My Ongoing Accutane Journey (Will Be Updated)
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This is my Accutane/ acne journey. My whole family has taken Accutane. It's cured their acne, but did it cause my mother's mental health condition? And my advice to anyone who is considering taking Accutane.
I’ve had acne from the age of 13 to the age I am now, 23. My acne has got progressively worse and more persistent as I’ve got older -- I used to have times where my skin was clear and then have ‘flare ups,' but the flare ups started to become permanent at around 20 years old. I’m an official ‘pizza face’. I used to cover up my acne everyday with cosmetics until about a year ago, when I decided enough was enough, and I no longer wear foundation most of the time. Whilst liberating, it hasn’t improved my skin. My confidence has also been knocked, as I get comments and stares. I’m also about to start looking for a job after leaving university and I worry I will actually get rejected in job interviews because of my skin.
What Other Acne Treatments Have I Tried?
Before deciding to try Accutane, I had tried every other acne treatment around - both over the counter and from the doctors. I also completely changed my diet and lifestyle.
Over the counter, I bought many highstreets and high end products. From the doctors, I tried birth control – which did help a little bit, but gave me migraines. I was checked for PCOS – but I don’t have it. I tried the ‘cycline’ family of antibiotics, which sadly made my acne come back worse as my body became resistant to them. I tried topical treatments including zinerit, benzoyl peroxide and a topical retinoid cream, amongst others. In a last ditch attempt I tried an antibiotic usually used for bladder infections. Nothing worked. I also saw a cosmetic doctor/ surgeon about laser treatments. He told me he would not recommend it, as I had lot of active cysts. He told me laser/ cosmetic treatments would not permanently fix this and to come back for scar treatment.
What Diet and Lifestyle Changes Did I Make to Stop My Acne?
A few years ago, after hearing that acne could be caused by diet and lifestyle, I decided to completely overhaul my life. I became a pescatarian, then completely cut out dairy. I’ve never eaten sugary snacks much, but I took more care to cut out refined sugars. I started doing green juicing every day. After 6 months, I saw no improvements. I also tried vegan, gluten free, elimination diets to check for intolerances, and most recently low FODMAP. NOTHING made the slightest bit of difference to my skin. I still do not eat dairy for personal reasons, but my skin has not improved – it has actually become worse.
My Acne is Genetic – My Mum, Aunt and Sister Have all Had Accutane.
I’ve settled on the fact that my acne is genetic – my mum had very bad acne well into her 20's and was one of the first patients to have Accutane in the 1980’s, along with her sister (my aunt). They both now have amazing skin and not a wrinkle on their faces despite being in their mid-late 50s. My sister has also had Accutane which completely cured her acne within 6 months, causing her confidence to skyrocket (she used to be very shy) and she looks amazing.
On the other hand, I put off Accutane for quite some time. I was so scared by everything I read about it.
I was particularly scared because my mum developed severe mental health problems later in life, and in the back of my mind I worried Accutane could have had something to do with it. The doctors couldn’t tell us whether this was the case, because they simply don’t know – but they did reassure us that it is highly unlikely. My aunt and sister, who also did Accutane, are also fine.
I was desperate to cure my acne, which was having a big impact on my life, my confidence and career – so I decided to try Accutane.
My Accutane Journey Begins
I first got Accutane last year, after waiting for a referral on the NHS in London, England. My treatment has been at The London Hospital for Tropical Diseases, in Euston.
The appointment therefore was completely free, I had to pay £8.50 for each prescription which lasted one month.
I was very anxious to start it. I took it for a month and my blood test results came back that my liver enzymes were high – I was told this could be monitored. I hadn’t seen any skin improvements after the first month and I also got headaches. However, I then broke my arm after falling over and had to have an operation, so I had to stop taking Accutane completely! This is because Accutane can prevent the healing of the wound. But my Accutane journey isn’t over yet...
At The London Hospital for Tropical Diseases, I do not always see the same nurses or doctors. The doctors have been a little pressed for time, due to the nature of NHS appointments being only 15 minutes. But the nurses have been amazing, kind and supportive of all my problems and concerns. Even though I have had to stop Accutane after only a few months, I still go for an appointment with a nurse every month to check in to see when I will be ready to restart. In the meantime, I was given a referral by my GP to get my stress under control, and an appointment to see a gastroenterologist to check up on my IBS (Accutane can aggravate bowel problems). Therefore it hasn’t only been about my skin but getting completely back on track. After these things are under control, I’m due to restart Accutane in a few months.
Based on My Experience, My Advice to Anyone Who Wants to Start Accutane Is This:
- Consider your overall health and what’s bothering you (for me this was stress and IBS). These factors can make your acne much worse. Get a referral to sort these out first. Your acne might improve and you will be in a better place to start Accutane (which does have reported side effects of low mood).
- Try the antibiotics that your doctor prescribes to you first. Take them exactly as the doctor says. I didn’t, which may be why my body became resistant and my acne got worse.
- If the previous two do not help your acne, get a referral for Accutane ASAP. Take it as prescribed, get regular check-ups and blood tests. Keep an eye on your mood. Watch as your skin improves!
- Accutane takes time to work for most people, don’t be disheartened, it could take several months. Additionally, some peoples acne comes back after their first course. In this case most people cures up after a second course. Be prepared for a long journey.
- Concentrate on the positives. Remember to love yourself and find self-worth with and or without acne.
I'll continue to post about my Accutane journey as time goes on.