I used to suffer from adult acne. That’s right – used to suffer. Tired of the constant up and downs that the skin condition was causing, I finally decided to do something about it. I spent years on Minocin to no avail. I tried topical acne products like salicylic acids and benzoyl peroxide. I tried supplements. I went for regular facials. I changed what I ate. No matter what I did, it didn’t seem to help, and once a month (yes that time of the month), like clock-work, my chin exploded. Some months it wasn’t as bad, and most people politely told be that they didn’t notice it until I pointed it out. I noticed it, and it really bothered me…a lot. Sigh, like every former Winter Carnival Queen contestant (I was Princess of the Debating Club, thank you very much), I couldn’t stand to have my perfection marred (SNORT) by this annoying condition. Seriously though, like many women, when I had a break out, I didn’t want to leave the house.
The other thing that you may not be aware of, is that even if you only have one spot, when it’s cystic acne, it’s quite painful. It felt like I had a hot bruise on my chin. The nodules could get sickeningly big, and I could often feel them before I could see them. They also can cause scarring and like most people, I couldn’t help but want to squeeze them. So satisfying, but terrible for your skin. You can get also a cortisone injection, which I often did, to help the blemish disappear in a day or two, but to say the shot is painful is an understatement. It’s like someone is injecting you with fire – however, the good news is, that the pain only lasts for about 3 seconds. Let’s just say there is nothing good about adult acne and leave it at that.
Some years ago, my former skin care doctor (he wasn’t a dermatologist, but ran an acne clinic) told me to go on Accutane. I went to get my blood tests done, picked up my prescription and was ready for better skin. Then, I read the side effects and got completely freaked out by one in particular. Can you guess? No, it wasn’t liver and kidney damage. It also wasn’t suicidal thoughts. Was it the nausea? No siree Bob. I got freaked out by “thinning of hair (may continue after treatment is stopped).” I lasted for 4 whole days as my skin was drying and my face was exploding even more. One of the other nasty side effects is that your skin gets worse before it gets better. I fixated on thinning hair checking the mirror every time I’d walk by one and I knew it was thinning by the second. It wasn’t, but that’s what I thought. I took myself off of the drug and vowed never to go on it again until….
My acne doctor retired and I thought it was time to go to a proper dermatologist. I ended up going to one that I just didn’t click with. I never saw him and all I got out of it was very expensive chemical peels that did nothing to solve my skin condition. Then I went to my mother’s dermatologist who ended up being a better fit for me. He recommended Epuris, an Isotretinoin. I’m no dummy – I knew that this was a nice name for Accutane, and of course my very first question was, “Isn’t it going to thin out my hair?” He almost rolled his eyes, but kindly refrained and told me that it is an extremely rare side effect and that we can stop the treatment if it happens. He also told me that it wasn’t the same course of treatment that it used to be. It is a much lower dose and it’s based on weight (yours more specifically, so be honest and tell the pharmacist).
What happened to my skin? I started it in April of 2017. Within 3 days, my skin started drying, and I once again got the worse before it gets better blemishes. As even more time went on, my skin got even dryer. My lips dried out too, but luckily, my eyes did not. I read up on what other people used to keep their skin hydrated and I also figured out through trial and error what worked best for me. Here is my list:
- Simple Cleansing Wipes – I used these before washing my face to remove all of my make up – these have been my go-to for years. If you live in Canada, but them at Winners if you can find them – they are $5.99 compared to $10.99 at Shoppers Drug Mart
- Life Brand Gentle Skin Cleanser – don’t use a harsh cleanser on your face. This is very much like Cetaphil, but much less expensive
- Germaine De Capuccini Intense Renewal Exfoliating Mask – I actually didn’t use this as a mask, I used it as a scrub once a week. Don’t leave it on your face if you are taking Isotretinoins. You need to exfoliate your dry skin, but gently and this works. The best tip that I can give you for exfoliation is to avoid natural products like walnut shells – you’ll injure your poor skin. This is one time when you need to use an artificial skin scrub. They are far gentler on your delicate dermis. This product is only available at spas
- La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche Soothing Protective Cream OR Avène Tolerance Extreme Cream – I used these interchangeably. They are both just really good moisturizers for when your skin is at it’s driest and most dehydrated. They didn’t irritate my skin or give me a rash. My skin is sensitive already, so I have to be really careful. You really will need to slather this on
- La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Eyes – for the poor fragile skin under my eyes
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Face SPF 60 – don’t even try to go without sunscreen – you will pay for it and it’s not worth the burn
- Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream Formula – this was a tough purchase at $100, but I wanted to try it. It is fragrance-free and beauty bloggers rave about it. The good new is that it works even better than skin lotions that I had been using, and because I need less product and it comes in a pump, it actually ends up being more economical then my drug store purchases. I was going through one tube of skin cream a month, and I’ve had this one since January. Sometimes you pay more to get more
- Eucerin Intensive Lip Balm – I’ve tried every lip balm on the market and when you are on an Isotretinoin, nothing worked better than this. Avoid things that make your lips tingle – they will end up drying out your parched puckers. You don’t need anything fancy, you just need a good basic lip balm that works, and this worked the best for me
- One last tip – don’t wash your hair everyday. I went down to only having to wash it twice a week. I would also avoid heat styling your hair where possible and limit the use of hair sprays and other fixatives. Your hair gets very dry too
What would I say about my experience? It ended up working for me. In one year, I’ve had one tiny blemish that went away in 24 hours. It is not for everyone. Let your doctor be the one to tell you to go on it. The only side effect that was kind of bad for me were the nose bleeds. It wasn’t constant, but a few times a month, I would get one. Some of you may experience worse than this, so it’s important to think about how you are feeling and whether you can put up with your skin issues. Everyone’s results are also different. I noticed that my skin got much better within one month, but I had very localized acne. I’m thrilled with the results and glad that I stuck with it.