My 6 Month Journey With Accutane
Hey folks! This blog post has been a longggg time coming.
Let’s talk for a hot second.
Such a dreadful word, am I right? Unfortunately so many individuals year after year, age after age struggle with so many different variations of acne and blemishes and all sorts of skin impurities that can seriously ruin a day and sometimes even like weeks and months and years if we are being completely honest. It is a struggle that affects over 50 million Americans annually. (hello!)
So no, you are NOT alone. If you are here reading this because you too struggle with acne or breakouts that continuously happen and you are having trouble getting the breakouts under control you are in the right place to not only gain insight but to relate to someone who has been there.
Let me start by saying that I think almost every person I meet has been or is currently affected by some type of acne in their life and has questions. I mean I know I did when I walked into my Dermatologists office literally desperate for an answer. After spending hundreds of dollars on new skin care routines, countless amounts of new makeup, exfoliates, body wash, checking my water, not using any chemicals to using literally every chemical. I was convinced it was my water and then I was convinced that if I used toothpaste on my blemishes that they would shrink overnight (thanks google but that didn’t work).
If you are someone who does struggle everyday with breakouts and painful acne blemishes that seem to be so out of control, I want to share my story with you.
DAY 1. — My Engagement
Happiest Day of my life! The reason I am bringing this up? It is the day that I would always remember as one of the coolest most impromptu and exciting moments I’ll ever go through in my adult life! And guess what. You may not be able to see it in the image above but underneath ALL THAT MAKEUP was my biggest insecurity. I spent a solid hour layering my makeup that morning to cover the painful pimples that were forming on my neck and jawline as well as along my chin and around my mouth. And honestly? I always spent hours doing my makeup and planning how I would cover up the zits that made me insecure to be around my FIANCE. Embarrassing.
I got engaged and immediately said “I REFUSE TO HAVE ACNE ON MY WEDDING DAY”. For me, that was it. I just knew that I did not want to have a bunch of breakouts ruining my day and I knew they would if I didn’t do something about it.
Which brings me to returning from my trip and let me fast forward for you so that I can spare you boring details because when I got back I made an appointment to see the Dermatologist. When I made the appointment I literally said “I refuse to have acne on my wedding day and I just got engaged and I need to get on accutane.” What I wish I would have said is this, “HI, I am Ally and I suffer from cystic hormonal acne and have for the past two years and I am fed up but I need to see someone to talk about my options." I’m telling you, I went into this appointment with no other idea in my head other than accutane because I knew that it would get rid of my acne. I did so much research and educated myself and saw good and bad reviews of it. I also spoke with my cousin who was on it at the time and she has good and bad things to say. After having multiple conversations with her I decided that I needed it and so that is what happened.
My First Appointment Recap —
First let me show you a picture of my acne when it was bad. Like REALLY BAD. (I am embarrassed but it needs to be seen)
OKAY HERE IT GOES…..holding my breath.
Looks painful right? It was. I was in so much paint that was honestly unbearable for long periods of time. The reason I am showing you this is because it is real and people struggle with way worse than me. I want to be a voice of help to those who are trying to get their acne under control and this is raw and as real as it gets.
So long story short I go to my first appointment makeup free (terrifying, truly) thinking I was going to walk in to my appointment, she would see how horrible my skin was and I would walk out with a prescription and info to obtain my Accutane drug to fix this. HA
I did walk in and she evaluated me and talked to me about how she wasn’t going to even try to exhaust any other options because it just didn’t make sense to spend more money and try and try and try when I had been on medications and ointments before. So I got a “You have to come back in 4 weeks and take a pregnancy test to be sure you are not pregnant and then we can get you started on the medication!” I was like, WHAT. I have to live like this for 4 more weeks. I don’t get to start it tomorrow? Are you kidding? I need to fix this acne NOW. Honestly that is how I felt inside but deep down because I did research I knew it wasn’t going to be that easy and that I would have to really go through a process to getting clear skin, so I was up for it!
Second Visit —
Four weeks went by and I am of course just breaking out the normal 3-4 times per day during the high of my breakouts and feeling not great. I walk in and I get to take my pregnancy test and I get told that I am NOT pregnant! Thank the lord. But now I get to wait another two weeks to have the medication prescribed, my government questionnaire signed up for (oh yeah you have to go online to the government page to prove you aren’t pregnant and that you are using two kinds of birth control because did I mention that if you DO get pregnant, your baby will have sever birth defects?) actually obtain my prescription before I can start and pass the test! So WHOOP as long as I did all of that which actually isn’t that hard in the grand scheme of things. You just have to be committed to not having a baby while you are on this drug if you are female. Being honest that you won’t share your drug with anyone and that you pass the test that the government sends you to prove that you are using multiple forms of birth control! So I walked out empty handed during this visit but I knew change was in the near future.
FINALLY GOT MY MEDICATION — Month 1 of 6 on medication
Accutane is prescribed in dosage that is varied by weight. The drug heavily affects your liver and other parts of your body but mainly your liver. I was advised to not drink on the drug because it can really thin your blood without drinking and of course, alcohol thins your blood so it was in my best interest to not drink while I was taking this medication. I said, whatever is best I am okay with since I just wanted my acne gone. I was prescribed 6 months on the drug called Isotretinoin in other words the medication we all know as Accutane! I was stoked to be starting this journey. Super excited to have the start day over with so I could get on with my life and not have to worry about breakouts every other day.
The journey began smooth. Month one was typical as in the first month on the medication you take the smallest dosage (it increases as you go). I took 1 pill everyday to get it in my system. I broke out but my skin for the most part was the same and I didn’t see much of a difference. If anything my skin felt pretty tight as it was preparing to purge.
Your dermatologist will give you all of the info on possible side effects but they probably will not go into detail with you every single side effect that has been reported from this medicine. But I am here to tell you my story and the most common side effects I experienced. As for month one, besides experiencing mild dryness and some tightness in my face amongst breakouts, I felt pretty much normal and very optimistic because in my eyes, nothing was worse than having acne and I was going to get through it like a champ!
Month Two of 6 on medication —
Can we talk about breakouts and scars for a second? If you are like me and maybe you aren’t, breakouts cause scars at some point if you continuously breakout. And if you are anything like me, I will tell myself every single time that I will not pick at them because it will make them worse and at some point I still do. I find a way to pick at them for some reason and it did make it worse. So naturally I got some wicked scarring on my jawline that was pretty noticeable at all times even if I did cake on the makeup so much that the pimples and redness would be covered, the texture of my skin was so uneven and scarred from picking at my acne.
Notice how much better my face is in the second month versus the first? I experienced a purge stage at this month and I increased my dosage to two pills a day that were worth 15 mg. At this point I was mid month two and I felt almost like my skin was peeling off and dry and painful. During this time I experimented with facial cleaners and also got a skin moisturizer that I felt could get me through the dryness and hurting skin!
These two products I swear by then and now. The cleanser kept my skin clean when it was peeling and dry and the jojoba oil moisturized like I have never experienced! I truly love both products! Oil won’t work for every single person for moisturizing and each and every person has their own preferences! This is just what worked for me! Personally, I think that CeraVe is one of the best products out there for drugstore facial cleansers because it is affordable and is just so moisturizing with minimal invasive ingredients!
Month 3-5 on Medication
I struggled. I struggled extremely bad with these months on the medicine for multiple reasons. #1 It was summer and I couldn’t be out in the sun because I got extremely sunburnt so I was always wearing sunscreen and covering up my skin and honestly that’s just not my style haha. Prepare yourself if you go on this medicine, your skin gets so very sensitive to sun exposure and if you do get sun burnt, it can be so so painful. I was lucky enough that I didn’t get very sun burnt during this time because I was smart and didn’t test my limits (strongly recommend that you don’t test your limits and use sunscreen always when you are outside even if you aren’t on the medicine)!
By this time my breakouts were very under control and by month 4 I wasn’t breaking out much at all. I had sever dry skin and of course sensitive skin but I wasn’t having many external side effects as of month 4 + 5. My side effects were internal and those side effects are pretty much the primary reason I am writing this right now because I had some of the most real side effects in terms of my mental well being + mood. Being a mom is hard the way it is but add a medicine that literally makes you semi depressed and it makes it that much harder. Let me list my main feelings I had towards the end of Accutane for you to make it easy to follow because I could ramble on and on.
Drained/Could sleep forever
Borderline depressed (my feelings were not suicidal although that is a common side effect for women on this medicine + your dermatologist should warn you of this.)
High Anxiety + mental instability — I was always on edge and very testy when it came to people I was around. I became somewhat irritated about the littlest things and it was very hard for me to pull myself out of the foggy brain I had most days.
Lack of desire to do things I normally love to do
Hair loss + breakage
Overly emotional about pretty much everything
I suffered for weeks and months with the lingering side effects of tiredness and foggy mind. My hair still is weak and fine and I am going on a year since I began the medicine. Some of the side effects were very common until just last month for me. When the doctor warns you about some of the things, just do not take them lightly because they do affect you.
These side effects were MY side effects personally. Not everyone experiences the same side effects like I stated earlier but these were truths for me that made the medicine hard for me to finish over time. My hair breakage was easily the worst part for me as I was literally having my hair fall out and break during all six months. It happened almost immediately when I started my 2 per day dosages and I am still dealing with that side effect. Don’t let me fool you, my life went on and I had a great summer last year! I did all of the things I would have normally done and I got through the side effects with the help and support of my amazing family by my side! Beating acne was one thing I knew I would get through but the process was difficult to get through all on its own, but here I am, I did it and you can too!
Acne can be a thing of the past and luckily there are so many options and resources out there to make your decisions about the route you will take easier!
Let me get to some of the perks and pros of this drug for me personally that made it bearable! I promised myself that it would all be worth it once I didn’t have pimples all over my face again and it definitely proved true so I can easily put those hard moments for the 6 month journey I was on, behind me!
One thing I promised myself was that I would focus on eating healthy and working out so that I could get through the 6 months a little easier, almost like using my dermatology appointments as accountability to stay on track so that when I got weighed at my appointments it would be worth it and I would be transforming not only on my face but my entire body! I worked out relatively regularly! I would go for runs to keep my headspace in a good spot, I ate healthy and did lose some weight and toned up my body! Accutane pushed me to do that, because I wanted to completely change my life in so many ways and that was one of them!
Post Breakouts + End of Accutane
I was thrilled to be able to walk around my house without makeup on. Working out without makeup on ( which is probably one of the reasons I had acne in the first place because I wasn’t comfortable without makeup on ANYWHERE) I finally felt “free” in some sort. I felt happy that I could feel comfortable in my skin and go out and not worry about everyone looking at my pimples or my dryness or huge welts and scabs on my face from picking on my zits. I felt more confident than ever and still do! My swollen face that was once in so much pain was no longer in pain and it was the most rewarding feeling walking into my second to last dermatology appointment with clear skin and 15 lbs lighter! It was worth it!
I walked in with confidence feeling good minus the major side effects but always chose to wake up and say I am going to conquer this and I am going to choose happy today and joy and I typically would put on a happy face and face my day just like I normally would. I believe that if you put happiness around you and you fill you life with joy, you can get through anything and you have to be able to tell yourself that it is all worth it!
Obviously one of the perks of Accutane is that it gets rid of acne, and the struggle was worth it to me to have skin that I could be confident in and take care of. Now I spend my time treating myself with skin care that is so beneficial and I can see my skin transform and truly be healthy which is my dream come true!
What I wish I knew —
I wish I would have asked more questions to my doctor before I decided to go on the medicine. Here is my list of questions that I think you should be knowledgeable in before you decide to take on this strong drug to rid your acne problems
Do I have acne that is unbearable to me? — A question that you should ask because there are so many options out there and perhaps Accutane wouldn’t be the most beneficial to you.
Are there other options for me that I could try before Accutane?
If I feel very strong drugs can I get on a less dose so that I can bear it and still have my skin back? — Ask your doctor to help you get on a dose that you can handle. It is all customizable and they will inform you of that. It is not a “one size fits all” drug and your doctor will do what is best for you even if that means you have to be on it longer so that you can tolerate the drug.
Will my mood change a lot that it affects my work and personal life? — If you are feeling this. TELL your doctor. I did feel it in the beginning and didn’t say anything but wish I would have.
Is there a “off brand” version of the drug so that I can save some money? — Always ask for the version that will save you money. My first month was $525 because my insurance didn’t accept the other kind. I ended up finding a pharmacy out in Texas through my dermatologist that actually got me to only spend $75 a month on the medication!
I would go on accutane again if I had acne as bad as I did before I went on it which I hope I never have to experience again but being knowledgable about the side effects, etc is so important when you are starting any medication! Your well being is not worth a drug and it is up to you to decide what you need to do that will best fit your lifestyle and life in general! Don’t take a medication that makes you feel like you want to harm yourself or not be here on earth! You are beautiful in every single way and you can get through whatever it is that you are going through with your skin journey!
I wish I would have known ALL of the side effects that would have affected me directly, but there is not way to know unless you do it so my only advice is to get the professional advice from your doctor and truly weigh out your options if the medicine will be beneficial for you! Every person is so different and diverse and what works for some may not work for others but my journey has been exactly finding out what works for me and trying to give you all avid advice that can help you make those decisions!
POST ACCUTANE —
Oh goodness! The day came when I went into the Dermatologist and I was told I was done and I didn’t have to go back (for a LONGGGG time hopefully!) and I was ecstatic. I brought up my concerns regarding my hair to her and she told me that I could go back to them in 6 months if I felt like it was really hindering my life and affecting me negatively. One good thing to know is that the medicine stays in your system for a good 6 weeks post ending the medication so it is completely normal to feel those side effects for a bit even after being finished with the medicine! I felt them up until about a month ago with my energy, mood, etc!
Of course, my biggest thing was that I didn’t want acne on my wedding day and now I can confidently walk around feeling like my absolute best self and it makes me so glad that I can put acne behind me! This journey was one that I didn’t think I would have to take on in my mid 20’s but it is something that is so much more common than anyone thinks so you are not alone if you are struggling with acne, the fact is you just aren’t. Acne is so common especially in women in their mid to late 20’s which is just crazy to me because I feel like when we grow up we feel like everyone has acne in their teens when puberty hits but the reality is a lot of people struggle years after that!
My before + after photos blow my mind every single time because I no longer have a swollen face half of the month from putting so many chemicals on it and trying to pick at pimples that were randomly appearing throughout my days.
We all break out sometimes and sometimes the breakouts are unbearable and uncontrollable. If you are one of those people please comment and ask my advice and I will give you as much advice as I possibly can!
You can get past the fear of the dreadful acne + you can beat this!