Among bloggers, YouTubers, and anyone who uses social media platforms, skincare is a hot topic. Routines are exchanged and products are shared. Since I do have a fashion blog, my posts don't often include skincare. However, I have had some people ask me questions. Even more commonly, those who know me well ask me about Accutane. Accutane (the medical term is Isotretinoin--Accutane is the brand name) is a Vitamin A derivative that is used to treat acne. While not all dermatologists use it the same, my dermatologist only prescribes it to patients with severe acne or mild acne that can't be treated with topical medications or other pills. Lots of friends ask me for tips or advice when they're about to take Accutane, so I thought I'd blog about it so that those of you who might not know anyone who's taken it can get some info. If you're interested in my personal experience with the medication, keep on reading, because I've got some GREAT tips for those who are on it/will someday be on it.
*Quick disclaimer: Everyone's experience with Accutane is different. Even more so, everyone's experience with acne is different. Please keep in mind that what happened with my skin will most likely not happen to yours. This is just how my personal journey went.
The history behind my skin...
To someone who hasn't known me for years, they would never guess that I struggled with acne. My past tells a very different story, though. Right when I hit 6th grade, I started to get pimples here and there. Before going to the dermatologist, I focused on cleaning my face every morning and evening with facial wash. That didn't quite work, and my acne began to worsen and my skin became very oily. The condition of my skin became very annoying, so my mom took me to a dermatologist our family was familiar with. What I didn't know was that this was the start of a long, trying process.
Medications that didn't make the cut
I felt like I spent my days at the dermatologist (although I had no idea that my visits were only to become more frequent). My doctor was phenomenal and wanted to help me as best she could. This meant medication after medication. While I don't remember every single medication I was on (I really only remember about a third of them), I do remember few.
The process of starting Accutane
After Tazorac didn't work, my dermatologist decided to put me on Accutane. I was so young and had no idea what Accutane would do for me, so when she started listing off side affects and the things I'd have to do, I was so afraid. It seemed like my life would be consumed by this medication.
Before starting on the actual Accutane pill, I had to do some blood tests and go through a lengthy process learning about the medication and what to do/what not to do when taking it. I was given a huge packet and had to read through it and take an online test to prove that I read everything. After all of that, I was officially given the green light.
My journey while taking the pill
Taking the Accutane pill isn't a small deal. Rather than being prescribed a bottle, you have to make monthly visits to the dermatologist where they will approve another month's supply of Accutane. The visits were usually super quick, my doctor would take a look at my skin, ask me if I had any questions, then I would be sent up to the labs where I had a couple of blood tests done. I would then have 7 days to complete an online quiz about the "rules" of Accutane, and if all of those things were clear (which was honestly so easy to do) then I would receive another month worth of pills in the mail.
I know that no prescribed medication under any circumstance is supposed to be shared, but that's one rule that's extremely strict when taking Accutane. If your body isn't in the right place to take it, it can really mess with you. I'm not quite sure what it does, but ignorance is bliss! This is why you only receive 30 pills at a time.
Accutane worked like a charm on me. My dermatologist said results could take about 90 days. 14 short days after starting the pill, I cleared up. It was seriously overnight. I went to bed with acne and woke up to a 100% acne-free face. It had been so long since I'd seen a clear forehead on myself and it was the BEST feeling ever. HOWEVER, this is not the case for most. I guess my body really took to the pill.
I was prescribed 6 months worth of the pill (receiving them one month at a time). Those with more severe cases of acne can be prescribed more medication, but 6 months of the pill seemed to work for me!
Side affects I experienced
There are a lot of side affects that come along with Accutane (too many for me to remember) but I only experienced a few:
1. Dry skin
2. Dry, chapped lips
3. Easily sunburned
4. Producing less sweat (which I actually LOVED)
5. Producing less hair oil (also LOVED--I could honestly have gone months without washing my hair or needing dry shampoo)
6. Dry mouth
Basically, Accutane just dries you out.
Helpful things I did/products I used while taking Accutane
I quickly learned what helped me recover/avoid these side affects. If you are taking or about to take Accutane, READ THESE. They saved my life:
1. Drink at least 100 oz of water a day. This was the MOST helpful. It keeps your skin moisturized and keeps your mouth from getting super dry. Some people experience bloody noses on Accutane, and while I didn't have any, drinking water will help you avoid that as well.
2. MOISTURIZE. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer was an absolute lifesaver. It was the only thing that worked for me and I still use it to this day!
3. Wear sunscreen everywhere you go. Even if you'll be outside for an hour. It's super easy for your skin to burn while taking Accutane. And dryness + sunburnt = major discomfort.
4. Make chapstick your new bestie. My lips were dry as a desert if I didn't carry chapstick. I was a nervous wreck if I left home without it!
5. If your skin gets really dry or burnt, skip a pill or two. Make sure your dermatologist has given you the thumbs up, first. Mine told me to skip a pill or two if I needed to let my skin recover. But DON'T skip more than two weeks of the pill. This can make you go right back to the beginning. Skipping a day of Accutane was usually enough for my skin to recover.
6. Try to stay out of the sun. I was on Accutane during the summer, so this was hard. If you can't avoid baking in the sun, just make sure you have a hat/umbrella/sunscreen.
I know taking Accutane seems like a lot (especially after reading this lengthy blog post) but it was SOOOOOO worth it for me. Since I've stopped taking it, I have had little to no acne. I can probably count on one hand how many pimples I've had (and I stopped taking the pill FOUR years ago). Keep in mind that not everyone has the same results--this is just what happened to me.
Nowadays, my skincare routine is simple. I try not to overload myself with skincare products because my dermatologist said that because of Accutane, my skin won't take to as many products and I could suffer minor allergic reactions to some skincare. I wash my face with Philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser, exfoliate twice a week with Philosophy The Microdelivery Exfoliating Facial Wash, and moisturize with my Clinique moisturizer (see above for link). That's pretty much it, other than the occasional face mask!
My experience with Accutane was near perfect and I would do it all over again (although I'm glad I don't have to). If you guys have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask! And for those of you on
Accutane--best of luck on your journey!
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