We Asked 3 Derms About Winlevi, the First FDA-Approved Acne Drug Since Accutane

It's a game-changer.

woman with acne

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According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S. and affects up to 50 million Americans annually. There are several methods of treating acne, from cleansers to OTC medication. Accutane and Spironolactone have long been the most common prescriptions for acne. But for the first time since 1982 (when Accutane was approved), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just signed off on a new acne medication. Enter: Winlevi, a cream-based treatment by Cassiopea. To find out how Winlevi works and why this cream is a gamechanger for people with acne-prone skin, we asked three dermatologists to share their thoughts.

Meet the three board-certified dermatologists sharing everything you need to know about Winlevi: Dove Partner Mona Gohara, MD, Proactiv partner Rachel Nazarian, MD, and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mount Siani in NYC, Morgan Rabach, MD (the latter two of which are members of Byrdie's Beauty and Wellness Board).

What Is Winlevi?

“It’s a topical medication approved by the FDA for use in 2021 for the treatment of acne vulgaris,” says Dr. Rabach. “It’s the first anti-androgen receptor topical cream. Androgens cause increased sebum production, which leads to clogged pores which leads to acne. This medication would block this.” Winlevi has been approved to treat acne vulgaris in people 12 and older and must be prescribed by a board-certified dermatologist. The cost of the acne medication is not yet known. 

Who Should Use Winlevi?

Dr. Gohana says that Winlevi is recommended for people who have acne, particularly in a hormonal distribution. She says the medication is also a suitable option for "those who have tried other topicals such as retinoids or BHA's, without success, or those who do not want to go on oral medication such as antibiotics." 

Dr. Nazarian also notes that the medication’s introduction to the market is great news for men. “It offers another useful option for male patients suffering from acne since these patients cannot use Spironolactone,” she tells us.

Why Is It Different?

Winlevi is unique because it is a topical treatment as opposed to an oral medication like Accutane and Spironolactone. “It doesn’t seem to have interactions with other oral medications like Spironolactone and Accutane do,” Dr. Rabach added. 

What Are The Side Effects?

During the clinical trial phase of Winlevi, a few possible side effects were discovered. Dr. Rabach noted people may experience local irritation including pruritus, burning, skin redness, or peeling. She says Winlevi may also cause hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal suppression in certain patients, meaning this medication may affect the hormone balance in your body. 

Will It Replace Accutane and Spironolactone?

While Winlevi is projected to be a groundbreaking treatment, experts don’t expect the medication to completely eradicate the need for Accutane and Spironolactone. “Accutane has the additional benefit of offering a potential lifelong cure for acne, and also may help with scarring, blackheads, and whiteheads,” Dr. Nazarian says. “Spironolactone also offers additional benefits since it is an oral medication, and can help with decreasing oil production and improving hair which many people appreciate. For body acne or severe acne, a topical choice is often not appropriate.”

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