January marks one year since I decided to take the leap and go on Accutane. Up until last year, I had suffered from acne for 10 years. It wasn’t just an odd blemish or a bad couple of weeks – it was permanent spots covering my back, my face and my neck. Most people didn’t realise I had skin problems because I did a good job of covering it up, covering my neck in make-up or wearing clothes that would cover my back. Over time it became a big problem for my confidence and I was very anxious, convinced that in every face to face conversation people were only focusing on my spots. Of course, that wasn’t the case – but it became enough for me to consider Accutane seriously.
In short, Accutane was life-changing for me and my spots disappeared completely. This isn’t the case for everybody, and I know that going on the drug isn’t always an option for some people suffering with acne. I was very hesitant before visiting my dermatologist, and I had a lot of questions. I hope to answer some of these for anybody who is considering treatment.
I must stress that the answers are based on my personal experiences – I am not a doctor and if you are thinking about going on Accutane you should speak to your GP.
What is Accutane?
Also known as Roaccutane or Isotretinoin, the drug is a final resort for treating acne. It is known for its controversial side effects – but it also has an extremely high success rate – four out of five people have clear skin after four months.
How do I get prescribed Accutane?
Going on Accutane is a big deal and it will never be prescribed on the first visit to your GP. You have to be referred to a dermatologist and have gone through several different treatments with no improvement.
I spent years using different topical creams, antibiotics and even changing my birth control pill to fix my skin, with no luck.
How long is the treatment?
The treatment will typically be spread out over six months – sometimes it will be more, sometimes less. I was on it for just over five months.
Do I have to take medication every day?
Yes, and depending on your dose it can be several tablets. I started on 25mg and was upped to 50mg after four weeks. This meant taking four tablets every day. They should be taken with a meal, so I got in the habit of taking mine with dinner each night. It can be hard to get into a routine of remembering your pills every day!
Do you have to be using birth control on Accutane?
Yes, because you cannot under any circumstances get pregnant on Accutane. The dermatologist will make you sign a document to say that you are on two forms of contraception.
How often do I have to see the dermatologist?
I had to go to the hospital once a month to get my next month’s dosage of Accutane. You will only ever be prescribed a month at a time – and you will have to take a pregnancy test to show you aren’t pregnant before your prescription is signed off.
Can you drink alcohol on Accutane?
Very moderately, preferably not at all. This was a big lifestyle change for me – as I like a glass of wine or 5 at the weekend! I stopped drinking altogether in the week – and if I really wanted a drink I never had more than one. The reason is that your liver is put under strain during treatment. Drinking to excess can cause liver problems.
How long does it take to see results?
I saw a dramatic improvement in my skin after just one month. It’s a good idea to take photos of your skin at the beginning of treatment so you can compare over time. Sometimes you might develop spots on the treatment – but don’t worry, this is just your body forcing any acne to surface before it goes away.
What are the side effects?
There are a lot of side effects that can be experienced on Accutane – and the reason it is so controversial is that it has been linked to depression and suicide.
I personally did not notice any change in my mood, but I did have other side effects. Mine included very dry lips, nose bleeds and fragile skin. Accutane removes all of the oil from your skin, making it very dry. Lip balm will become your new best friend! Although the dry lips were a pain, it was nice to not have an oily t-zone for six months! I also had to give up running for a while as high impact sport is not advised due to joint pain.
Do you recommend Accutane?
I am well aware that not everybody agrees with going on Accutane, and some people can’t due to allergies or other health reasons. All I will say is that going on the drug cleared up my acne after 10 years of trying everything else. The side effects are a pain, but it was never unbearable – and I can count on one hand the number of spots I’ve had since finishing the treatment.
And finally, most importantly – don’t ever let acne define you. We are all humans, having spots is completely natural – and we are all beautiful! I have a lot of respect for My Pale Skin Blog and Kendall Jenner, who have both spoken up about skin issues and how it shouldn’t stop you from doing anything.
Have you been on Accutane? Or did you decide not to go on the treatment? You can read my posts whilst I was on the treatment here:
Accutane: My Skin Journey
Accutane: My Skin Journey #2
Accutane: My Skin Journey #3
Accutane: My Skin Journey #4