GENERAL INTEREST

My Life with Acne

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Love the skin you’re in. That’s what they say. Members of this “they” group are well-meaning, but often full of it. Of course we should all love ourselves “flaws and all,” but some flaws are harder to accept and face than others. Especially when those flaws happen to be on your face. A beautiful Colgate smile can cover a myriad of insecurities, but it cannot distract from a face peppered with pimples. I would know. I have been suffering from Acne since I was ten years old.

Saying, “I have been suffering from Acne” makes it sound like a disease. Well, that’s because it is. Acne is defined as an “inflammatory disease.” I didn’t think of my pimples as evidence of a disease until high school. I needed a doctor to fill out a medical release form to try-out for a sports team. In the line for try-outs I finally opened the envelope to read the form the doctor completed for me. I expected the line for “Pre-existing Diseases/Conditions” to be left blank or to see a “N/A,” but it wasn’t. “Acne” was listed as my “Pre-exisiting Disease/Condition.”

I tapped a classmate in front of me to joke about it. “Since when was acne a disease?,” I said, laughing nervously.

“If the doctor said it is then it is,” she replied, matter-of-factly.

I guess it is what it is. I have acne.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had pimples since I was ten. My fifth-grade yearbook features a prominent red pimple on my nose a la “Rudolph The Red-Nose Reindeer.”

Like rabbits in heat, my pimples multiplied quickly.

No one ever made fun of me (to my face) about my pimples like kids do on television, but that didn’t make me feel any better about having acne through elementary school, middle school, high school, and college.

Over the years I have easily spent thousands of dollars on acne treatments, creams, and pills. “I” in this case is a combination of me and my parents. These seemingly small costs tend to add up.

I have literally tried everything from Proactiv to Retin-A to oil cleansing all to no avail.

A dermatologist once referred to my acne as the most stubborn acne he had ever witnessed in his 30 years of practice.

He suggested I try Accutane as a last-ditch effort to clear my skin.

This picture was taken one month before I started Accutane. Note: I’m wearing a face full of makeup. It was hard to find makeup that could fully cover up my acne.
This picture was taken one month before I started Accutane. Note: I’m wearing a face full of makeup. It was hard to find makeup that could fully cover up my acne.

Of course I was nervous. I had heard horror stories of the side-effects of Accutane, or Isotretinoin before. The side-effects include depression, Crohn’s Disease, and death.

Understanding the side-effects I cautiously forged ahead and started my Accutane treatment.

By no means am I suggesting other people try Accutane. That decision is best made after consulting with a dermatologist, not reading a blog post. I can only speak on my personal experience with the treatment.

Accutane is a pill that you must take orally everyday. There are specific rules you have to abide by when taking Accutane, especially if you are a woman. For instance, women must avoid getting pregnant while on Accutane because the treatment can cause serious birth defects. Scary, right?

I was on Accutane for six-months. My only side-effect was such dry lips that even Napoleon Dynamite would offer me his last tube of Chapstick out of pity. That period, my friends, is when I learned to love Carmex. It is the best for chapped lips.

Accutane has an 80 percent success rate. At the end of my Accutane treatment I had the clearest skin I have ever had in years. I even stopped wearing makeup because I finally had beautiful glowing skin. I finally loved the skin I was in.

Right after I completed my Accutane treatment. Golly, just look at that clear skin! No makeup!
Right after I completed my Accutane treatment. Golly, just look at that clear skin! No makeup!

Six months after completing my Accutane treatment I began to notice pimples peppering my face again albeit not as bad as my pre-Accutane years. Of course I was in the 20 percent. Stubborn acne!

The dermatologist warned me that Accutane would not be the end-all-be-all. It would be possible for me to get pimples if my hormones changed or if I was stressed. But, I did not expect to start covering my face with makeup so soon.

It has been almost three years since I completed my Accutane treatment. I considered going on Accutane again a year-and-a-half ago, but decided against it. I didn’t want to risk it.

I still have acne, but it is not nearly as bad as it once was. I do not regret the treatment because it got me this far. Sometimes my skin is great and sometimes it’s not. I’ve learned to accept it for what it is.

I’ve learned enough about my skin to know what works for me. I know that there are certain foods like peanuts and coffee that will cause acne flareups for me. It’s so hard to give up coffee completely, so I drink it sparingly. I know that I can’t slack on drinking water everyday. I have a skincare regimen that works for me. And, I know how to apply makeup like a pro.

I wrote this post to share my experiences with Accutane. A dermatologist may suggest Accutane, but how much can they tell you about it when they have never taken it themselves? I advise anyone interested in taking Accutane to do heavy research on it and try alternatives first. I also wrote this post because I know that I’m not alone in my insecurities about skin. I may not love the skin I’m in as far as my acne goes, but I’ve learned to accept it. All we can do is accept ourselves “flaws and all.” Just because I have acne doesn’t mean I’m not beautiful inside and out.

***The images used for the “Feature Image” were taken in December 2009,  approximately two months before I started Accutane.