After all I had read about Accutane, I was pretty scared going into my treatment in early September of 2013. As I took my first little orange pill, I was terrified. I had heard so much about the horrifying side effects of the "miracle drug", and, being a bit of a hypochondriac, I took to the best source I knew...the Internet! After hours of reading blogs about people's experiences, looking at before/after pictures and scouring forum after forum, my head was spinning.
I read about people's faces peeling off, having suicidal thoughts, and suffering through the worst breakouts of their lives. I saw images of cracked lips and sad faces with captions that read, "my face feels like someone took a meat tenderizer to it." I read about dry eyes, bloody noses, something called dry butt -- I don't even want to know what that is...NOT encouraging!
As I kept reading and scanning, devouring these peoples' stories and experiences, I began to feel physically sick. My back ached, my head hurt, my brain running in circles of is this worth it, am I going to become suicidal? Am I suicidal right now? I was really a mental, physical, emotional mess on Accutane Day One.
But then day two came. And day three. Four, five, six, twenty-seven, thirty-nine, before I knew it I was (am) three months in! 20 weeks down, 8 to go, said my dermatologist today!
My skin is not miraculously clear --not yet, anyways. It is improved, yes, but not done yet. I am choosing not to despair until the treatment is done. I have hope.
For all my worrying, and the tizzy I worked myself into on that first day, Accutane has NOT been that bad. It is a very serious medicine, and it should not be taken lightly or until you're ready for the responsibility of its potential side effects. But thankfully mine have been quite minor. It's really just been a few key
Things I've learned to do while on Accutane:
1. Apply lip balm like it's my job.
I literally cannot go ANYWHERE or any length of time at all without Chapstick, Vasoline, Carmex, Blistex, whatever I can get my hands on. As long as you keep your lips moisturized, they won't crack or bleed or peel or any of that nasty stuff you've read about. They'll be dryer than you've ever experienced,
that's for sure, but keep those pesky little tubes handy (and don't put them in the wash) and you'll be okay. Sidenote: my hands also cracked and felt a bit like dragon scales at times. Keep hand lotion at the ready, as well.
2. Lay off on showering (a bit).
Maybe this is just me, but Accutane really dried out my hair from the first few days. I have naturally quite greasy hair, and being on this drug made it dry, or at least normal like other peoples' hair. I only need to wash it every few days (which is awesome) and it looks absolutely great! Thanks Accutane for
this one sweet side effect! Also my arms and legs have been dry, so I've had to adjust to showering less often and moisturizing EVERYWHERE after I do hop in the bath.
3. Be okay with picking my nose.
You think I'm joking, but it's for real. The mucus in your nose will dry right up on Accutane, resulting in painful and sometimes bloody boogers. I'm just laying it out there for you, those things are NOT comfortable to leave be, so you'll need to make time to just clear it out once a day. Just don't do it while driving, unless you have really tinted windows. Even then, it can wait!
4. Look forward to that one beer each week.
Drinking alcohol while on Accutane is a touchy subject. Some completely abstain, others risk it (who needs a liver anyways, right?) I made a pact with myself to have no more than one beer a week while on the treatment. My liver scans (blood tests) have always been clear, and it actually has been kind of nice.
It makes me really look forward to that one drink, and make sure I enjoy it in a special way -- with good friends or an extra delicious burger.
5. Be extra picky about my products.
I swear by the following: Neutrogena Extra Gentle Moisturizing Face Wash to start and end each day, Cetaphil Lotion before bed, Aquaphor for those especially dry days (on scaly spots and lips before bed).
Lip balms I'm not so picky: whatever is closest is the best, no questions asked.
Well, that's what I've got so far. Two more months to go, maybe three, depending on progress. I'm thankful for relatively easy side effects, and being able to somewhat hide my excessive Chapstick needs under the cover of "It's winter! Everyone's lips are dry!"
To everyone else joining me in the exciting, frustrating, seemingly endless but ultimately (fingers crossed) effective journey that is Accutane, Godspeed. We are in this, together.
Flash forward to today, my one-year anniversary of starting Accutane. I'm happy to say, my face is totally clear! I haven't had a pimple since I can remember, much less a full-on breakout. No matter what time of the month, or how stressed I am, my skin stays clear! A little tinted moisturizer (and some sunscreen) in the morning, and I'm good to go for the day. In fact, I'm back to the oily t-zone I did NOT miss while on the medication, but it doesn't bother me as much anymore.
My skin isn't perfect. I have scars. Bumps, spots, marks on my chin and cheeks and nose. But instead of fixating on those I choose to be thankful. Thankful that someone invented this crazy, painful, apparently wildly effective medicine, and that I had the opportunity to take it. Thankful for people in my life who saw through the acne I had before and will see through it if it comes back again, but also rejoice with me that I can feel confident and pretty and more grown up than before.
The journey was rough, I won't deny it. But a year out, I can say I'm glad I tried Accutane. I'm even more glad it worked. And I'm the most glad to say it's over.