After research and weighing my options, I've made my decision. I'm going to try isotretinoin.
Here's the thing. I know there are crappy side effects, but I also know the benefits. As you may have read (extensively, sorry!) earlier, I have tried pretty much every other option out there. Plus I'm a fairly even-keel kinda gal and if things start getting too out of whack I can always stop.
I've been getting into the habit of drinking lots of water and eating a big healthy breakfast everyday. I'm armed with sunscreen, chapstick, and a wide-brimmed hat.
Let's do this.
That really is the big question, isn't it?
In my last entry I noted how while I still had a few breakouts, I had no cysts! Woohoo!
For like two days.
Aaaand they're back. On on each cheek, one on each side of my jaw, and one pretty much between my eyebrows. Awesome.
So here's the big (and obvious) question. Do I start isotretinoin? I go back to the derm Wednesday morning and if I decide to, it's pretty much Thundercats are Go! I've already done the initial check and been signed up for the iPledge program.
Is this really the right choice for me? Is the timing right? I'm so up in the air.
I, like everyone else, have heard all of the horror stories. At the same time, I've heard SOOOO many fantastic succuess reports. I feel like for every one person who has a terrible experience there are at least 50 who it really does help. At the same I acknowledge that it's definitely still a big risk.
Here are my biggest concerns:
The timing issue. I live in the sunny south-eastern US. In the summertime it's sunny from 5:30 am to almost 9 pm. As a fair-skinned person I'm usually reasonably careful with sunscreen and 80% humidity makes being outside during peak hours difficult. Plus I work 2 jobs which equates to quite a bit of prime sun hours spent inside, but it's not uncommon to take a trip to the lake or head out to the beach for a few days. Am I going to have to hide inside all summer?
Dental work. I have this weird situation where, at 24 years old, I still have 2 baby teeth. On is still going strong with a good root and everything. The other has no root and is essentially just hanging out. Basically everytime I eat an apple I'm prepared for the worst. I've talked to my dentist about how to take care of it, and it seems a fairly simple implant procedure. But I know isotretinoin slows the healing rate and even though my dentist had no concerns, my general practitioner warned against the procedure while I'm on the medecine. What if the tooth comes out? Tooth gaps on 6 year olds = adorable. Not so much on an adult.
The chapped lips. Ok, I know this is totally minor, but it's a concern! How do you deal with it?! I like wearing lip color but I don't want to if I'll have zombie lips!
The Initial Breakout. I know some people don't have it, but judging from all the ickiness in my pores, I think I'm more likely to. Even as a fairly confident person I'm self concious about my skin, I don't know if I could deal with it actually getting worse. And what if the inital breakout leaves scars? That would defeat the purpose! Plus I have college friends coming to town in what will be 2 weeks after I start. Am I going to look gross?
Those are my biggest issues. I've talked at length to my dermatologist, general practitioner, and opthalmalogist about this decision. They seem confident in the amount of research I've done and the steps I'm taking to ensure my health and safety while on the medicine. It would be really great to have clear skin when I start grad school in August, but I'm still nervous.
If anyone could share their thoughts, suggestions, or personal experiences, I would REALLY appreciate it. It's a big decision!
Guys, be forewarned: this entry include talk of lady-time. You know what I mean.
So how frustrating is it for your skin to fluctuate with your monthly cycle? It's enough to drive a girl insane! (People might call it PMS, but I think I have FAES - Freaking Acne Everywhere Syndrome) It also makes it so hard to tell if any products are working because I'm pretty sure hormones are stronger than benzoyl peroxide any day. The 4 or so days before my "lady time" it's like my skin has become a battle field and the good guys are losing. Then the first 2 or 3 days after my skin is great! Alright, "great" is a little strong, but it's definitely less oily and break-out prone. Like right now I have 0 cysts. The downside is it only lasts a day or two.
What's a girl to do?
I know many people say "get on birth control!" but here's the thing - I had a brief (3 month) stint on BC. It was really low-dose, but I didn't notice a huge life changing improvement. Due to an insurance situation, I had to stop taking it. Also I'm 24. While I'm not immediately trying to start a family, I do hope to 5-10 years down the line. If birth control is the only thing reigning in my acne, what will happen when I stop taking it? I've heard stories of people saying their acne came back 10-fold when they stopped taking BC. I don't think that's a risk I'm willing to take.
Does anyone else have the same problem every month? What do you do to control the situation?
Anyone with acne knows that the number 1 priority is clearing it up. The number 2 priority, especially with ladies, is covering it up. So what works best, what doesn't work at all?
*Keep in mind that I am fair-skinned aand redness on my skin sticks out like a red button on a white sheet. My make-up concerns are that it conceal, last long, and not breakout my face further.
Before my acne got out of control I would use the Neutrogena Skin Smoothing Stick to spot conceal blemishes (and where my eye meets the bridge of my nose - I'm always really dark there!) and it held up well with my oily skin and was easy to blend in. I used the SkinClearing Blemish Concealer once, but I feel like it didn't really do anything different and I got less product in the tube. Woot for more for your money, right?
When I needed liquid make-up I used L'Oreal True Match Super-Blendable make-up. True to it's name, it was in fact super blendable and also super affordable! I had two colors, a light cool color and a not quite as light warm color. I could blend them together depending on the season and my state of pale-ness. For super red spots I still used a concealer underneath. VERY IMPORTANT for liquid make-up: ALWAYS set with a powder, especially if you have oily skin! Otherwise it will smear and run off easily.
I transitioned to mineral make-up with BareMinerals. I had tried the drugstore brand before this, but this really made up my mind about the awesomeness of mineral make-up and was definitely worth a little more investment. For one thing, it lets your skin breath while you're wearing it, lessening make-up induced breakouts. Also a jar could last me 3-4 months! Since they've realeased new foundation colors it is easier to find the right color. I will say this, I did have to reapply during the day, it tended to rub off when my skin got oily. The nice thing was that if I carried the mineral veil with me I could apply it to take care of the oil sheen before my make-up was affected. Added bonus: SPF! WARNING: This stuff is addictive! Once you start you'll want to use their eye and lip products as well because it is so natural looking compared to liquid make-up.
*Note: If I was going out at night and didn't want to worry about my make-up coming off or having to reapply I would use the True Match foudation and then lock it in with the BareMinerals foundation. Double protection seemed to last all night even if I was dancing the night away.
And now? Due to recommendations from girls I work with, I have been trying Jane Iredale mineral make-up. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! It conceals even better than my BareMinerals did and lasts until I take it off at night. Right now I use the Dream Tint moisturizer with SPF, Disappear concealer, and the pressed powder. I bought extra applicator puffs and I change them out every week or everyother week to keep them from getting gross and spreading bacteria all over my face. The only down side is that it is pricey. From my experience so far, though, it is worth the extra cash.
As far as make-up removers, I've yet to settle on one I am absolutely in love with. I was recommended Albolene which I used to remove stage make-up. It worked like a charm without over drying my face but contained mineral oil. Eeks! So now I stay clear of it. I have used Neutrogena's Oil Free Eyer Make-up Remover. It worked well, but I felt like I had to use so much of it to fully remove heavy make-up. For light make-up days it worked well. Same with the Neutrogena Gentle Foaming Cleanser. I am currently using the make-up removing wipes from Philosophy. They're ok, but because I'm using Differin at night and a 5% bezoyl during the day I'm very sensitive so I try not to use them everyday. They can irritate my skin if I use them too often or have to do more than one pass.
Any other suggestions? What has or hasn't worker for you? I'm always open to new suggestions. Hope this is helpful!
So now that you know me a little better, I think it's appropriate to delve into the different things I have tried (from prescription to homeopathic to borderline moronic) in order to control my acne. I realize it's long, but now you can believe me what I say "I HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING!!". Have you all tried any of these or other crazy "remedies"? What kind of results did you get?
1. Antibiotics (prescription). I've done several cycles on different kinds, notably doxycycline, clindomycin, and bactrim. Part of the reason for multiple cycles is that no one (not my doctor, not my pharmacist, not my mom) told me antibiotics DO NOT WORK if you drink alcohol. Now, I am not by any means an extreme party girl. But, come on, I was in college! Don't you think SOMEONE would have said something about this to me? Nope. At any rate, I used antibiotics before I went to college and since I found out that drinking canceled out my super pricey prescription and they really had no effect. I finally drew the line. I know chances of becoming resistant are slim, but it still made me uncomfortable to always be taking these pills that didn't have any results.
2. Benzaclin (presription). Same idea behind The Regimen. This prescription combines a powerful benzoyl peroxide with Clindmycin in a topical cream. I will admit I did see decent results from this cream. However, my skin became outrageously dry and flaky no matter what moisturizer I used and incredibly sensitive to the sun. It also bleached my sheets and clothing. The area where I live gets VERY humid in the summer (which lasts from May to the end of September) and when I would sweat my face would itch uncontrollably. Although I got some results it wasn't enough to deal with the consequences.
3. Clindomycin cream (prescription). I was put on this in January. It did nothing but cover my skin and clog my pores even more. To be perfectly honest I feel like this product took my acne from mild/moderate to moderate/severe. I ended up going off it in February after I called my derm office in tears and met with a PA. I'm sure that for some people this could be very effective but for me it was a terrible decision.
4. Differin (prescription). I have tried a couple different kinds of Differin, both 0.1% cream and 0.1% and 0.3% gel. In February I was prescribed Differin 0.3% to hopefully help clear up some of the mess the Clindomycin cream created. I guess I've seen minor improvements, but I still have acne. In the past I've responded better to the gel than the cream, the 0.3% than the 0.1%.
5. OTC Benzoyl Peroxide. Clean and Clear and Neutrogena both make OTC benzoyl products that I have used with some success, but what I would consider marginal. I didn't have the same sensitivity to it that I did with Benzaclin, but the results were also lesser. When I have previously been on Differin or antibiotics I would use these products in the morning as spot treatments.
6. Anti-inflammatory (prescription and OTC). In February when I saw the PA I was prescribed Nicotinamide to help with damage control. I've taken other OTC anti-inflammatory in the past. The most recent time, with nicotinamide, I saw some results, but I don't know if I can contribute that to the Differin or oral ant-inflammatory. Again, it didn't make enough of a difference for me to be like "whew, finally under control!" I still got breakouts and cystic blemishes so my verdict (and the dermatologist's) was that it wasn't working how she hoped it might.
7. Pro-Active. I know it works for some people, and I'm happy for those people, but I'm not one of them. It irritated my skin and caused a pretty substantial initial breakout. It also bleached my washcloths and towels. I even invested in the body wash which was little to no help. *NOTE ON PRO-ACTIVE: I used this several years ago, starting probably toward the end of 2005. Supposedly they have a "new formula" which I have been unwilling to try, so I can't say whether it would work better or not.
8. Murad Acne system. This stuff burned and made my face itch like crazy. Honestly I suffered through only a month of the "60 day kit" (my parents had bought it for me and I wanted to make sure I gave it an honest shot before wasting all their cash). Finally I realized that having to do yoga breathing and muttering "beauty is pain" while sitting on my hand to keep from itching my burning face probably meant that it was too harsh for me. I actually dreaded washing my face. I finally gave up on it. I suppose my skin was marginally clearer, but it didn't help/prevent my cystic breakouts. Also it smelled like rotten eggs.
9. AcneFree Severe to Clear System. Again, tried it, didn't see any real results. The face wash was kind of grainy. I'm sure the idea was exfoliation, but after a few days it just felt like sandpaper. I finished up the whole kit but didn't invest in a new one.
10. Neutrogena Skin ID. Of all the "systems" I've tried I like this one the best and got the best results. My skin didn't clear up completely, but it looked the best it has since freshman year of undergrad. FYI: on the website you fill out a questionnaire about your skin, acne, skincare routine, and lifestyle. When I noted that I had cystic nodules the website said that only a dermatologist could help with that type of acne, so it never promised to clear those up in the first place. But it did help! I don't remember my Skin ID "numbers", but I know I had a cream cleanser, a benzoyl cream, and a moisturizer with salicylic acid.
11. Peter Thomas Roth Sulfur Cooling masque. I love this. I'd be lying if I said it healed and prevents breakouts but it has helped tone down the redness and get rid of less significant blemishes. Also it makes my skin incredibly soft. I use it about twice a week. It is pretty expensive, but the jar has a lot of product in it and it seems to last a long time.
12. Biore Pore Strips. I feel these are helpful for removing blackheads on my nose. I know it sounds gross, but it's a little satisfying to see the gunk stuck too them when you pull them off. Ew. Any way...I don't use these very often since my nose isn't incredibly prone to breakouts, but if I notice an increase in blackheads I'll throw one on.
13. Obagi Clenziderm system. I've recently (within a month) been using this. I work with aestheticians and they all highly recommended this. Even though I have oily skin I use the normal to dry products because I also use Differin. Honestly I don't notice a huge improvement, but it's fully possible that it's because I should be using the normal to oily products. What I have right now includes a cream cleanser, a benzoyl gel, and a light moisturizer. I have no real complaints but I'm not exactly blown out of the water.
14. Toothpaste. A roommate at dance camp swore that by dabbing toothpaste (NOT the gel kind) on a pimple it would dry it up. I think it does actually help for non-cystic acne like normal whiteheads, but it doesn't really do the trick anymore haha. Major plus? Your skin is left minty fresh!
15. Tea Tree Oil. I don't remember the exact claim, but it was to the point of "clears up acne!" Yeah, not so much. Again, I wonder if it's just the particular "brand",if you will, of blemishes I get. I have a friend who swears by tea tree oil and she has beautiful skin (lucky girl!).
16. Lemon Sugar Scrub (homemade). I don't know why I thought this was a good idea. I think I saw it on a beauty vlog on youtube. Basically it's exactly what it sounds like. The girl who does the vlog has a lot of good tips so I of course trusted it. Supposedly a great exfoliate to clear up skin. Yeah, it was mostly just sticky.
17. At home masques. Man, if I found an article about a masque that would help clear up skin, I tried it. I've used honey, oatmeal, tomatoes, whole milk, cucumber...pretty much anything you could find in a produce aisle.
Right now that's all I can remember. There may be more. How sad is that? So what about you, tried an of these? What wacky ways have you tried to clear up acne?
Hello all! I've decided to start documenting my trials and tribulations in the quest for Clear Skin. I've spent countless hours looking up potential solutions to my acne problem and maybe, just maybe, there is someone out there going through the same thing. I hope that by writing this blog we can not only commiserate, but also offer tidbits of advice, encourage each other, and hopefully celebrate our successes!
First things first.
Who am I?
I'm a 24 for year old female who has been dealing with mild acne since high school which has steadily progressed into moderate acne over the past 5 years or so. While everyone else was dealing with massive breakouts at age 14 I was fortunate to experience mild breakouts that could easily be concealed and blemishes that would subside relatively quickly. In college my skin declined steadily. I blamed the water, an increased stress level, my diet, my *ahem* increased alcohol intake, but whatever the cause the result was more breakouts on my face and body. Now, a year post undergrad, I'm preparing to enter a graduate program and my skin has reached an all time low. All those people with terrible skin have grown out of their acne and here I am with the worst skin I've ever had.
What kind of acne do I suffer from?
I have a both non-inflamitory and inflamitory acne. Largely I have papules (small red bumps) scattered across both cheeks with a few that pop up on my chin and occasionally one or two on my forehead. These are made worse by the fact that I have fair skin (freckle prone, although in recent years I've been more wearing SPF consistantly on my face to prevent sun damage) and the redness is persistant and very difficult to conceal with makeup. The sides/corners of my nose and chin are prone to blackheads, although I've been noticing them on my cheeks recently. I tend to get a white head around the corners of my nose from time to time. And last but not least, in the recent past I've developed cystic blemishes. Where some people tend to get these cysts in large groupings, I usually get 2-5 at a time and spread out in different areas on my face. For example right now I have one on my left cheek near my nose, one on the right side on my chin, and one starting on my right cheek where it meets my nose.
In summation, I'm a young adult ready to be done with this acne nonsense. My quest is a solution. I've armed myself with the internet, a dermatologist, and determination. Feel free to come along with me as I (hopefully!) conquer blemishes once and for all!