In my last essay, I talked about how continuing on Accutane made me feel like a complete failure. I had spent hours and hours carefully crafting a skincare routine that worked, but then hit a plateau and knew I would never really have clear skin until I was taking a heavy dose of vitamin A. the fact that it wouldn’t work and what seemed like an achievable goal would be out of reach for me, forever.
Well I did it: I finished a grueling Accutane class and lived to tell the story. I managed a series of failed lab jobs that got my cholesterol level so high that my dermatologist called me every day for a week to make sure I wasn’t dead until so I can go to another lab appointment. I did it through my peeling skin and my lips still, still sore. I passed countless pregnancy tests even though I assured everyone involved that I couldn’t be more single (like the rest of the internet, I’m saving myself for Keanu Reeves, thank you very much.)
I went through super-depressive thoughts in addition to my usual depressive thoughts. I outlived my dermatologist by laughing at my self-deprecating jokes. I walked through the boxes of needlessly unnecessary pills with the crossed out pregnant woman, just to remind you for the 50 millionth time that you absolutely cannot get pregnant. (Hint: I would spend about an hour every Sunday slicing up all the pills from the incredibly tough package and keeping them in a more easily accessible jar throughout the week.)
Honestly, the whole process sucks. Wrong. But in my experience, it was also worth it.
The dilemma of a skincare addict with Accutane
The 17 products that saved my life (well, my skin) while on Accutane
Wanting to dress like your style icon when you don’t look like him
I am what most people would consider an Accutane success story. My skin is not 100% clear, but I would say on a good day I am 95%. I’m still on a healthy dose of spironalactone because hormones are a bitch, but it works, even though I spend a good half of my day peeing (glamor!) Since it’s a diuretic. My skincare routine went from multiple prescriptions to a few exfoliating acids and hyaluronic acid with maybe another serum depending on my mood. Make-up, for the first time in my life, is really fun and maybe I’ll finally learn to apply eye shadow on my own.
I feel lucky that Accutane has helped lighten my skin. But the whole process also got me thinking about how much we all tend to equate our self-esteem with how we look. The last few years have seen a growing movement for acne acceptance, and I appreciate the work people do in trying to de-stigmatize pimples, I really do. But when it came to my own face, I was never able to overcome this mental obstacle. I never wanted to “get” my acne or kiss it by covering it with glitter – I wanted to. faded away. As a cis and white person, I know I have the privilege of living in this body, but most of the time the chemical imbalance in my brain ignores this fact, and it’s always an uphill battle to feel right. peace with what I look like.
For me side effects and all, Accutane was the easiest way to change something about my appearance that I didn’t like. It was that simple. The New York Times recently posted a story about how the wellness industry is bullshit (which, it’s true, but it’s worth noting that this very position has been shouted from the rooftops for years by big-name activists before the Official Journal deems it worthy) and this quote has stuck with me since I read it:
“I no longer define food as whole or clean or sinful or cheat. It has no moral value. Neither does my weight, although I always try to separate my worth from my appearance. It’s two necklaces that fit together. are tangled in my 35th birthday, their thin metal chains tied in thin metal knots. Eventually, I’m going to pull them apart. “
If I replace “clean food” with “clear skin” in this line of thought, I find myself trapped in a loop of equating every unclogged pore with a drop of serotonin and improved self-esteem. Fair skin, like clean food, has no moral value; I don’t think I’m better than anyone because I have fewer pimples. But every escape that ceremoniously arose right before an important event or new product that didn’t work added a new strand to my own metaphorical collar knot. Maybe one day I can untangle them completely, but until then I’ll just tie a few knots and feel a little better about myself, no matter how vain. And at the end of the day, there are worse things that a person can be than a little conceited.
I’ve written before about how going on Accutane made me feel like a failure. I’m happy to say that I don’t feel like it anymore. Just one question: will Glossier automatically recruit me to be a representative now, or is there an application process?
Homepage photo: Imaxtree
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