My Experience with Accutane

*Disclaimer: Accutane is an extremely strong medication that should not be taken lightly. I am not encouraging or recommending anyone to take accutane, as I am not a licensed dermatologist; I am just sharing my overall experience with the medication. If you feel that you are a good candidate for Accutane, ask your dermatologist.* 

 

Let’s be honest- almost everyone has experienced acne at some point in their life. Whether it be that pesky breakout that keeps returning every few weeks, or a pimple that appears right before prom. I think we can all agree that acne is the worst. However, it is not as openly embraced or talked about as much as I wish it was. There are so many misconceptions about acne that really bother me: such as having acne equals having poor hygiene or having a poor diet.

These myths aren’t true and are very frustrating to people who struggle with acne. Hearing things such as, “you should try washing your face,” or “you shouldn’t wear so much makeup,” is actually very insulting and discouraging. There are many different factors that could cause acne such as hormones, puberty, genetics, stress, etc. It is completely normal and should not be so frowned upon in society.  

Megan Charles / Her Campus

I’ve struggled with acne for most of my teenage years/adult life. I first started experiencing small breakouts when I was a junior in highschool. Unfortunately, my acne became more stubborn as the years went on and my self esteem began to worsen. I tried everything under the sun: face masks, charcoal scrubs, tea tree oil, etc...nothing seemed to work for me. I found myself hiding behind my makeup.

Going out in public became a drag; I was constantly insecure to the point where I could barely look anyone in the eye. I sometimes even refused to leave the house on days where I felt extra self conscious. My breakouts were actually extremely painful and would cause parts of my face to swell.

This was when I decided to finally quit trying to solve this issue myself and go see my dermatologist. I was tired of living anxiously, and would do anything to help my skin. 

 

After examining my face, my dermatologist recommended that I try taking Accutane. Hearing this suggestion immediately worried me. All of the horror stories that I’ve heard from people taking Accutane consumed my thoughts.

Were all of these possible side effects, such as hair loss, anxiety, joint pain, rashes, liver damage, and depression worth having clear skin? Not to mention, since Accutane is heavily regulated by the government due to possible birth defects, I would also have to go on birth control to get my blood drawn monthly.

This was a huge commitment...but I decided that I was up for the challenge. I was tired of constantly feeling insecure and I personally felt like my acne was holding me back from a lot of things.

I took my dermatologist’s advice and began my journey taking accutane.

I was put on Accutane for a total of 7 months. I began feeling some of the negative side effects within the first few weeks of taking it; I had extremely dry skin and some minor body aches. I also developed weird rashes on the back of my hands that itched like crazy!

The worst side effect that I experienced, however, was the chapped lips. I could not go an hour without applying chapstick. became my best friend throughout this journey! To my surprise, my skin did not clear up quickly, in fact, it got significantly worse. Within the first 3 months, my skin broke out worse than it had ever broken out before.

This was extremely discouraging and took a huge toll of my self esteem and mental health. I remember feeling extremely hopeless and like I was enduring these side effects for nothing. However, I kept telling myself that it would be all worth it in the end, and I stuck it out.

Before I knew it, I had 2 more months left of Accutane. My skin looked significantly better, but I was still dealing with small breakouts here and there. Even though my skin was starting to heal, I was still feeling a little discouraged; I thought that my skin would be totally clear by now, and I was still covered in scars and some blemishes.

Suddenly, in my last two weeks of accutane, my skin cleared up completely. I couldn’t believe how fast it happened. Almost all of my scars faded and there was not one pimple on my face; it was honestly a miracle. The side effects slowly diminished after I ended my course, and they were completely gone within a month. I do still deal with only one long term side effect-which is sun sensitivity.

I never used to get sunburnt in the summer, but after Accutane, I am sure to always wear an SPF when I leave the house. 

gental, simple, clean skincare cream product Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych from Unsplash

Unlike most people, my side effects did not worsen as I was given higher doses of Accutane. I did not develop any new side effects either. It is important to note that Accutane affects everyone differently and you could experience side effects that I did not. If you are thinking about going on Accutane, please take this decision very seriously.

Know that you are going to have to make a few lifestyle changes in order to take this medication. For example, if you are a woman, you are going to have to take birth control and get blood tests monthly. Also, you are going to need to abstain from alcohol and hard physical labor for the entirety of your Accutane course.

You are also required to meet with your dermatologist once a month, and virtually sign official government documents once a month. If you fail to comply with these terms, your dermatologist will stop your Accutane course.

I know, I know, it sounds like a lot, but for someone who struggles with painful acne on a daily basis, I think that it is worth it. 

 

It has now been 2 years since I finished my course of accutane, and I can wholeheartedly say that it has changed my life. As the quality of my skin improved, I felt that my self esteem and mental health also took a positive turn. Not only did I become more comfortable in my physical appearance, I felt that I had become stronger mentally through this experience.

Through my course, there were some days where my skin was so dry that I could not apply makeup to cover my breakouts. I was forced out of my comfort zone by going to class with my bare skin exposed; this truly taught me how to be confident in my natural self and embrace my acne.

Going through the rough breakout periods while on Accutane truly showed me that, as cliche as it sounds, it is what is on the inside that truly matters. This process made me realize who is really there for me and cares about my well being. Now that I have relatively clear skin, nobody that I love treats me any differently than before. Now, having been off Accutane for two years, I occasionally get small breakouts. They are not discouraging to me as I have grown to realize that anyone who is judging me by something that is out of my control is not someone that I would want around me.

I can honestly say that I have no regrets going on Accutane, the process actually made me into the person I am today. Although the side effects were a little intense, I believe that it was worth it for me.        

 

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