Happy Friday! I have recently read a lot of information on Twitter about the powerful acne drug Accutane. While I know that there is a lot of negative side effects, I am an Accutane success story. As an Esthetician and a blogger, I feel that it is important to write about my story because I believe that under the right circumstances, and to the right patient, Accutane can be a miracle drug, as it was for me!
I took Accutane, also known as Isotretinoin, when I was a junior in college. It was back in the late 1990's, before some of the very harsh side-effects were brought to light. I had struggled with acne since I was in the 4th grade and my dermatologist went through so many treatments with me in that period of time. I was on mild topical creams, medicated soaps, Tetracycline, Minocycline, Retin-A and a host of others. He had suggested Accutane while I was in high school, to which my parents strongly objected. My acne started with black and whiteheads on my face, but over time, traveled to my neck, back, and chest. It got to the point where my face was so red and inflamed that it would sting and bleed while I patted my face after washing it.
By the time I was in college, my acne was horrible and I had major self-confidence issues. I would wake up two hours early just to cover my skin in makeup before my roommates were up. My cover-up process would continue all day, and I would even wash my face and put fresh makeup on before I went to Cross Country practices. No matter what I did, my acne would not go away. In the summer, I fried my light Irish skin because I believed that the sun would clear it up. This has come back to haunt me though because I had my first skin cancer removed from my face at the age of 28.
Finally, at 20 years old, I was so miserable and had to do something. When my dermatologist suggested again that I take Accutane, I eagerly let him write me the script. As I remember, I had to start an oral contraceptive as a precaution. ( Accutane is a strong derivative of Vitamin A that it is linked to serious birth defects and miscarriages). I also had to have my liver enzymes tested before I could be cleared for the drug. Once I started taking the Accutane, I had to get blood work done monthly, including a liver workup and a pregnancy test in order to get the next month's supply.
I did have some minor side effects. My skin and lips became quite dry. In fact, my lips have never really come back from taking Accutane, and that was over 13 years ago. Sun sensitivity was another side effect and I had to take extra precautions being outside, making sure to slather on a high SPF.
In the end however, after a six-month course of Accutane, my acne was cured! Other than an occasional monthly breakout, my skin is clear! I am so thankful to have been able to take this drug. With clear skin, my confidence improved and I felt so much better. I always thought that with acne, I was ugly and that other people thought I was dirty because I couldn't take care of my face. Once it cleared, it was amazing how much more outgoing I became and I took more pride in my appearance.
Accutane has become quite controversial however since I took it back in the 90's. It takes a drastic toll on a person's body and in my opinion, not every person is right for taking this drug. Accutane works by essentially shutting down your oil glands, so that they don't produce any more oil. This is the main reason why patients taking the drug experience very dry skin. According on one website, the real controversy lies in that 90 percent of women, and nearly half of the teens who are receiving accutane suffer only from mild cases of acne (www.accutanesideeffects.net ).
My case of acne was not mild. Accutane is suggested for people who have severe cases of grade 3 and grade 4 acne. Grade 3 acne constitutes as moderately severe acne with blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, and cysts. It is very frequently red and inflamed. Scarring starts if a person picks at their skin.
Grade 4 acne constitutes as having numerous black and whiteheads and pustules with a large number is cysts on the face, chest,and back. In this stage, acne can occur in over 50% or more of the face.
In looking at the grades of acne, it is clear that Accutane isn't right for everyone. It is not intended for a person with a few black and/or whiteheads. However, for me, it was a great success. I feel badly for those who have been on this drug and experience some of the very harsh reactions such as depression, strokes, or worse. My point in writing this post was just to get a success story out there. Thanks so much for reading!