Angry Acne: My Roaccutane Experience

During secondary school, my war began with acne. I’d see girls all around me with perfect skin and so many people would say to me: Why don’t you just wash your face to get rid of your spots? Well, it wasn’t that simple because I did wash my face. I kept it clean. I made sure that I used cream on the spots to try to reduce them. It just never cleared up for me.

I tried lots of different creams and tablets from the doctors. The only one I found to work was a version of the pill, but unfortunately it gave me migraines so I couldn’t take them. The doctors kept me in a vicious circle – trying new medicine out, getting me to re-try ones I tried a year or two before.

I’ve heard stories from other people saying that they tried a few different ones and then they were referred for Roaccutane (also known as Accutane, Isotretinoin).

Here’s my skin before Roaccutane:Pre-Roaccutane.jpgHowever, eventually when I was in my FIRST year of UNIVERSITY, a doctor gave me the go ahead to go to the hospital. After all those years of trying lots of medicine and creams, I was finally going to get my chance to try the best and most brutal medicine there is for acne.

Roaccutane works by draining all of the oil out of your skin, so as you can imagine it can have some pretty nasty side effects. I’d heard horror stories, read up a lot online and was anxious about it. However, I decided to give it a try.

In all honesty, it wasn’t so bad for me. Here’s the pros and cons…

Pros

  1. My hair never got greasy! It was amazing. Obviously I still washed my hair, but it was so great that I had gone from having to wash it every other day to being able to go a week or so without doing it. Sounds a bit grim, but honestly it was the best thing ever for me.
  2. It worked pretty quickly. I was only on it for a total of 6 months (though this was spread out over a longer period due to appointment issues) and it cleared my skin right up. I felt confident again and I felt pretty. I didn’t feel like I had to try to hide my face anymore or put foundation over those big spots (because I didn’t have any!).

Cons

  1. My lips were dry. One of the most common side effects of the drug is how much it can dry your skin out. I was lucky and only really got excessively dry skin on my lips and my hands. I eventually found that Blistex was the best cream to help with my lips.
  2. Muscle weakness. As far as the dermatologist told me, this side effect is less common. But I often found that my muscles felt weak or they would ache, and because of that it meant that I had to wait longer to be put on a higher dosage of the medicine.
  3. Blood tests. I’m not going to lie, I can be a bit of a wuss when it comes to needles but I usually don’t make a big fuss. In total I think I had to have about 3 bloods tests done, and the last one was painless. I remember when I went to my doctors for the second one and the nurse took 3 or 4 vials and that made me feel queasy. However, they all came back fine so the drug hadn’t caused me to lack anything.
  4. Sun burn was also a bit of a problem. Although I didn’t actually burn, I did find that my skin was prone to hurt if I was in the sun for too long – and I’m not talking about really hot weather either. Though this was easily helped with a sun block and a good moisturiser. Also not spending too much time in the sun, of course.

My experience with Roaccutane was not as bad as some people have had it. I had a friend when I was at secondary school and he went on the drug long before I did, and he told me he got basically all the side effects possible. His skin looked great though, and I’m sure it still does.

Here’s what my skin looks like one year after finishing treatment…Post-Roaccutane.jpgAs for me, I do still get spots but nowhere near as many as I used to get. Quite often if I have a breakout I panic and wonder if my acne is coming back but I really hope it never does.

Here’s just a few facts…

  • You can’t consume much alcohol whilst on Roaccutane because it can cause liver toxicity, which could potentially be really harmful.
  • You must not get pregnant because it can have serious effects on an unborn baby. I had to sign an agreement to say that I would use TWO methods of birth control.
  • There have been cases of severe mood-altering side effects. Some people feel down, though some people have experienced depression or suicidal thoughts. I felt a bit moody sometimes but never felt anything worse.
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