November 17, 2015

What is it like to be on Accutane? My experience

Some girls have skin that looks like porcelain, others have skin that is well balanced or there are girls that hide because acne has uncontrollably spread. Like any other personal struggle, opening up about something is hard to do, but I decided not to hide behind my makeup, but to speak about it.

Pre-Accutane Battle

My problems with acne started at the age of 12 and I feel have never stopped since. Thankfully I've never been a severe case, at least nothing that makeup can't cover in terms of my face, but can't say I've seen a clear day either.

From cremes to chemical peels to antibiotics to birth control, you can say I have tried everything. Acne definitely cleared up drastically at first, but after a couple of months, progress was very linear almost non existent for all the products I used. My acne has never been so bad that it scared me in irreversible ways, but acne really tormented me. It is always easy for others to say inner beauty is all that matters, be confident no matter what. All true, but whomever says that could not possibly truly believe it if they haven't experienced acne. Could they? I have friends that have gone through acne, others still dealing with it and they all agree, we all agree, that stage of our lives was unbearable. From being bullied by others at an early age to feeling depressed, no one wants to feel uncomfortable in their own skin. Literally.

 Being on Accutane

The major issue I had while being on Accutane was "Why did I not do this in my teens? Why did no one ever give me this option?" Being on Accutane takes perseverance and courage. Most people don't go on Accutane because you can't drink or smoke while on it, which was no problem for me because I don't smoke and drinking is really not my thing. The side effects are plenty, but different for everyone depending on which dosage you go on and how your body reacts to the medication. It is important for me to be transparent with you about my experience with Accutane because if you are considering going on it, it is nice to hear from someone that has gone through it. There were many times I wanted to give up, but I was determined to put a stop on my acne issues. So here is what really happens when you go on Accutane and what my experience with Accutane was:


How does Accutane Work?

Essentially how Accutane works is that it releases large dosages of synthetic Vitamin A into your body which then shrinks your oil glands, reduces acne bacteria, reduces inflammation, and helps prevent clogs. Unlike other medications I had tried, Accutane is a long term solution while creams and antibiotics are a short term solution.

Which Season Should I go on Accutane?

I decided to take the risk and go on Accutane winter of 2013 for my first course of treatment. I have been on Accutane both summer and winter. Having experienced both and I have to say being on Accutane during winter was brutal. The dryness during the winter cold, can be unbearable. You need to moisturize and hydrate constantly. Summer, your skin will be sensitivity to sun exposure, but it is definitely more manageable. Being on Accutane also means you need to have monthly dermatologist visits and have your blood taken monthly. 

Dosage and Number of Treatments

I started off on 40mg and went up to 50mg then 60mg. You have to do it gradually so that your body doesn't go through a shock. The dosage really depends on how your body reacts and what side effects you are experiencing. Your dermatologist will ask you questions each time you have your monthly visit, and then prescribe a higher dosage if needed. I was on Accutane for 7 months during my 1st course of treatment, and decided to go off of it since my skin had cleared. I did have to do a 2 course of treatment this year for about 5 months, but for the most part sometimes a second treatment may be necessary. For me the number one cause for breakouts is mostly stress. Even now, when I am stressed some spots surface, but I have definitely not experienced the horrid outbreaks I did before my Accutane era.

Side Effects I experienced 


Flare Ups

This was a bit of a concern to me. I had read horror stories on the internet of how the first month of being on Accutane your acne flares up, and it only gets worse before better. I was mortified that one day I would wake up and I would look like Samantha from Sex and the City when she got that horrible Chemical Peel. Well, the first month went by and the flare up never happened. Some black pores surfaced, but that was as bad as it got. 

Dryness of Skin

Moisturize, moisturize! I had nose bleeds when my nose got dry. Now, don't go thinking of blood gushing out uncontrollably. Think of this as when you get a small cut and there is a little bit of blood the first couple of minutes. Nothing that a tissue cannot stop. My face also got very dry especially since I was on the medication during the winter months, but again with the right hydration and moisturizer these issues were easily handled. My lips also experienced dryness so my vaseline became my best friend. When my lips started to get dry I knew I wasn't drinking enough water. So drink lots of water. The other side effect I experienced while on Accutane was inflamed lips, but in a good way. Think of it as having your lips injected with a little bit of botox. I actually kind of loved this. Who doesn't love full lips?

Hair Loss

Will you go bald while on Accutane? Well, many times I surely thought so. I lost a fair amount of hair, and my hair also became thinner. Sometimes, I really wondered if I was going bald for life. But fear not. Your hair will grow back. My hair has not fully recovered yet, and it is still thin, but I am definitely not going bald. My dermatologist assured me that hair loss while on Accutane is not irreversible. Your hair will grow back. After going off Accutane, I started taking Biotin. That definitely helped to strengthen my hair and I definitely recommend it. 

 Fatigue

This was the side effect that affected me the most. At the time I was on Accutane I was working full time and also doing my Masters in the evenings. It was extremely hard for me keep my energy levels up and not fall asleep. Even with a good night's sleep I could hardly stay awake. I still do not know where I found the strength to finish my studies with an amazing GPA to say the very least. What Accutane taught me is that you have more will-power and determination in you than you think you do.

 Depression

Depression is never an easy subject to talk about, but I most definitely do not think it is something to be ashamed of. Whether or not we want to believe it, we have all dealt with depression one way or another. I was in serious depression mode when I was on Accutane, more so than usual. I strongly recommend you inform your dermatologist if your depression becomes severe. Overall, my coping mechanism with depression was that I had to remind myself over and over again that this too shall pass. It didn't always pass, but I think what kept me going was my awareness of it. 

My Overall Verdict 

Obviously, being on Accutane is a personal choice, and it is not an easy choice to make. I am not here to advocate or urge people that suffer from acne to go on Accutane. Side effects are plenty and depending on your health history you may not even be eligible to go on Accutane. But as someone who was fed up with the situation, I can whole heartedly say that being on Accutane was the best decision I could have made. Compared to what I have been going through for so many years, the side effects seem like nothing now. For many years, I convinced that my acne was bearable, because I would go some months without it. but it always came back. It always come back, which is why I chose to go on Accutane and do something more drastic about it. Despite the side effects, I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. This was a change I had to make in my life and I couldn't be happier I did.

Please, please email me if you are having issues with acne, considering Accutane, or you just want to rant about your acne issues. I know what you are going through. No one should go through that alone. For the outsiders, having acne may seem like a vanity issue, but it is not. It is a skin deep issue. 
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8 comments

  1. Wonderful post Eleni! As someone who has suffered frok acne since I was around the age of 12, this post meant a great deal to me. I always felt so ugly with acne and still do if I get a breakout. Before my pregnancy, it was a never ending battle. I would get those deep ones that last forever and are so painful. The first trimester of my pregnancy was BAD. i have scares left over from that. The second and third trimesters, everythig cleared up. Now, its not as bad as before, but I do get some breakouts every now and then. I think the breastfeeding is keeping them at bay. I always wondered about accutane, but was afraid to try it due to the side effects and what could happen to some of your organs while on it. Your experience sounds like it wasn't too bad considering. Thank you for sharing this and being so honest about your journey!

    amandabrezovsky.com

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    1. It is definitely a difficult journey to be in, especially when you have been dealing with acne for so many years. The tricky part about it is that there are times when you will go without any acne surfacing so then you get tricked thinking of my acne is gone, but it always comes back. After I completed my treatments I haven't had any issues with acne like I used to. I've heard with pregnancy sometimes acne gets worse which I guess was your case too. I am glad you are doing better though :) Thank you for sharing your experience. I know it is always hard to open up and talk about it.

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  2. Beautifully written and honest! So proud of you Eleni ��

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    1. Love you too!! Thank you for reading.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this detailed post about Accutane! I also have suffered from Acne since I was 12. And I have the feeling that when it rains, it pours. I have two MAJOR flare-ups 2x a year that last a good month or so. It affects my mood so much. You're so brave for sharing your story.
    Kylen xoxo | Kylen Every Wear

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    1. Hi Kylen, thank you for sharing your issues with acne. I have had a couple of flare ups in my life but nothing major. For me it was more of the fact that it was just a constant that I had to deal with acne. Have you ever thought of trying Accutane?

      thank you for stopping by and commenting :)

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