My skin has always been a struggle for me. In fact, when I think back to the “major events” in the earlier years of my life (eighth grade graduation, my first day of high school, every homecoming dance, prom, FINALLY starting university, etc.) I remember how hard I tried to cover my acne or to avoid having my picture taken because I was so insecure about my skin. I also remember the endless trips to the dermatologist to try this cream, or this pill, or this medicated face wash. I know acne treatments usually work by causing your skin purge and then clearing it up. The old “it gets worse before it gets better”. I felt like everything I tried left me in the “getting worse” phase and never helped me to get better. Last year, at 21 years old, I made the decision to start taking Accutane. My wedding was coming up soon and I NEEDED my skin to finally be clear for the big day.
In June of 2016, I made an appointment with Dr. Yuliya Schoenling at East Valley Dermatology in Chandler, Arizona. I told Dr. Schoenling that I wanted to take Accutane and she went over the side effects with me. The first step was to have my blood panels done to ensure I was healthy enough to take the medicine in the first place. Me being a woman, and Accutane being known to cause birth defects, I also had to take a pregnancy test in her office that day and register into the iPledge program. iPledge is an online platform that makes you certify that you will use two forms of birth control while on the medication. In my cause I pledged to keep my IUD and use condoms while on the medicine. They also ask you a series of short, easy to answer questions. Some of the questions were things like “My neighbor wants me to share my Accutane with her this is okay T/F” or “I don’t have any condoms, its okay to have sex because I am on birth control T/F”. I made a follow-up appointment for 30 days after my initial consultation. This waiting period allows your registration into iPledge to take effect and for you to get your blood work done.
When I came to my follow-up appointment we reviewed my blood work, and I was cleared to begin the medication. I was given the orders I would need to take with me in order to have my blood test done every month. I also had to log on the iPledge and answer my questions. The iPledge website communicates with the pharmacies and if you don’t answer the questions you will not be permitted to pick up your prescription. The same thing goes for if you don’t get your blood work in time. Accutane keeps you on a strict schedule of dermatologist visits, answering questions in iPledge, taking medication, and getting your blood drawn. You have a seven-day window between when you get your blood drawn, when you see your doctor, and when you can pick up your next months prescription. I should also mention that I had to pay the co-pay for my dermatologist for each visit, including my initial consultation. I also had to pay for my blood tests myself, as well as the cost of my prescriptions. All-in-all being on the medication cost me $60 a month after insurance.
My first month taking Accutane my skin purged like it had never purged before. My cheeks, neck, chest, and shoulders developed HUGE, painful acne. But moving into my second month it started clearing up. Finally, something didn’t abandon me in the getting worse phase. By month three my skin was completely clear. I didn’t have a single pimple or blackhead to be found. Now that I have been off the medication for eleven months my skin is still looking great. I do experience the occasional hormonal breakout, but it is nothing like it was before.
I feel that I got off lucky with the medication as far as side effects are concerned. My biggest side effect was dryness. My skin became extremely dry, to the point that even hitting my hands on a countertop would cause cuts. My lips were in constant state of cracking, and my hair never got oily. I’m going to consider that last one a bonus! I also experienced joint pain. Some days this would be a dull throbbing that was easy to ignore, but other days it would impossible to ignore. I experienced this mostly in my knees and the bones in the front of my chest. My skin was also extremely sensitive to sunlight. Keep in mind I got my first prescription in July, and I live in Arizona. So I was taking this medicine during the hottest, sunniest, months of the year. If I parked my car in a store parking lot my skin would be hurting by the time I made it to the store’s front door. Still, with all things said and done, if my skin started to relapse I would 100% take Accutane again. I have never had more self-confidence than I do now, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.