My name is Danielle and I am 21 years old from Dallas, Texas. I just graduated from Texas Tech with an accounting degree and am now on my way to work a job in the Dallas area. I am in an extremely good place now, but I wasn't when I started college 4 years ago. Most of it was due to the fact of my cystic acne that has haunted me since I started puberty when I was 14 years old. Its hard to explain, but girls/woman going through can probably relate - my severe acne prevented me from participating in many activities. It made me very sad looking in the mirror to see a red face full of painful zits, having no boys show interest in me, and scrolling through pictures on Facebook and see a pimpled woman in college.
When I was in my sophomore year of college I was in a very bad place. My grandmother had just passed away and I was in a dark depression. It seems a bit odd to say that acne was a large part of me being sad, but it was hard to feel good about myself.
I was very aware of Accutane because in high school I almost took it but my parents were scared away by the potential side effects. The dermatologist scared them more because Accutane taken by women can cause birth defects and it even goes so far that the packaging has a pregnant woman with an "X" through her just to drive the point not to take when pregnant. FYI, I was devastated and angry with my parents when they wouldn't let me try the prescription drug. I had tried so many acne treatments that I really felt this was my last shot. Anyway, it didn't happen at that time but I knew I couldn't go through 4 years of college with a face full of pimples.
This brings me back to sophomore year. After a heart to heart with my parents I told them that this is something that I needed to try. I understood their concern and was of course gracious, but I needed to take a chance with something. I knew that there would be side effects because Accutane (Isotretinoin) is a very heavy dose of Vitamin A that is quite toxic on your liver. But I had confidence in my dermatologist and the monthly blood work that this would be safe for me and the pros would outrageously outrank the cons.
I went to the dermatologist and explained my story to basically cancel out their regimens of suggesting I try benzoyl peroxide or some anti-biotics before Accutane. I find it funny how they always say that, because as I will explain later this drug was a miracle for me but it seems like the doctors are too scared to admit that its a "cure" because of the negative allure attached to the drug.
So long story short I was approved to start the process of getting Accutane. There were a few things that need to be done before getting my first set of pills. I had to go get my blood done to make sure that my vitals were at a good level, most importantly my liver. Once that checked out I would return to the dermatologist one more time and he would set me up with an iPledge number that would be used by the pharmacist to approve my prescription. Everything checked out and I was prescribed a dose of 80mg. I weigh about 125 lbs so according to the doctor this was a bit strong but he thought I would be able to handle it. If I did become too dry we could always drop down the mg a bit.
He called in my prescription and I went to the pharmacy straight from the office. Of course it took forever and some hiccups at the pharmacy for them to approve giving me my pills but it eventually was approved. Thank God I have insurance through my parents because I think the pills were a few hundred dollars without insurance. With the insurance it still was $75 dollars, but discounted a lot from the standard price. I was given my absorica and took my first pill while I was sitting in my car.
My one negative that I will say is that I was told not to drink any alcohol. Obviously I shouldn't have been drinking anyway because I was under the age but lets be real I was in college. My first few weeks were going well not drinking but to be honest it got a little difficult to continue to tell my friends that I couldn't drink because I was "on anti-biotics." Peer pressure is a real thing, and definitely had me drinking 1 or 2 times a week. I don't suggest that you do this but I just want to be real and tell you that I did indulge in some drinking while on the medication.
My first month my acne didn't seem to be getting better per se, but I did notice that my once oily skin did begin to start to become more dry. Most notably my nose and blackheads - it was almost like the oil glands were completely shut off. Negative side effects that I did begin to notice was severely dry skin. My face was certainly very dry, but also my arms and legs began to be dry. I found myself putting on moisturizer a few times a day. Usually after I would shower in the morning and in the evening and also in the middle of the day. I also suffered from very dry lips. I purchased probably 15 little tubes of aquaphor to make sure I was always able to keep them moisturized. Something that is very important that I want to mention is sun screen. I suffered from very sensitive skin and being in Texas we do have a lot of sun. It is very important to always put sunscreen on your face. What I did was purchase a moisturizer that had SPF in it. I would use that every morning to make sure my face was protected.
Every month you need to get your blood work done and I would do this before every appointment I had with the dermatologist. When I visited with him before month 2, he was happy to hear my side effects weren't too bad. He told me if they were we could do a lower dose, for a month or so and go back to a high dose. I assured him that whatever side effects I was having I would deal with.
From the second month on is where the magic started to happen. My active pimples would go away and then no new ones would form. Previously, every time one pimple finally went away another new worse one would be forming. It was refreshing to begin to see my cheeks rosy red - not because of pimples but rather because the Accutane was clearing it and my face was a little pink from the medication. It was nice not have to load my face with make up anymore to cover up my zits.
I was on Accutane for 6 months, following the same routine each month. At the end of my 6 months I was a completely new woman. My smile finally could light up a room and I felt like I was no longer being judged by my acne filled skin. My confidence shot through the roof and I felt a lot more comfortable being in social situations. This made my last 2 years of school spectacular.
Honestly, my Accutane journey wasn't even filled with many road blocks. I suffered no severe side effects. Besides very dry skin, which sucks but is manageable, and maybe a bit of hair loss - which I have no clue if it had to do with the drug or just me shedding, everything was pretty easy.
I promise you that if you are suffering from severe cystic acne, Accutane will change your life. Anyone who tries to scare you, please pay them no mind. Just follow the doctor's orders and make sure to do your blood work each month and follow what I said above. Good luck to anyone who is opening up this door to a pimple-free life!