difference is a gentleness toward my skin and, with that, a realistic set of expectations for how far skincare can go. What works for me is a consistent routine, sealed with a layer of green-tinted moisturizer.

What made the biggest difference is a gentleness toward my skin and, with that, a realistic set of expectations for how far skincare can go.

There are all sorts of these short-term insurances for a good day: green-tinted moisturizers, my favorite vintage Levis, a call with my best friend. The products I’ve embraced post-Accutane aren’t promises of eternally even skin tone, just as one pair of jeans doesn’t guarantee a life free of wondering what to wear. Quick fixes leave you better than you started, and that’s enough. When it comes to green-tinted moisturizers, they equip me with a little less redness and the capability to accept whatever slow burns come my way.

Related Stories