My Acne Story: Why I Decided to Get on Isotretinoin (Accutane) and the Products I Highly Recommend
When it came my skin, I used to think that I had been blessed. My skin was so clear all through my teens, I didn't wear foundation until after I got out of high school. In my twenties, I had a spot or two around my cycle. But in my thirties, that was when things turned for the worst. No matter what I tried, I couldn't control the flare ups. I modified my diet, I already had a vegan diet and in addition I cut out soy, wheat, rye, barley, canola oil, corn, sugar, caffeine...I took herbs, supplements, minerals anything that they said helped acne. I tried Proactive, Dermalogica, IPLs, Laser Facials, Masks, Natural Remedies, Topical Antibiotics, Retinol, seeing an Esthetician every month...if anything worked, it worked for a month and then the flare ups would come back. My final straw came during my trip to Thailand. Two weeks of no make-up, nothing but fresh fruits and veggies, clean water, clean air...and still, flare ups.
I've always been a huge believer in fixing yourself through diet, and staying away from Pharmacutiles. But after almost 3+ years of dealing with painful cystic acne, I threw in the flag and I booked an appointment with a Dermatologist. Maybe there was something else I could be doing that I didn't know about. I told her everything I had tried and after I was done, she looked at me and she said "I think you've done everything you can do, I think we need to put you on Isotretioin". The moment she said it, I started to cry, I felt defeated, how could there be anything out there that can't be cured through diet? But I was tired of fighting this battle and I said agreed.
When you decide to take the medication, if you are a female, you have to take a pregnancy test first, and then wait a month to make sure there is no chance that you are pregnant. During this month I researched every moment of my free time so I truly knew what I was getting myself into. I talked to friends who has been on it, I watched YouTube’s, I read other people’s blogs. The potential side effects are really scary! Crohn’s disease, depression, hair loss, altered vision suicidal thoughts, brain swelling, death...was clear skin worth all that? (Plus! You can't drink and you can't have grapefruit). Before I had announced that I was going to go on Isotretinoin, I had only known maybe 2 people who had been on it, but once I started asking around, I realized I was surrounded by people who were success stories and I felt that made the right decision.
I only had to be on the medication for 5 months, the first month I was on 40mg, and then 60mg from there on out. My side effects were quite minimal, I'd like to think my healthy lifestyle and diet attributed to it. The first two days I had a headache (which made me nervous at first because I never have headaches but it went away so I thought nothing of it), I would have joint pain and body aches kind of cycling through different parts of my body, random eczema patches when I wasn’t on top of moisturinzing, I had blood in my nose all the time, I was always exhausted, and I could not go more than 5 minutes without chapstick. Whenever a medication talks about changes in mood, I usually never feel it, but I would say I felt very antisocial.
Physically you couldn't really tell I was on Isotretinoin and I'd like to attribute my skin care regimen for that. Here are the products I used to get through the 5 months:
For my basic cleanser, to remove make-up, I just used whatever Korean brand cleanser I could find at Marshalls. I followed it up with what I feel REALLY prevented my skin from being dry and flaky, the Almond Cleanser from Body Deli. You can feel how nourishing this cleanser is, after washing my skin would feel so supple. It nourished your skin instead of stripping it of it's natural oils. Coming in at $28, it's not the most inexpensive cleanser out there but using it twice a day, every day for 5 months...I still had a third of the bottle left so I think it's worth the price.
Every day I would step in the shower and every day I would feel a layer of skin ready to be rubbed off. What I really loved about this exfoliator is how gentle it is. I could use it every day and not rub my skin raw. When you're on this medication, it makes your skin very thin, I mean, I cut nicks in my palm from opening a water bottle...it's that thin, so this product was a life saver to keeping my skin looking glowing. $17 for the bottle, this little baby goes a long way also. I still plan on using this exfoliator after because I just love how gentle yet effective it is.
I tried to go the natural route. I bought a plethora of facial oils and natural moisturizers but seeing how scaly my skin get during the first month, I took the advice of everyone else on the web and bought a jar of Aquaphor. Since that moment, I didn't have to worry about flaky patches on my face, and if I had any eczema patches popup on my body, 3 days of this, it was gone. When I told my Dermatologist that I was slathering my face with Aquaphor, she was concerned, she told me that she wouldn't normally suggest someone with acne prone skin to use that on their face, but she said if it helps, do it until l'm off the medication. This also is great for your lips (but we'll talk about lip care below).
Another brand everyone on the web raved about was CeraVe. Why I went with the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream was because it claims to keep your skin moisturized through the day and it does just that. It's lightweight enough to wear under your makeup even on a hot day. One application in the morning, I didn't have to worry about moisturizing for the rest of the day.
I'm not going to go too much into this because I used so many different lotions but I really liked St. Ives Oatmeal and Shea lotion because it helps calmed down my skin when I was itching a lot.
My friend actually recommended this product to me when I was seeing my Esthetician. When you're on Isotretinoin, you are very supceptable to the sun. Even winter sun felt harsh on my skin. SPF is very important. This brand is from Asia, I usually buy it off ebay, not expensive at all. The SPF is very strong! The sun is not penetrating through this. I also like the whitening aspect of it because, as someone who had been battling with acne for years, you're bound to have acne scars and this helped clear all of that.
Oh my favorite part! I think I have become a MASTER at knowing what the best chapsticks are after this. I was married to chapstick. If I realized I didn't have a chapstick in my purse, desk, pants, nightstand, coffee table...anywhere within reach, I would panic because I knew it was only a matter of time that my lip would start to dry up and I'd get that cut in the corner of my mouth. If you are not applying every 5 minutes, you are in trouble. Here are the list of the best and worst:
- Desert Essence Ultra Hydrating Lip Rescue - I wish I had discovered this chapstick from the beginning. You can feel the hydration enter your lips. What I really liked about this is that no matter how much I applied, I didn't build a wall of wax on my lips. PLUS, it's super affordable unlike the next one...
- Fresh Sugar Advanced Lip Therapy - This little thing cost $26 but man oh man, if your lips are in need of desperate rescue, I would think about buying at least one of these to get you through. I would mostly use this in extreme situations, but what I will say is that this chapstick actually last for a pretty long time.
Neosporin Lip Health Overnight Renewal Therapy - This one is amazing to use at night. If you have a cut in the corner of your mouth, your lips are splitting, use this at night and almost overnight, it's fixed! I bought this when my boyfriend had jaw surgery. His lips swelled and had cuts all over, we applied this every night for 3 nights and his lips were healed.
Blistex Deep Renewal - This was one of my favorite before I started this journey and I was actually pretty shocked to see how well it worked for extreme chapped lip condition, It's lower on my best list because if you over use it, you can start to feel the wax build up on your lips a little...but very minimal.
Chapstick Total Hydration - I kept this at my desk because it worked well enough to keep my lips hydrated, but you would most definitely have to be reapply every 5 minutes. The holding power wasn't as great as the first two, and you'd get that wax build up on the lips is you over used it.
CeraVe Healing Lip Balm with SPF 30 - I only applied this to my lips maybe...10 times. There is a disgusting chemical flavor on this, and it would just keep making it's way into my mouth. I couldn't even fully analyze it's effectiveness on chapped lips because I couldn't take that taste.
Blistex 5 Star Lip Protection - This one started off ok, but I realized what was "moisturizing" my lips was just a coat of wax, so if your lips are quenched, you need something that can seep into your lips...this does not.
Aquaphor Lip Repair and Protect - These liquidy chapsticks didn't work well for me. I felt like the moment it died, my lips would be back to where it was or worse.
The next part of my acne journey will be to take care of my scar tissue with derma needling. The surface scars are gone thanks to exfoliation and the whitening sunscreen, I've been able to go face makeup free for 2 months because my skin is THAT clear, but if I smile, you can see the acne scars in the laugh lines. As for my new skincare regimen, I'd like to continue with Body Deli and Cocokind. Their products are natural and I feel like they nourish and supplement your skin, they really think about each ingredient and the benefits we can get from it.
I hope this has been informative, if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or DM me on Instagram @jacklynk