Acne & Accutane: Week #1 & 2
Having acne seems like such a small issue in the grand scheme of life and, if you think about it objectively, it is, but unfortunately a lot of us are not so secure in ourselves that being constantly covered in spots doesn't have a negative effect on our self-image and confidence. In a perfect world no one would care what anyone looked like and there would be no ideal of beauty, but that will never ever be reality. We are conditioned from birth to believe that certain things are beautiful and certain things are not; bad skin is definitely and unequivocally not beautiful. I don't think anyone would ever choose to have spots, let alone loads of persistent spots, with scarring and an oily face. It just isn't cute.
My acne kicked in when I was 17. It was definitely hormonal because the doctors put me on a contraceptive pill called 'Dianette' and the spots were totally gone. Now although it was fantastic for my skin it was bad for my health, with too many risks for long term use, and after 2 years the doctors were like 'wow there, that's enough of that'. I was then chucked onto another contraceptive pill but the results weren't quite the same. Between then and now I've tried a plethora of remedies, some of which worked very well temporarily, but after a time my spots were like 'heyyy we've clocked your game' and came back to rear their ugly white and black heads.
I was relentless; creams, antibiotics, face masks, face washes, changes in diet - nothing stuck, but living with the spots never seemed to get any easier. Luckily my skin has some what calmed down in the last couple of years, I think that's due to me getting older and having a change in hormone levels, but it still isn't anywhere near acne free. I've learned to do my makeup in a way that best conceals my blemishes, but once that comes off I'm faced with my reflection and I am not at all satisfied with what I see. As I've matured, dealing with the emotional implications of acne has got far easier, but I can admit that it will always be my biggest insecurity for as long as my skin is like this.
It's now been 10 years since I started suffering with acne and I've really had enough! After countless attempts at seeing a dermatologist I finally managed to attend an appointment and he prescribed me Accutane (Isotretinoin). Accutane is a wonder acne drug, once all else has failed, this is like the final boss that acne must defeat, but it rarely does. It works great in 80% of cases and I've had my eye on it for a while, so although it's barely started I can't wait for this journey to be over!
Now, I've seen countless success stories, but they all come with a few horrors and the most common side effects of Accutane are as follows:
- Dryness... everywhere. Dry skin, dry lips, dry nose, dry eyes,
- Cracking and peeling of skin
- Joint pain
- Mood swings
These are the side effects I'm mentally preparing for, particularly the mood swings because I think that will be the hardest to deal with. I'm in such a great period of my life and I'm so busy, I don't want to have to deal with any type of emotional strain! I rebuke it!
Now I haven't heard directly or personally of anyone suffering from the next set of side effects, but regardless of how rare they may be, they are serious as a heart attack and can not be omitted, so brace yourselves:
- depressed mood, trouble concentrating, sleep problems, crying spells, aggression or agitation, changes in behaviour, hallucinations, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself;
- sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body;
- blurred vision, sudden and severe headache or pain behind your eyes, sometimes with vomiting;
- hearing problems, hearing loss, or ringing in your ears;
- fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, purple spots under your skin, easy bruising or bleeding;
- severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea and vomiting, fast heart rate;
- loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
Now people have asked me 'why would you risk it?' And the simple answer is because I want to. 'Go vegan', 'cut out dairy', 'it's all that gluten', 'you need to not eat less sugar', 'too much junk food', 'just drink loads of water'. MAKE IT STOP!!!!
Suggestion after suggestion about how I should change my diet and I think a lot of acne sufferers can relate when I say I don't want to hear it. I understand many of you are coming from a good place, but there are also those of you who are condescending and judgmental and I would tell you who to suck if I wasn't such a pleasant woman. The idea of cutting out 70% of your diet to go vegan, or inconveniencing yourself with limited, on the go, food options by entirely cutting out the minimal amount of dairy that you do eat, is not something that appeals to me. I want to be able to eat an average, healthy, balanced diet and not suffer. Accutane gives me the option to do that and it is the option that I have happily chosen.
Not to mention a lot of these suggestions don't come from people that have actually suffered from persistent acne. A bad, isolated, break out or an allergic reaction doesn't qualify as acne. And I want to reiterate that we appreciate everyone who is genuinely concerned and honestly just wants to help, but the unsolicited advice gets old. It gets real old.
As for you pompous, holier than thou lot, I understand that the severity and implications of acne doesn't compare to many other skin diseases and health issues, but at the end of the day it is something that impacts a lot of people negatively, so please exercise some empathy and use tact when you address someone who is dealing with skin issues, because otherwise you just come off as a jerk. I've had people accuse me of 'not being serious' and give me all sarcastic variations of 'lol' because I've made an informed decision to take Accutane instead of completely eliminating any more food groups from my diet. I like cheese and Accutane means I can have both cheese and no spots, so how about that? It's as if you aren't allowed to have an issue with your flaws unless you are willing to sacrifice everything possible to fix them. I enjoy my food, and completely adjusting the way I eat is where I draw the line, I'm afraid. I hope the image of me enjoying a 4 cheese pizza doesn't keep you up at night seen as you are so pressed by my skin care choices.
Now lets see how Accutane has treated me these first two weeks...
I was going to do a one week update because I didn't expect to see much changes, but after the first week I noticed a few differences and thought I'd hold out a little longer before I give an update. I have now started to see the signs of drying! Around my nose is peeling and the lip balm is on deck! My dandruff is also getting a bit wild so I am moisturising everyday and deep conditioning every 5 days! I can't use anything but a really realllly gentle cleanser (I'm currently opting for all Simple products) and, oddly, my shins are flaking like a m*ther f*ucker. Yes, my shins, as in the front part of my lower leg - so random. The skin is literally flaking off to the point where I take off my jeans and I'm wondering who's throwing confetti around. Other than the dryness I haven't experienced any other side effects, but I upped my dosage today from 20mg to 60mg, so this is all going to get kicked into high gear! This is where the roller coaster really begins!
Now, people have asked me how I got the Accutane and it was through a dermatologist that I was recommended to by my doctor. Unless you are willing to go private, which is very expensive, you will have to go through different oral and topical treatments from your gp, and they have to fail to work in curing your acne. All in all, I have been going back and forth to the doctor for 10 years and they finally said 'ok girl, we feel you, you can see a dermatologist'. There are generally three things that they will consider before prescribing Accutane:
- Your acne is persistent over a long period
- All other medications have failed to work
- It is causing scaring
Before I was given my prescription I had to take a blood and pregnancy test and I will have to do so every four weeks before I'm given a new prescription. I also have to make sure I'm on a form of contraception, in addition to using condoms, because Accutane causes severe birth defects. I had already been on the copper coil, so I stuck with that and I think that is probably the best contraception to be on, while taking Accutane, because it has no hormones in it, the copper just kills the sperm.
The way that accutane works is that it basically restructures the sebaceous glands in your skin, creating less sebum resulting in less clogging, thus less blemishes. In reducing the sebum, the skin, for a time, becomes very very dry and that is why that is a side effect everyone experiences, that is the drug working!
And before I log out, I would just like to mention that I have actually switched up my diet! For the past two weeks I've cut out all meat and milk and I am feeling the difference! Accutane is meant to also cause a bit of fatigue, but I can say, with the adjustments in what I'm eating, my energy levels are way way up, so eating more healthily, even just for the period you are using Accutane, may be a serious consideration to make!
If you are currently taking Accutane I hope you get through it with minimal stress and if you are considering taking it please use the internet, there is a load of information and testimonies out there, don't just count on mine, especially since I have a long way to go!