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Everything I Wish I Was Told Before Starting Accutane

I’d like to start by giving my deepest sympathies to anyone who may already know what life on Accutane is like, but I’d also like to acknowledge that this treatment is something I am still so grateful for, even four years later. For anyone that is unaware, Isotretinoin, more informally known as Accutane, is a treatment for severe acne, and I was recently surprised by how many of my friends had also gone through this treatment. Looking back, I wish I had spoken a bit more about this experience because it really was something that I could have used guidance on. 

My Experience:

My sophomore year of high school (2017ish) was when my acne was at its worst. I’m sure that I had breakouts before that, but I remember certain points around December of that year that made me realize how much the issue had grown to become physically painful, as well as it had grown to affect my confidence. I went to the dermatologist for the first time in February of that year, and admittedly, I had no idea what I was walking into. I left that appointment with a handful of daily topical treatments and a pill (not accutane) that I was to start taking about twice a day. The biggest piece of information that I left that appointment with, however, was the reminder that if these prescribed treatments were unsuccessful, the next step would be to begin discussing accutane. Two months or so had passed, and nothing had improved. I went back to my dermatologist, but with much more apprehension this time around. At this point I had heard the horror stories of accutane, and the extreme precautions that I would need to follow and monitor for the next five months on this medication. I took my time with the decision, but in May of my sophomore year, I started the treatment. 

What I would tell others who are considering this treatment:

One thing that has been a bit unusual about my experience, that I have only recently realized, was that I didn’t have to wait a long time to get prescribed accutane. From hearing the experiences of others, I’ve heard that it isn’t uncommon for accutane to be somewhat of a “last resort” when it comes to dermatology. However, this isn’t all that surprising to me, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. My biggest piece of advice for anyone considering accutane, is to wait it out. I know this can be frustrating, and a chance for clear skin is a hard opportunity to pass up, but until you’re positive that five months of this treatment is something you are fully willing to take on- wait it out. Don’t get me wrong, accutane completely cleared my skin and gave me so much of my confidence and freedom back, but it wasn’t immediately a step that I was ready for. There’s a lot of other factors to consider like monthly blood work, and various side effects (dry skin, mood swings, nosebleeds, back pain, ect.,) that should play a role in how/when you make this decision. Utilize your dermatologists and their advice, and ASK QUESTIONS! I would never dream of turning anyone away from choosing to go through with accutane, but I would absolutely advise patience and caution when considering your options. There’s no possible way I could touch on every aspect of this experience, but I think it’s extremely important that I summarize my experience by noting the challenging and negative aspects while also making it clear how positive accutane was for me in the end

From my experience, starting accutane was very intimidating, and I had the overwhelming sense that none of my friends would ever understand what this process was like. It wasn’t until I had gone through the treatment and began mentioning it that I realized many of my friends were either considering accutane or had been prescribed it already! I know skin-care and dermatology experiences vary from person to person, but I know that it would have helped me tremendously to know how someone else in the same situation was feeling, or even to get advice from someone who had already been down the same path. 

Eileen Quinn

Illinois State '23

Junior at Illinois State University majoring in International Business, with a Spanish language endorsement.
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