My skin journey has not been smooth sailing. I have struggled with embarrassment and low self esteem more times than I could ever count due to acne and scaring. And, for that reason, finding something that could either minimize or cure this problem was worth it to me. If you want to know why I decided to take Accutane, you can read about it more in my first post here from last April. It has been 3 months now since I’ve been off of Accutane, so I am definitely due for an update and a summary of how this process went for me.
After listening to my skin journey, my dermatologist recommended going forward with Accutane in the iPledge program. We talked through the side effects and cautions that come with being on it. It treats the most severe form of acne (recalcitrant nodular acne), and I was hopeful it would make a difference, possibly long-term. She started me on 30 mg of the brand Absorica (a form of Isotretinoin) once a day. I took it with my dinner and a full glass of water. I had no new break outs, and the oil production on my scalp and skin changed drastically. (At this point I was celebrating!)
My dermatologist raised my dose to 60 mg a day. I noticed my pores were getting smaller, and my oil did return. My normal cystic and acne break outs returned. Many “reviews” and testimonials shared that months 2 and 3 can be this way, so I kept taking my pills consistently (and stayed hopeful!). By the end of month 2, my oil started to go away again, and I started waking up with fuzzy sight and extremely dry eyes that lasted for a few hours. My skin also became dryer and much easier to damage. Any small cuts or scrapes became very open and bloody, and I would then scar way easier. (So be careful with your skin – it becomes very delicate.) These were all side effects I was aware of before beginning my prescription.
Once I got over the hurdle of month 2, my skin really cleared up! I felt like it was absolutely glowing most of the time! I didn’t wake up worrying about extremely sore and red nodules I’d need to try to cover up each morning… it was a whole new makeup process, and I LOVED it! My skin was not as “dry” as month 1 as far as oil goes, but my face and scalp had minimal oil, and it was wonderful. I could go 4-5 days without washing my hair – so thankful for DRY SHAMPOO! My main side affect during this time was extremely dry eyes and cracked/peeling lips. My eyes were dry even when closed which is an awful feeling, so I kept re wetting drops next to my bed. And, during the day, my eye doctor recommended I switch from 2 week-wear contacts to daily-wear contacts to prevent damaging my eyes from the extreme dryness and grittiness.
Month 5 or 6 is typically when treatment can stop. But, in month 6, I ended up getting a few nodules on my upper back (where I carry all of my stress!). So, my dermatologist didn’t feel we should stop my prescription until they were gone, and I agreed. I had a few small ones pop up on my face in my “normal acne areas”, so month 6 was quite discouraging overall.
For the final months of Accutane, my dermatologist brought my dosage up to 80 mg a day. There were some complications with my insurance back between months 5 and 6 where I wasn’t able to obtain my prescription, and my dermatologist felt that the 3-week time without my prescription caused my treatment momentum to lapse, so she upped my dose. My acne did disappear, and I finally cleared up with rather glowing skin once again!
Roadblocks Along the Way
Unfortunately, things happen that are out of our control quite often in life. For me, it was that my school district switched insurances in the middle of my Accutane treatment. Because of this, there was about a 3 week lapse between months 5 and 6 while I tried to work out communication between dermatologist and pharmacy, as well as prescription option changes, payment, and cost issues with my insurance. What went from costing me an AMAZING $5 per month for my prescription, became $250 on my new insurance for the remainder of my treatment.
Q & A
Please keep in mind I am sharing my own personal experience taking Accutane – what works for me and is the journey I have decided to take may not be right for everyone. We are all unique individuals, and based on your body, dermatologist, and insurance, your experience could be very different than mine. I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions before beginning Accutane, and I would encourage you to do the same if you’re considering treatment.
- Did you try other things before you decided to try Accutane? Yes, many things! Read about it in my first skin post here.
- What brand of Accutane (Isotretinoin) did you take? I took Absorica – 30 mg the first month, 60 mg months 2-6, and 80 mg the final 2 months.
- How long were you on Accutane? I was on Accutane from March-December (with nearly a month lapse in August/September).
- How much did it cost to be on Accutane? My brand Absorica came out to $5 per month with my insurance and a coupon my pharmacist had. Each month I also had to have a blood test (to check liver levels & a negative pregnancy test) which cost roughly $35 a visit, and I had to have a dermatologist check up which was about $50 per visit. After my insurance switched, the cost for Absorica went way up which was a challenge, but I didn’t want to give up the progress I had made, so continued with paying more out of pocket than expected.
- Did you use anything else on your skin while on Accutane? My dermatologist had me spot-treat with Aczone. She also recommended that I use CeraVe lotions and face wash during my treatment. I’ll link the products I used below:
My Results: 3 months off Accutane
The first month being off of Accutane really passed by uneventfully! I had minimal oil production still, which was wonderful. My second month off of Accutane was when I noticed my oil production on my face and scalp returned to what it had been prior to starting Accutane. I actually was surprised by that, as my understanding was that Accutane would’ve changed my oil production more noticeably (but I could have misunderstood). This past month I have started having small break outs on my face again. I am SO happy to report they are nothing near the cystic nodular type of breakouts I used to have. But, I have had 1 pop up about every 3-4 days consistently. Unfortunately, my dermatologist was in an accident, so my 2 month check up scheduled back in the end of February had to be rescheduled to April. I am eager to hear what she thinks of my minor acne, and to find out what she would expect of my skin after 8 months on Accutane. I do understand that some breakouts are normal following the treatment.
Overall, I am so happy with my results! My acne is gone from my back (and has not returned since being off Accutane), and my face has had only a few small pimples this past month. If my dermatologist gives me any new skin care products or any new/different information after my appointment in April, I will be sure to update you all!
If you have any questions I didn’t answer in this post (or my previous one), please reach out to me on Instagram, or leave a comment here and I will do my best to answer.
Thanks for reading and following along!