Here I’ll share with you my experience of my first 30-day Accutane course with honest, filter-free before and after pictures. I’ve also included some survival techniques and recommended products that might make your time on Accutane a little easier.
I want to stress that this is not a promotional post, and I do not ‘recommend’ Accutane to anyone. It took me a lot of personal research and thought to decide if the potential side effects of Accutane were worth having clearer skin. I am keen to share my experience but everyone is different and I urge you to discuss with medical professionals to get the full picture.
It seems everyone starts these blogs with an emotional insight into how acne affected their adolescent years so I don’t feel there’s any real need for me to go into detail about my experiences. What I will say, is that growing up with acne is unquestionably a confidence killer.
Unfortunately, here I am ten years later at the tender age of twenty-nine writing an acne related post – honestly, disheartened doesn’t quite cut it. All in all, I’ve endured around 10-12 years of ‘bad skin’ – I feel like I’ve been placed in some sort of arduous acne loyalty programme, completely against my will and I’m now qualified to tell you that adult acne is also, a major confidence killer.
If you’re reading this I’m going to assume that you’ve already done your research or at least heard of the acne medication, Accutane (also known as Isotretinoin or formally known as Roaccutane). To put it very briefly Accutane is prescribed medication used to treat severe acne. If you’d like to do further research I’d recommend reading the links below:
For me, choosing acutance wasn’t easy. In the past I’ve been prescribed the medication on two separate occasions, once in secondary school (High School) and another time in my final year of university. I turned down the medications on both occasions due to ‘bad timing’ – I was due to complete final year exams both times so I didn’t want to add another element of potential stress into the mix and to be totally honest, I was petrified of the side effects. As a result, I’ve tried alternative skin treatments and medications over the years such as various contraceptive pills, antibiotics, costly laser skin sessions, facial extractions, endless expensive skincare, change of diet – you name it, I’ve tried it. And I suppose it comes as no surprise that they didn’t work, otherwise why would I be sat here writing this?
There are a number reasons why I decided to give Accutane a go – first and foremost living with spotty skin at twenty-nine is less than ideal, as is the constant need to disguise blemishes with heavy makeup in the height of the Dubai summer. Having to wear makeup to the gym is also up there with the main annoyances – a sweaty makeup face is not a good look, trust me. And while we’re being very honest, I desperately want to opt into the low maintenance “no makeup, makeup” culture and try out “cool girl” brands like glossier but anyone who suffers from acne will know that these brands are far from reach when you’re trying to cover mammoth boils and scars – only the heavy duty stuff will suffice.
Humour aside, acne is hard to live with. I have found it very tough having to walk into interviews and meetings on a ‘bad skin’ day – I always hope that my smile and professionalism deter from the acne but I do wonder if it’s ever enough to disguise it.
First month on Accutane
I’ve definitely had my fair share of good and bad days during my first month on Accutane – I’ve listed them below through a ‘pro and cons’ format. It’s also worth noting that I had no real side effects for the first week, it was around day 8 that started experiencing typical side effects.
- Visible results in two weeks. I didn’t experience any flare-ups at the beginning of the course like a lot of others which is kind of a blessing however, my skin did become a lot more red and sensitive.
- Oil-free skin. Grease-free, oil-free, no need to ‘blot’ before 11am. Yes!
- Oil-free roots. If you’re one of those people who dreads ‘washing hair’ days then this is a mega ‘pro’ for you. My hair could probably last all week without having to be washed but I like to wash mine twice a week.
- Makeup free days. For the first time in over ten years, I’m finally having ‘makeup free’ days. My skin is nowhere near perfect but I’m finally plucking up the courage to brave a bare face and it feels nice.
- Dryness – Dubai desert, sleeping on sandpaper, holy hell type of dryness. I’ve noticed a clear change in the texture of my skin and hair, both are extremely dry and require endless amounts of body butter/oil and hair masks however it’s manageable. My lips on the other are another story – they’re severely dry and can often crack and bleed which can get quite sore. I haven’t found a lip balm or ointment capable of repairing them, only ones that can soothe for an hour or two. I have lip balm in every bag, room and car seat pocket at the moment. I can’t be without it.
- I had a quite a scary patch in the third week where my chest was incredibly tight and I experienced trouble breathing. I visited the doctor the next morning and she sent me straight to A&E to check if everything was fine – thankfully, all tests came back fine. As a result, I’ve halved my dose and am being monitored by the doctor and dermatologist. It’s worth noting that I don’t suffer from asthma but an allergic reaction did trigger a tight chest a few years ago. I was advised to carry Ventolin (blue inhaler) in case of any future allergic reactions as a precaution. Other than that I’ve never suffered from any chest related issues.
- Monthly blood tests – not fun!
- New blemishes/spots take longer to clear and seem redder than before.
- Skin sensitivity – having to remember to wear factor 50 sunscreen every day is a ball-ache but it’s totally unnegotiable in Dubai. If I get caught out in the sun for over ten minutes I tend to go very red and get prickly heat.
- The general change in lifestyle – no alcohol is a slight nuisance especially when you’re planning on attending alcohol heavy events i.e. weddings, hen parties, birthday celebrations, all of which I have this summer! I’m going to have a break from the medication on two separate occasions so that I don’t have to worry about mixing Accutane and alcohol.
- Fatigue – let’s just say I was one tired monster during the first two weeks of Accutane. It’s subsided since and general fatigue is not so much an issue anymore – I’m sure sticking to a routine helped me i.e. persevering with my usual training routine, eating regularly, drinking at least 2L of water and of course, getting enough sleep.
Before and after pictures
Now for the scary bit.
I’ve never publically posted photos like this before but I do I think it’s important to share high quality, truthful images especially as I’m discussing acne. So please, be kind. I’m trying to be brave here!
Before starting Accutane
A lot of redness and angry blemishes. Uneven texture and visible scarring.
After one month on Accutane
Visible results – less redness and angry active blemishes.
Accutane survival kit
Having the right type of products can make your time on Accutane a lot more bearable – consider it a mini investment as you might be re-purchasing some of these products at an alarming rate. I’ve tried to use cost-effective products where possible because of the quick turnover– quite honestly, in some occasions, my bread has kept longer than some of my recent moisturizer and lip balm pots.
Here are some of the products that are working for me at the moment:
La Roche Posay 50 Sun Screen – non-sticky, light sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white residue. This is by far the best sunscreen I’ve used and I will be repurchasing after I’ve finished my treatment.
Simple Skincare Facial Wash – cheap, easy to source and great for sensitive skin.
Origins Drink-Up Intensive Mask – I’m currently using this as a moisturizer – morning and evening. I feel it’s the only moisturizer that keeps my skin hydrated for a long period of time. I haven’t experienced any dry patches on my face and I’m sure it’s down to this.
Dr Jart+ Water Fuse Ultimate Hydro Gel – Initially I liked using this as a moisturizer but I couldn’t commit to purchasing it every week as it’s a bit pricey. Instead, I’m using it as a primer, before applying makeup for special weekend occasions.
Dr PawPaw Ultimate Red Balm & Nuxe Reve De Miel Lip Balm – Unfortunately, I can’t recommend any lip products that keep dry lips at bay or repairs but the ones that I like for general maintenance and soothing are from PawPaw and Nuxe. Just a little FYI, when searching for lip balms I was advised to look for ones with minimal ingredients i.e. sheer butter, oils and not much else.
Elemis, Sweet Orchid Monoi Body Oil – I have to admit, this is a little treat for me but it does to wonders and keeps dry skin at bay (it also smells incredible!). If you don’t want to splash out on Elemis find a body oil that you like – oils are working better for me over moisturizers and body butter at the moment.
Origins Maskimizer Primer Spray – this is not an essential product but it is nice to give your skin a spritz of relief and hydration during the day so it doesn’t feel so dry come the afternoon.
Makeup recommendations for dry skin
Not only have I had to switch up my skincare, but I’ve had to alter my makeup routine. Dry skin is a new one for me so I’ve really been enjoying trying products that I’ve previously had to dismiss due to oily, acne-prone skin. Admittedly, I am going easy on the old makeup application at the moment and only choose to wear it on special occasions but I thought it would be nice to share my new found favourites with you anyway!
Giorgio Armani, Luminous Silk Foundation – I have a new found love for this foundation. It works so well with dry skin and I’m currently adding one or two drops of the Cover FX liquid highlight into the foundation mix to add luminosity. I have never received so many compliments on my skin, ever! So pleased with this little combo. If you’d like to try another lightweight, dewy foundation give Tom Ford’s Traceless foundation a go.
Soleil Tan De Chanel – this is an old favourite of mine and is still my ultimate go-to bronzer. In fact, it’s the only product I’m using to add warmth to my face. I’ve opted for this bronzer as it’s a light gel-cream formula and I’m trying to avoid powder products at all costs. A lot of people find it tricky to scout the best brush for application – a large duo fibre brush works well for me; great for light, even coverage.
Benefit Lip Tint – it’s fair to say that you can wave goodbye to any sort of lipstick while you’re on Accutane but if you’re longing for a pop of colour, I’d recommend adding a drop of lip tint to your lip balm. I assure you it won’t last very long but if you’re desperate for lip colour this is your best option.
I hope this post has been informative and useful to some. I’d like stress that I’m sharing my experience and not all experiences will be the same. Good luck to anyone who is searching for an acne treatment suitable to them. Contact me HERE, on INSTAGRAM or in the comments section if you have any questions and I will help where I can – I wish everyone good, happy, blemish-free skin days J
Love, Amy X