I have had acne my entire life.
…okay maybe not my whole life, but for half of my life. I’ll even do the math real quick to prove it to you.
I am 21 now, I started having cystic acne in the 4th grade when I was 10 years old. 21 minus 10 equals 11 years. So my first 10 years I was acne-free and then every year after that I have had acne.
11 years ago, a kid in my 4th grade class told me “your bangs grown out would look nice if it wasn’t for those big red bumps on your forehead.” Ouch, right? Here I am, little 10-year-old me, trying to make a huge fashion/beauty decision about growing out my bangs and this jerk feels the need to verbalize the one obvious reason of why I should keep my bangs.
Well, I grew them out anyways.
Please hold any enthused applause for 10-year-old Andreanna who triumphed over the evil of bullying and overcame her insecurities because I didn’t “triumph over bullying” or whatever. I grew out my bangs in hopes that getting my hair off my face would get rid of the acne. If anything that boy’s comment catapulted me into a desperate search for a cure for the red bumps that plagued my face. I deployed all of the weaponry I could get my hands on to fight the acne invasion of my face. Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, hydrogen peroxide, apple cider vinegar, honey, etc, etc, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard this story before so in short, I tried everything and everything didn’t work.
My freshmen year of high school I was prescribed medicine for my acne for the first time. Since then I have been prescribed the following medicines:
- Birth Control
- Clindamyacin (topical)
- Clindamyacin (oral)
- Sodium Sulfacetamide Wash
- Minocycline (oral )
- *Isotretinoin (also known as Accutane, oral)
*the real MVP
**Before I start talking about my actual experience, I just wanted to say that I would 100% go on Accutane if I had to do it all over again and if I ever relapse in the future (knock on wood) I would go on Accutane again if my doctor recommended it. My doctor clearly explained all of the potential side effects and risks. Together her and I made an educated decision to start me on the medicine. Also, as a disclaimer, I am not recommending Accutane to anyone. Isotretinoin, is a very serious drug that should be taken only under close supervision from a dermatologist.
I started Accutane in May 2015, when my Dermatologist was at her wits’ end. She had prescribed me #’s 6-9 on that list and nothing was making my skin “as clear as it should be”. My doctor explained to me the side effects that I could experience from the drug and that I would have to either remain abstinent for the duration of my treatment or go on birth control (getting pregnant while on Accutane can be harmful to the baby). I chose abstinence, signed a bunch of papers, and scheduled monthly appointments. The first month I was on 40 mg a day and then every month afterwards I took 80 mg daily. I was on Accutane for a 6 month period, ending in November 2015.
Side effects I experienced:
- peeling facial skin
- chapped lips
- increased sensitivity to the sun
- muscle and joint pain
- dry cuticles (that would lead to infections)
- dry nasal passages
- dry eyes/red eyes
- dry scalp & tangly hair
Out of all of the side effects the worst was probably the fatigue and joint pain. I was always so tired that it became difficult to pay attention in school. The muscle and joint pain made working out so painful that for the last 4 months of treatment, besides walking, I didn’t exercise at all.
To manage my side effects and the new behaviors of my skin I had to change my skin care, hair care, & diet. Here’s a list of products I used to help combat the side effects.
- Pond’s Dry Skin Cream – for dry, peeling face This cream was a HUGE life saver. It was the only moisturizer I tried that was moisturizing enough to alleviate the peeling & dryness on my face. Thankfully, it is also extremely affordable so I didn’t feel guilty at all when I was slathering it on 3-4 times throughout the day.
- Taking Fish Oil & Biotin supplements – for joints & hair My Doctor recommended that I start taking 2,000 mcg of Biotin to help my hair because it had started to thin out due to the dryness and tangles. I took 2 pills of 1000 mcg biotin every morning.
- Jojoba Oil – for dry face, dry hair, chapped lips Jojoba oil saved my face, lips, and hair during my treatment. Since my body had basically stopped producing sebum on its own, Jojoba was SOOO helpful. The molecules of Jojoba oil resemble that of sebum. Jojoba oil helps moisturize dry skin without clogging pores. I would cover my face and hair in this at night.
- Tea Tree Oil – to spot treat pimples Since my skin was so sensitive from the medicine I wasn’t allowed to put any acne-treating medicine on my face. To spot treat any pimples that I got throughout my treatment I mixed a few drops of tea tree oil with some jojoba oil in the palm of my hand and dabbed the mixture on any pimples I had.
- Dove Sensitive Beauty Bar – to take off makeup & wash my face at nightDuring my treatment, I only washed my face (with soap) when I wore makeup. In the morning I would just splash cold water on my face and put on moisturizer. At night I would use the Dove bar to first take off my makeup & then I’d wash again to clean my face. It is super gently and didn’t clog my pores.
- Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm – for chapped lips My doctor also recommended that I use Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm. It has 1% hydrocortisone in it so it really helped decrease the redness and inflammation of my chapped lips.
- CeraVe Moisturizing Cream – for all over dryness I will be honest, I hate putting lotion on my body, but half way into my treatment I started getting little patches of eczema so lotion became a necessity. This tub is a little on the pricy side for a drugstore item ( about $13 at Rite Aid, I believe ), but it was worth it! Here is a link to it on amazon!
- CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30 & any other SPF 50-100 I could get my hands on for daily sunscreen protection My skin was unbelievably sensitive to the sun while on Accutane, just as my doctor and every person before me who took Accutane said it would be. I’m talking, outside in the sun for 30 minutes and coming back inside with a bright red sunburn. It was terrible because I love summertime and shamefully love to layout. I used this sunscreen on my face every day. For days at the pool or on the lake, I used anything between SPF 50 & SPF 100 that I could get my hands on just to keep my face and body from frying to a crisp.
- Aquaphor healing ointment – for dry patches & chapped lips I used Aquaphor mainly to put over my Cortibalm to make the Cortibalm last longer. I also used it on dry patches on my face and eczema patches on my body.
After my 3rd month of treatment my break outs stopped. Ever since then, besides a small pimple here and there, I have been acne-free.
- I was not paid to talk about any of these products. I just used and loved them.