Accutane. Say the word and everyone seems to react differently. At least, that was the case when I mentioned to my family and friends that I was considering taking the medication. Within moments of announcing on my YouTube channel that I was going to take the plunge I received dozens of texts, messages, and calls urging me to reconsider. I wondered, could this medication really be that bad? Deciding to take Accutane is a major decision, without much clarity. Sure, everyone has their opinions about it but are any of these opinions really informed? I decided to change that, dedicating a series on my YouTube channel (@coralovesglam) to my experience on Accutane. Thousands of people came out of the woodwork and explained that they too had their loved ones freak out when they mentioned Accutane, but that they didn’t really even know that much about it. I’m going to tell you a bit about my personal experience on the medication. Now, as you know if you’re interested in Accutane everyone feels differently about it. What worked for me may of course, not work for you. Always seek out a professional opinion before committing to taking Accutane or any medication for that matter.
My struggle with acne was a long one, ten years long of bad skin to be exact. I remember in fifth grade when it first started and one of my classmates thought it would be funny to point out every pimple on my face. Kids can be cruel. In sixth grade, I started wearing makeup. You could argue that twelve is too young to put on a full face of foundation, but my parents relented after seeing me breakdown over how mean people were to me about my skin. In seventh grade, my mom urged me to consider Accutane but I refused. I heard that Accutane could make you suicidal and the idea of that terrified me. In high school, I became known as the girl who always had perfect makeup. I was so good at covering up my acne that you would never know about my struggles. Little did my classmates know that I would go home after school, take off all of my foundation because it became so oily, put on a fresh layer, and drive back to school for play practice ten minutes later. I went through about six bottles of foundation a year. People always asked me for makeup tips, so I started a blog called “coralovesglam” which would later morphe into a YouTube channel of that same name. I would never show myself without makeup on camera, humiliated by what my skin actually looked like. During my freshman year of college my friends surprised my roommate and I late at night, and I told her to tell them to leave, panic rising in my throat. The idea of my friends seeing my disgustingly broken out face made me want to cry. I developed serious depression over the next few months, hating myself for hiding, and hating my skin for refusing to cooperate. During my junior year of college, I looked at myself in the mirror. My skin looked worse than ever. How was this possible? I thought acne was supposed to go away once the teen years were over? I was 21, still hiding my face from the world, and still hating myself like I did when I was in fifth grade. I decided that I’d had enough. I called a local dermatologist and set up an Accutane consultation. Once I got to the office, a registered nurse asked me several questions. Had a tried topicals? Birth control? Proactive? Yes, yes, and yes. I’d tried virtually any acne treatment you could think of, from diet to dermatologist prescribed creams to no avail. When the doctor came in he took one look at my makeup free face and said, “Perfect Accutane candidate.” I was so embarrassed. This guy specialized in skin conditions and thought my skin was bad enough to take the strongest acne medication out there. Though I was hesitant, I committed that day. I was so excited to start Accutane that day and clear my skin up! Little did I know how lengthy the procedure to get started was. It was a full thirty days before I started the medication. I had to get a blood test to see that my liver levels were ok (Accutane processes through the liver), get on birth control (you can’t get pregnant on it), sign up for an online program where I was instructed to answer informational questions every month, and sign a waiver saying I acknowledged that any of the many side effects could happen to me and that I was still willing to take these pills. I also committed to getting blood tests every month, and going to my dermatologist for check ins every month as well. My dermatologist assured me that if I agreed to do all of these steps, my skin would clear up. I was fine with that. At this point I’d be willing to climb Mt. Everest if it guaranteed me a clear face. After taking all of the required steps I started the medication. I took 30 MG (a half dose) of Zenatane for 10 months (a normal course is 6 months). I took a half dose for twice as long because I’ve suffered from joint problems in the past, and as it was one of the side effects listed I didn’t want to risk it. Each morning, I would take a pill with breakfast. On the back of the packet I was greeted with an illustration of a pregnant woman with a big X over her belly warning me not to get pregnant. The first month was the worst. My skin got significantly worse before it got better. There were tiny white bumps all over my face. I wondered if maybe I was having an adverse reaction, but at my monthly check in my doctor told me this was normal. The second month was uneventful, no clearing. By the third month I was in awe. As if overnight, my skin was even and smooth. I had no pimples, only dark scarring from left over acne. I couldn’t believe it. I started using a skin brightening treatment along with my strictly enforced simple skincare routine and the dark spots went away. By the fourth month I stopped wearing makeup all together. I was feeling so confident and happy, easily regarding Accutane as the best decision of my life. How could I not have decided to take this sooner? I was going out, doing more, and being more active than ever. Six months flew by uneventfully when suddenly, it was like my body was screaming GET ME OFF THIS STUFF! The side effects started to kick in. My lips were so dry they would crack and bleed, my hair started thinning, I couldn’t eat too much sugar or my face would turn bright red. I got overheated very easily, at times I felt drunk because I ate too much. I started to get paranoid about these seemingly random side effects. Never once did I experience depression or suicidal thoughts so I decided to stick it out for the remainder of the course. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. My skin was flawless. Strangers would literally stop me in the street to ask my skincare routine. I was interning for a celebrity event planner and the clients would ask how I got my skin to look so good. These were the most elite, beautiful people in the world-and they wanted my skincare secrets? I couldn’t believe that the sad fifth grader with a face full of pimples was gone. Finally I was at month nine, and I went to my dermatologist for my final check in. After ten months of no alcohol, a strict skincare routine, and blood tests, I was free.
So, my overall experience? It was amazing. Yes, there were side effects, but taking it slow really helped me not to experience the bulk of them. I was so resistant to Accutane for years because of everything I’d heard about the negative side effects, but was becoming so depressed about my skin I needed to make a change. When acne starts to affect your well-being, is when you should consider trying something new. I’m glad I waited so long, and was so informed about the risks of Accutane. I went in with several questions for my dermatologist, so my biggest advice for anyone considering taking the medication is to be educated about all possible risks or issues so that you know what you’re getting into. All in all, my experience was extremely positive, but I have heard of people with negative experiences. So read as much as you can, watch YouTube videos, and ask your doctor about the risks associated with it. Take it slow, and don’t rush into taking medication just because you read this story. Do what’s best for you. I’m glad I took the plunge because almost a year later, my skin is still clear and I’m a happier person because of it.