If you want a honest review from my point of view then read ahead. For quite a few years I suffered with cystic acne. It started off mild with just comedones and blackheads but with time it became more inflammatory, with pustules than eventually cysts that were the size of a marble deep in my cheeks. It carried on for a good few years between me being 17-21 years of age, and as my acne increased my self-esteem & confidence decreased.
During this time, I was put on antibiotics, which initially worked but after 6 months I became resistant to them. I was given differin which I used for a few weeks but after not being satisfied with results gave up on it. I then tried benzoyl peroxide which I found too irritative. Skinoren (azelaic acid) was given to me and was quite helpful but again, I was not satisfied with it. In hindsight I can see I did not give any topical a good chance. I was so convinced my acne was resistant and actually believed I would suffer with cysts forever.
When I was about 20 my family advised me to cut out junk foods (especially foods high in sugar and trans-fats) and dairy as these were rumored to encourage acne. I cut out bread, gluten, sugar and even tea and coffee and kept waiting for instant results. I even drank 8 glasses of water religiously and took up exercise. Of course, with my severe acne instant results were not possible and with my confidence being eroded with every new cyst I became quite depressed about it.
It was around this time I decided to go back to the doctors. I was very embarrased about my skin condition. I was excessively oily and flaky at the same time, with cysts all over my cheeks, nose and forehead. I was at the point where I was even embarrased to make eye contat with people because I thought they would think my skin was gross. Heck , even a stranger once told me to get medication for my skin.
Anyway, I told my GP everything and was in tears by the end, so he immediately reffered me to a dermatologist to be put on Isotretinoin. I was counselled that there would be side effects, but since my acne was severe and it was affecting me psychologically, that it would be a sensible and good option for me. In the UK women of childbaring age are recommended to take birth control whilst on this medication, as it toxic and can affect the development of foetuses. I was not sexually active at the time and decided not to take the Dianette contraceptive they were giving me. The dermatologist was not happy about this, but I signed a form which basically said I can take responsibility for my own vagina lol.
Fast forward some time and I had just completed my first 5 months. I was on a very low dose (about 10mg a day) and my weight was about 50kg, so it worked very slowly for me. I remember being quite down at this time because even though I had seen some improvements my face was still red and breaking out occasionally. I still wanted the clear skin instantly and craved for the results I'd read about on here. In hindsight, I can see it was actually working, but as I was constantly observing my skin daily I couldn't actually see a big difference. The thing with retinoids are they DO work, but any differences are very subtle. It took a good few months for me to be satisfied with results.
After a good 8-9 months on 10mg, I rememeber looking into the mirror and realising how far my skin had come. It was around this time the spots had stopped, redness from previous marks had finally faded and my skin actually glowed. It looked so fresh and I was delighted. I atually felt like a con at times as people started complimenting my skin and asking what creams and cosmetics I use. I found this so funny as I knew it's all down to the Isotretinoin.
After I completed the course the clear skin continued for a few months. After this I started getting quite oily again and breaking out with smaller spots. The comedones were back again, although a lot milder than what I had before. I was disappointed but went to the doctors and decided to use a topical retinoid and so far it has cleared my skin again. Bottom line is retinoids do work, inside or out, but you have to give them time. I have looked into the symptoms of acne and especially after treatment with Isotretinoin, I realised as long as I keep the skin cells from being blocked by an over production of keratin, keep my sebum controlled (which my isotrex topical retinoid does) and make sure the bacteria is not out of hand, then my skin can remain clear. If only I knew this before!
Overall, to get to my cumulative dose it took about a year and a half. I did experience side effects. Obviously the very dry and sensitive skin made my red marks and spots look a lot worse when beginning treatment, but as my skin improved and I adjusted to the sensitivity, it stopped being such a problem. To this day I still use a simple moisturiser without fragrance, don't over exfoliate with harsh scrubs and generally just leave my skin alone. This all helps with dealing with the extra sensitivity and you will soon find you and your skin can adapt to it. I also had bowel problems wit this. It seemed to upset my stomach, particularly in the last few months. I had excessive gas and diarreah. It happened even though I always took the capsules with food. It reduced significantly when I finished my course, but I still have an upset tummy at times. However, I don't regret taking this drug as it cleared my skin immensley. I got great results from it and most importantly, I have my confidence back. To those who are struggling with acne and it is affecting you psychologically, you really should not be afraid of the side effects. The damage to your confidence and self esteem can have long term effects in itself as it will inevitabley start affecting you everyday life, and acne is so not worth that damage. I will never regret taking Isotretinoin as it was the start of helping me get my confidence back. Having my confidence is helping me in my life to get a new job, have a career and even finding love. So if you have acne, don't feel it is something to hold you back as I did for many years. I am nearly 24 now and very happy :)