Should You Try Accutane For Adult Acne?

There are some things that you would think wouldn’t follow you into adulthood. Fear of the dark, a love for Disneyland, jelly sandals. One of the more annoying ones: acne. Seriously, isn’t that supposed to be one of those things that just scars your high school experience? Waking up to see new pimples when you’re in your 20s? Gah!

If you’re like me, you’ve been plagued with acne since a teenager, and while it’s not as severe as say, those scary Proactive commercials, it’s an issue that’s persisted into your adult years despite your attempts to solve the problem. Considering Accutane? Read on to find out about my experience.
First, the basics. You probably know Isotretonin by its most famous brand name, Accutane. Recently, however, its producer, Hoffmann-La Roche pharmaceuticals, discontinued Accutane production in the U.S. (citing financial reasons). It’s still available under generic names, one of the more popular being Sotret. (Yet for all intents and purposes, most doctors and everyone else still refers to it as Accutane). What it is: an oral prescription medication meant for people who have really persistent acne, especially the kind that comes from deep, down below. You know—those super painful cystic zits that slowly rise to the surface. It’s a derivative of vitamin A, and when taken for several months, it essentially dries your oil glands like a desert.

I’m 24 now and had actually been through a course of Accutane when I was 17, witnessing the miracle effects on my skin. While I actually don’t remember too much of the day-to-day (uh, I maybe blocked a lot of high school out of my memory), I do remember getting to college without one pimple. Unfortunately, what many users of Accutane find is that the effects can be temporary. By the time I had reached 21, I was having cystic acne problems again. Topicals helped a bit, but not much. Oral antibiotics also had little effect. My dermatologist finally convinced me to do another round of the A-man.

In the first two weeks, practically nothing happened, and I began to question why I was even doing it. Around the end of the month, however, my hurting, puss-filled (sorry, gross!) lumps that usually came around were much smaller. The last few days of the first month, I felt like God, a considerable amount of my noticeable acne gone, though not my blackheads.

The second month my dose was doubled and that’s when the scary side effects set in. My skin was fairly dry, and tended to peel a bit around my chin and nose, but nothing too noticeable. My lips, however, became cracked and chapped, and no matter how much lib balm I slabbed on, there was just no beating it. Yet, people started commenting on how great my skin looked.

The third month was progress too, but my skin and lips were more sensitive than ever. When I began dating a new guy, I spent most of our time together worrying if he didn’t want to kiss me because my lips were so dry. And when we finally did make out, his scruff seriously tore up my chin. He had to shave everyday, otherwise he’d leave my face red and raw.

I’m now into my fourth month and see that my garden of blackheads has practically died. I am, however, slightly disappointed to see a bit of a breakout—although, I am about to have my ladytime, so it could be because of that. Either way, I would take back the annoyance of Accutane, and would even stay on it for months more, if it meant continual improvement.

Important things to know:

  1. You can’t get pregnant. Not even a little bit, not ever. So if you’re thinking of having a baby in the next year, forget it. Basically, if you get knocked up on Accutane your baby will be deformed. And boy, do they want you to know it. Anti-pregnancy warnings are all over the packaging, and you are required to pledge to use two forms of birth control. It’s pretty serious stuff.
  2. It will eat up some of your time. That is, in comparison to how you deal with other easy-to-refill meds. Even the day you and your derm decide you’re going to start a course of Accutane, you won’t be able to get it for a month. You’ll need to get blood tests then, and again at the end of the month to ensure you’re not pregnant and all your other organs are normal. Once you do get the drug, each month you will have to get a blood test, see your dermatologist in person, and fill out an online questionnaire, which basically tells you over and over again to not get preggos.
  3. Some people get seriously depressed. Accutane has gotten a bad rep after several suicides were potentially linked to the drug’s tendency to make some people more sad than usual. However, as my dermatologist told me, “Most people actually begin to feel less depressed because they look better.” If you monitor your emotions and tell your doctor right away, you should be fine.

In the end, what I feel is this: I’m willing to put up with some gnarly lips and peely skin that doesn’t cooperate with my foundation for a few months in order to look way better. The end.