Today is May 22nd and marks the completion of my second month on Isotretinoin, a medication most people know as Accutane. If you are interested in more information about Isotretinoin itself, or my journey thus far, you can check out the other posts I’ve written about this process HERE.
Up until the first of May I had been extremely diligent with everything regarding Accutane. I took my medication every morning with a quarter of an avacado (healthy fats help with absorption), fish oil pills (again, fats for absorption as well as joint and muscle health), a litre of water and often a mug of green tea. And then breakfast.
I was drinking around 20 glasses of water a day, was religious about SPF, was not exfoliating, and was marinating myself in lotions.
Then May 1st came, and my schedule went more or less out the window.
Maybe it’s partly because I hadn’t been seeing as many side effects as I had been expecting. If you read that first post I wrote you’ll know that I was prepared for the worst, which is kind of what normally comes my way. Perhaps since I was put on such a low dose, my side effects have been minimal. Does it sound horribly masochistic if I say I am disappointed?
Anyway, this month I have been kind of all over the place. For the first few days in May I was staying with my best friend who lives about three hours away. We were so busy every day that I forgot to take my pills until after dinner and had packed almonds instead of avacado. The following week was my birthday week so it started pretty heavy on the junk food train and ended with me flying to Connecticut. Airplane air is brutal for drying skin out anyway, but my skin was a mess after spending a day flying there (and the day flying back). On top of that with the excitement and busy days I forgot to take my pills until right before bed and had forgot to pack the fish oil. Because I was going across the border I couldn’t bring nuts or fruits/ vegetables so I mostly took my medication on an empty stomach.
I am someone who can normally lay out in the sun for hours and not darken unless it’s a shade of red but after a few hours of walking around Hartford I had tan lines. So, this isn’t really a negative unless you count the weird and unfortunate Toms tan lines I now have on my feet. Then, due to extraneous circumstances our trip was extended so I hadn’t brought enough of my medication for the extra day. After coming home my skin was taking its revenge. The weekly progress picture I took after my return was worse than the ‘before’ picture I took on the day I started Accutane. I tried to be more diligent for the next week, and this past Friday I started the day with my third dermatologist appointment and ended it with a concert and a sleepover, again forgetting my meds at home.
So, May hasn’t been the best for me in terms of helping the drug do its job. It was a really great month for me otherwise though, but that’s not the point of this post haha. Now that I’ve been back in school for a couple weeks (yay summer semester…) I’m hoping my schedule will be more solidified and that June will be a really great skin month.
As I mentioned, I’ve had my monthly dermatologist appointment. She told me my blood work was perfect and asked how my mood was, which has been fantastic except for a post-Connecticut slump. She said I still had a few big spots so she upped my dose from 20 mg to 30 mg. My brother gave me a hard time for being so excited when I saw that these pills are purple instead of the brick red of the 20’s. It’s the little things, people!
In terms of side effects, as I mentioned, they’ve been more on the minimal to nonexistant side of things. This is probably to do with the low dose and (even during a month where I wasn’t super adamant) being more or less consistent with a skincare routine. To be honest, I’ve had less general pains in the last couple of months than I have over the last few years. Otherwise, I’ll just touch on the side-effect categories I’ve been going over in these posts so far.
- Chapped lips: The split lips I’ve been dealing with since day two of this process have been healing. There’s been a few days where they are completely healed but will split again a couple days later. Air travel was awful for this. I’ve been using a lot of Vaseline and Aquaphor so chapped lips have definitely been there but are manageable.
- Dry skin: This hasn’t changed much from the last post I did. My skin hasn’t gotten much more sensitive so I’ve been using Frank’s Body Scrub in the shower once or twice a week. I do use it on my face and leave it on as a mask those times as well in hopes that it will help fade the scarring I have. My scalp has been pretty dry still but I have switched to Wen Cleansing Conditioner (functions as a hair mask, shampoo, conditioner, and leave in treatment all in one) in hopes that the singular product will lessen the buildup and minimize dryness and so far this less-is-more system has been paying off. My cuticles have been dryer than normal so I’ve been using Caudalie Divine Oil on them after showering which has worked really well. I do have quite an extensive list of products I’ve been using on my face but I’ll save that for another post. The one game changer that I will mention is Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask. It’s supposed to just be a nighttime mask that you use a couple times per week for extra hydration but I’ve been using it in place of a nighttime moisturizer. It’s obviously a bit thick and tacky after application but I always wake up with soft and hydrated skin!
- Dryness of nose and mild nosebleeds: This has been the biggest change since last month. A combination of air travel, allergies, and Accutane has made my nose super dry and itchy. I’ve had a couple minor nosebleeds, but the itchiness is more bothersome. I have heard putting Vaseline inside your nose helps but that really weirds me out. If this gets any worse though, I will have to give that a shot!
- Eye irritation: My eyes have gotten sore every couple of days, mostly in the corners. After using eye drops it goes away so it’s not a big deal.
- Joint and muscle pain: I am still experiencing mild joint pain. It is mostly in places that I normally get it (usually my neck) but goes away easier than it used to. After taking Advil and using a heating pad on my neck, I am good as new!
- Temporary hair thinning: I haven’t experienced any thinning. Even after a week without washing it, my hair still looks clean. Weird, right? One thing I have noticed is that my hair doesn’t stay straight/ curly as long as it used to. Usually when I’d style my hair I would do it on second day hair so there’s a bit more natural texture but now since it doesn’t get oily, I’m guessing that’s why it doesn’t hold like I’m used to? I haven’t experimented much with styling products but I’ll try it out and see!
- Depression: Like I said before, my mood has been great except for a couple days after getting back from my trip, which I’m attributing to the fact that I wasn’t taking my antidepressant at the same time as normal in combination with the general bummed-ness that comes with returning from a really great trip and having to go back to school. Since getting back to my normal routine I’m feeling 100% again.
- Other: Waxing is a big no-no on Accutane but there’s a lot of mixed opinions on threading, which is how I normally maintain my eyebrows. I got my eyebrows threaded the other day and it didn’t hurt any more than it did pre-Accutane. The only other side effect I can see is that (not that this is bad, by any means) my makeup goes on a lot smoother and stays a lot longer. I left my makeup on overnight (I know… I told you it was a bad month for my skin!) and I woke up and it was almost all still in place! This isn’t an experiment I recommend, of course, but it’s nice having skin more on the “normal” side of the spectrum!
Before I end this post I just want to emphasize that this is my personal experience. I am not encouraging anyone to seek out Accutane and am not endorsing it. I am using these monthly blog posts as a way of tracking my own personal progress both in the appearance of my skin and the mental/ physical toll it takes. By posting it in a quasi-public forum my intention is to contribute to the community that exists to help inform people who are going through the same struggles, or just want to know more about this treatment. There are plenty of ways to acquire this information but personal accounts were the most helpful for me when I was first prescribed Accutane. That being said, everyone is different and by extension, everyone’s skin is different. A medication that did almost nothing for me changed one of my best friend’s life. Accutane is prescribed in different doses based on your size and circumstances, and how you react to it depends not only on your unique body but your lifestyle and environment. It is not a miracle cure and I don’t even know if it’s going to be 100% effective for me but I’m hoping! When going on this medication there are many precautions to take and being monitored by a doctor (or a few!) is essential.
A couple days ago I had the pleasure (sarcasm doesn’t really come through on blog posts) of listening to someone who is an unavoidable party in my life go off about how prescription medications are unnecessary and essentially just a vehicle for pharmaceutical companies to control the masses. This person has seen medications save and change the lives of many people (and my dog!), but felt the need to voice this in front of me, after I had just confided in them with my situation.
Do not judge someone else’s journey based on your own. This is just a general rule, but I feel it can be applied both in terms of skincare and medication. If scrubbing your face vigorously with a cloth twice a day keeps you fresh-faced, wonderful! If you have flawless skin and just use Dove soap, I’m happy for you! If a Neutrogena face wash cleared your acne, gosh darnnit that’s dandy! But just because those worked for you and your skin does not mean it will for everyone. Bad skin is not necessarily a result of bad hygiene. In my case, I have been struggling with acne for twelve years and I can assure you that it’s not because I don’t know how to wash my face.
I take one medication which relieves me of migraine-triggering pains that left me unable to get out of bed every couple of weeks for years. Another changed my life to the point where I am in a better mental place than I’ve been for close to a decade. If Accutane works, my immediate thought upon catching people looking at me won’t be that they’re staring at my acne. Medication isn’t the answer for everything. I choose not to take medication for my nerve disorder and I try to “tough out” migraine headaches when I can. There are wonderful homeopathic treatments available for all kinds of conditions and many alternative solutions that don’t involve a container with Rx stamped on it. Whatever you feel works best for whatever your situation is, should not be judged by anyone. Take advice from family, friends, doctors and whomever else that can help… but at the end of the day it is your body and your choice and no one else can tell you how you’re feeling or gauge any pain that you have, whether that be physical or mental. You deserve to look after yourself however you feel is most effective and in whatever way makes you most comfortable.
Please be respectful of other people and their personal journeys. I know it can be difficult to sympathize with people when you are in a different situation, but kindness is always a good foot to put forward.
Thank you so much for reading this post and I wish you the best of luck on whatever journey you’re on! If you have any questions about Accutane or my personal experience, let me know and I’d love to help!