I'm a 20 y/o girl and I've dealt with severe acne since I was 12. Eight years of antibiotics, topical treatments, hormones, all got me nowhere. I did go on the pill for about 2 years (Dianette) which worked for the duration, but when I had to stop taking it due to stroke risk, the acne returned worse than ever. This is when I decided to go for roaccutane, as my dad suffered with acne until he was about 25, and I wasn't keen on another 5 years of hating the way I looked.
I'm now at the end of my treatment (two days left) and I thought it would be a good time to post the diary of notes that I wrote up throughout my treatment to track my progression. I kept it so that I could keep an eye on how I was changing, and also as I thought it could help people who are looking into taking the drug, or those who are already on it and were wondering if their side effects are normal, etc. The 'diary' contains my progression as well as side effects and how I worked out dealing with them.
Without further ado:
Very bad acne over all of back. Cystic acne over shoulders and across chest. Pimples and blackheads over all of chest and back. Bad blackheads on face. Depressed moods whenever I would look at my skin. Quite intense scarring from eight years of wounding.
I also experience keloid scarring so a few of my scars from cystic spots have formed permanent raised scars. Because of all this my dermatologist has prescribed me isotreinoin (accutane/roaccutane).
MONTH 1 (20mg daily)
I started on 20mg. Throughout the month I did not experience much change. After a few days I did notice that my lips felt more dry, but nothing too uncomfortable. My spots started to get a little bit worse, mainly in the form of cystic acne. I also had a little trouble sleeping, which I had never experienced before but, after researching, found out to be one of the many side effects. This only happened once or twice during the first month and hardly at all after that.
MONTH 2 (20mg daily)
My dermatologist kept me on 20mg to make sure that I was still coping okay on the drug and not suffering too many side effects. This is the month where my spots became really awful. I was prepared for roaccutane to make my skin worse before it got better, but it was still unpleasant to experience. I found that the spots I was getting were like a new breed, cystic and incredibly painful to touch. If my bra strap pinged against one or I leant against the corner of something by accident, I would be close to tears with the pain. However, towards the end of the month I noticed that I no longer had any blackheads. I was so happy about this and saw it as a possible sneak preview of my future skin.
My lips got really bad this month, particularly towards the end. The regular vaseline that I had been using no longer worked at all on my chapped lips, but I worked out a way to manage them with BLISTEX MEDI PLUS. Blistex Medi Plus saved my life, it repaired and rehydrated my lips, and I only had to apply it morning and night.
Pre treatment I had quite greasy hair, normally needed washing every other day, with dry shampoo top ups. But at this point in the treatment, I found my hair not needing to be washed for about 4 days, which was handy.
MONTH 3 (30mg daily)
I had my dosage upped to 30mg. The cystic acne I experienced the previous month was starting to dwindle (or at least coming less frequently). My lips were becoming very dry, my top lip was now chapping too which was hadn't happened yet. My hair wouldn't get greasy for 5 days without washing it now. The inside of my nose would also become painfully dry and flaky, and would sometimes bleed. During this time I went on holiday to a very sunny place and didn't bother to stay out of the sun like it's advised you do on this medication, but didn't burn at all. You're supposed to burn and blister and all sorts on this medication if you go out in the sun but I didn't experience any of this.
Month 4 (40mg daily)
Dosage upped again. The dry lips became even worse in this month. I discovered that the environment had a big part to play in how painful they were. If it had been raining recently or if the air was more humid my lips would be fine, but if it was very dry out, or if I was in a closed off air conditioned area (such as a car), they would become unbearable. I also started to suffer from angular chelitis, which I found would heal if I put coconut oil on the cuts. If I used my beloved Blistex Medi Plus on them it would aggravate it, for some reason. Angular chelitis would flare up if I were in the dry environments without applying my lipbalm frequently enough. The dryness inside of my nose was also affected in the same sort of was I found.
I began to notice that my eyes were drying up this month. When lying in bed before sleep my eyelids would almost glue together due to the lacking of their usual lubrication. I also swam underwater in a chlorinated swimming pool with my eyes open and the next day my eyes were bloodshot and stinging. It cleared up after a few days but was very uncomfortable whilst it lasted.
DO NOT WAX YOUR SKIN ON ACCUTANE. I hadn't read that you weren't supposed to do this and waxed my eyebrows this month. Afterwards, I'd thought that they felt a little more raw than usual, and woke myself up in the night several times when I rolled over and the fabric of my pillow case touched the waxed area and stung so much. Over 24 hours later the skin was still bright red and looked a little wet. Turns out that without the usual protective oils in your skin, the top layer of skin comes right off when you wax on this medication. I could have had permanent scarring, thankfully I healed okay, but for about 10 days I had scabs on my eyebrows whilst the skin grew back, which wasn't too pretty.
Month 5 (40mg)
My Blistex Medi Plus stopped working for me this month, not sure why. My lips got drier and sorer than they ever have been. I tried using Vitamin E oil on my lips, as apparently it's the oil most similar to human sebum (what roaccutane dries you out of), which worked at first but then didn't really do anything after the first time. This is when I started using Blistex Moisture Max with Hydrating Pearls, and Palmers Cocoa Butter Lipbalm in conjunction with each other, which worked a treat if applied every hour or so. I found I was getting quite moody if I hadn't drank much water recently, but downing a pint of it when I noticed the feeling would sort me out straight away.
Month 6 (50mg-60mg)
During this final month I was upped to 50mg, and halfway through I upped it again to 60mg as I felt that I was handling the side effects okay and I wanted to be off it sooner rather than later. 60mg is the maximum dosage allowed for a female of my weight. Spots were very infrequent by this point. Hair doesn't get greasy at all, longest I'd gone without washing it was a week and even then it looked as fresh as if I'd washed it earlier that day.
Currently, I have 120mg left to take, so 2 days! I have very dry lips, eyes, and hair, but I have no spots at all! My skin is so clear, other than scarring which will fade with time. I feel so much more comfortable and confident, and am in less pain. I didn't experience many of the major side effects that I thought I would, such as dry skin or depression. I think I owe the dry skin one to using Body Shop shea butter and cocoa butter shower washes. I did get slightly moody but I think that was due to dehydration which makes sense with the premise of the drug.
My side effects will be different to yours but I thought it'd be useful to give my experience. Everyone reacts differently to this, and the list of side effects does look scary but you shouldn't be afraid, as you can treat them as they come. You will know if they are becoming too much for you, and if you feel you are no longer benefitting your body you can stop at any point. Best of luck to all of you!