- I had severe acne for 10 years, which really damaged my self-esteem.
- The doctor gave me all kinds of treatments, which either didn’t work or last.
- A dermatologist finally put me on Accutane, and I never looked back.
It started when I was 13.
I remember looking in the mirror and noticing bumps on my chin. I wasn’t upset, however, I was almost excited. A late bloomer, I was happy to have hit puberty.
I didn’t know this was just the beginning. And the excitement quickly gave way to shame, with the kids at school calling me “acne girl.”
I had severe acne for a decade, and my teenage years were plagued by endless doctor’s appointments.
While my acne was not particularly painful and people suffered from much worse health issues, it seriously affected my self-esteem and self-confidence.
It wasn’t until I was 22 that I finally got the drug that would change my life – a six-month course of the controversial drug isotretinoin, better known by its brand name, Accutane. It cleared up my skin and seven years later the acne has not returned.
I have tried dozens of acne treatments
Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition, dermatologist Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme told me. There is a genetic component, but it can be made worse by environmental triggers such as stress, hormones and bacteria, she said.
While some people develop acne in their teenage years that goes away on their own, others have it for the first time in adulthood.
I have both. My teenage acne was mostly on my T-zone (forehead and chin), while in my late teens and early 20s it was mostly on my cheeks and jawline.
Lots of teenagers have pimples, and like many of my friends, I started spending my pocket money on cleansers that claimed to prevent rashes. Unfortunately, none of them made a difference.
When I was 15, I went to a doctor who told me I had severe acne, and I almost made it out of the doctor’s office before bursting into tears.
This was the beginning of the prescription of various medications, both topical and oral.
The birth control pill worked, but I couldn’t continue
In my late teens, my doctor suggested that I try a form of birth control pill, Dianette, which is the brand name for co-cyprindiol, to regulate my hormones. So I did.
It worked and I slowly saw my skin clear up.
Unfortunately my doctor said there was a risk of a blood clot – some forms of contraception are linked to higher risks of a blood clot if taken long term – so we decided that I should stop taking Dianette. , and my acne came back.
Seeing a dermatologist is a game-changer
I was starting to despair. It had been nine years. I hated putting on my face makeup, but thought it looked better than showing my real skin.
When I was 22, I read an article in which a woman said that an “alkaline” diet had cleared her acne, so I decided to give it a try.
The alkaline diet, which has been debunked as pseudoscience, is all about cutting out sugar, gluten, and dairy, which I all love.
But soon after I started I was referred to a dermatologist, Dr Robert Burd of Spire Hospital in Leicester. So I went back to eating normally before seeing if the diet would work.
Burd suggested that I start taking Accutane.
Accutane is very effective, although its side effects, such as sensitivity to the sun, dry skin, and fatigue, can be serious in some people.
It was only prescribed for me because I had tried so many other treatments. Before I could prescribe it for myself, I had to do a thorough mental health assessment and blood test.
Accutane changed my life
Isotretinoin is a retinoid, the oral form of tretinoin, which works by reducing sebum in the skin, thereby reducing the bacterial load and associated inflammation, Ejikeme said.
Burd told me that I might experience side effects like aches and pains, dry skin, weariness, and mood swings, but the only one I had was slightly drier lips, a small price to pay. .
I had heard horror stories of people taking Accutane and developing depression, but a 2016 meta-analysis by the University of Missouri found no substantial link between the drug and the deterioration of the drug. Mental Health.
After a month, I started to notice a difference in my skin, and over time, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: it was working.
By the summer of 2015, after six months, my acne was gone and I had no more scars either.
According to the UK’s National Health Service, 80% of people who take isotretinoin have
in four months. Dermatologist Dr Joshua Zeichner previously told Insider that about 20% of patients remain acne free afterwards.
When Burd suggested that I stop taking Accutane, I was nervous – but he told me that 90% of people have fair skin for life afterwards.
Various studies confirm this low relapse rate – a 2014 study of 50 participants by Father Muller Medical College, India, found that 90% of people had lighter skin after three months of treatment, for example.
Likewise, researchers in a 2006 report in the peer-reviewed journal Karger Dermatology note that young people and men are more likely to relapse than older patients and women. They concluded that isotretinion is “the most effective anti-acne drug available”.
My acne never came back, and not a day goes by that I don’t like my skin.
I still have occasional spots, but I very rarely wear makeup, mainly because I can’t seem to get over the urge to hide anything.
Accutane doesn’t work for everyone, but it worked for me.