Accutane Really Does Work (Alternate Title: A Post Written By Captain Obvious)

I've been struggling with temperamental and sassy skin since I was about thirteen. Despite both of my parents having angel-skin, when I hit puberty my sebaceous glands exploded and acne began its dictatorship on my face. I tried the more accessible drugstore products first: Clean & Clear (more like Dirty & Pimply, am I right, ladies?), Neutrogena, Clearasil, I tried it all. Now I've come to believe that drugstore acne products are a conspiracy and that they never really clear up acne so that you're forced to keep funneling money into their products for all eternity (insert diabolical laugh), but I was thirteen then and my parents didn't care about my face, they cared about my grades - I took what I could get.

Around sixteen, my mom finally realized how distraught I was about my bubble-wrap face and decided to buy me Proactiv. "Get clear skin!" they said. "Solve all of your acne problems!" they said. Yea, if you're not allergic to Benzoyl Peroxide. I had to stay home from school for three days because my face swelled up about twice its normal size and was covered with a rough, red, alligator-texture rash. I was at my sexiest.

I thought it was a lost cause and so I spent the next couple of years slathering makeup on haphazardly to hide the blemishes. At eighteen, I moved to New York City to start as a freshman at NYU. I thought it wasn't possible for my skin to get any worse but BOY WAS I WRONG. It got so bad that I was finally forced to be an adult and go see a dermatologist. I was prescribed a course of Doxycycline, Clindamycin topical gel, and Retin-A Micro. And guess what? That shit WERKED.

Cut to a couple of months after the course of oral antibiotics was finished and my old friend acne had returned. My derm prescribed another course, and this cycle of success/represcribing a couple of months later when the acne returned continued until about a year and a half ago when the antibiotics stopped working completely. My pimples did a lot of scoffing and were very proud of themselves. For the time being - they had won.

This was taken right before I started Accutane and is a good indication of how shitty my skin had been for most of my life. This photo and all subsequent photos in this post were taken without makeup to give you the full picture. HONESTY, Y'ALL. REAL SHIT.
That was the first time my dermatologist mentioned Accutane. The only thing I knew about it at that time was that it was serious business and that it had a hilarious anti-pregnancy warning on the packaging. I was too nervous, he told me to research it a bit,
This is no joke the pregnancy
warning on Accutane. HILARIOUS.
and I was sent away with some useless topical cream to try. It didn't work (duh) and about two months later I came back to my derm for help. Again, he suggested Accutane, but a combination of sheer stubbornness and fear prevented me from saying yes. I left that day with a prescription face wash. During this time I even tried Benzoyl Peroxide again - rationalizing that I gave up too soon the previous time and that my skin just hadn't adjusted to the chemical (spoiler alert: I was still allergic). After yet another two months of agony, I came back in. "There's really nothing left to try at this point - except for Accutane," said my patient, tolerant, prince-of-a-derm. FINE. I'LL DO IT. JUST GET THIS SHIT OFF OF MY FACE. My response directly to him was a bit more polite. I also was not shouting (except internally).

I don't know if you guys know this about Accutane, but it is a pain in the ass to take. Before you start, you need to get blood taken to make sure all of your levels and potassium and sugar/spice and shit are on point. Then the doctor sends over an approval request to your insurance company, provided you have health insurance. The approval process takes about a month - then you need to come back in and get blood drawn to make sure you're not pregnant. This is because Accutane will cause you to have deformed Dawn of the Dead zombie babies. After the blood is analyzed, you come back in to see the doctor and get your first legit prescription for Accutane. However, before you can pick it up you have to go online and answer a series of condescending questions about your sexual activity (Is it OK to use condoms alone while on Accutane [as in, just condoms as birth control - not condoms for one]? Your significant other pulls out, is this enough [...to not have a baby]?). Once you make it through that Sex Ed pop quiz, you bring your prescription to the pharmacy (with your Accutane "I'm not pregnant" card - you think I'm kidding?) where you have a one-week window to pick up your monthly supply or else you have to redo EVERYTHING. And that's right, I said monthly supply because you have to repeat this process every month that you're on it.

So anyway, one month after that visit I'm sitting on the couch, about to take the first pill, when I start reading about Accutane's side effects. You thought WebMD was scary? What is this, amateur hour?! Accutane has been linked to arthritis, IBD (Chrone's disease, etc), kidney and liver issues/failure, chronic joint and muscle pain, depression, bipolar disorder, the disease from "Cabin Fever," and a hundred other terrifying things. I was frozen in fear and apprehension which quickly disolved into apathy as I took the first pill like the badass, taker-of-risks that I am (I'm not really a risk-taker, I was just so defeated and pretty much at the point where I'd live with an ouchy body if it meant not having pimples - I trust anyone who's had acne knows where my head was at).

Mid-way through my five-month Accutane treatment.
Starting about three weeks in and lasting the entire duration that I was on Accutane, I had chapped lips that could rival Khaleesi's when she was crossing the red waste (yea, I just did that), eyes so dry that they rejected contacts, and the strangest boogers, but other than that, I was actually fine. No aches, no pains, no major organ failure, and no flesh-eating rashes with Rider Strong (tying it back in to "Cabin Fever" here, people - try to keep up). Since my skin was super frail at this point (for example, you must avoid waxing as it will rip off the top layer of your skin - someone had to find this out the hard way, let's have a moment of silence for them), I switched my skincare regimen to the most delicate of products (LUSH's Ultrabland as face wash and Celestial as moisturizer) at the suggestion of my dermatologist.

Five months went by pretty quickly and although the process of getting blood taken, coming back a week later to get the prescription, answering pedantic questions, and then finally being able to get the medication was UGH SO ANNOYING - in the end it was 100% worth it. It's been a couple months since I finished taking it and my skin is only getting better each day. I haven't had to buy a blemish-related product since and my makeup has gotten steadily lighter and lighter. For the first time in my life, this past weekend, I ventured into public without any makeup on. I couldn't be more pleased.

Taken about a month ago and about a month after finishing Accutane. Again, no makeup here. MY EMOTIONS.
In terms of the side-effects, I got lucky. If you're interested in taking Accutane, please check with your dermatologist and go through the necessary smart-person steps before doing so. It is a serious drug and should be taken responsibly, under the watchful eye of a licensed doctor, and only after other attempts have failed you miserably.

Let me know if you have questions? I guess?