Hey there Panwar Palacers! Fancy seeing you all here! I’m assuming ya’ll stopped by to read about how I cured my acne! I’m excited to be writing this post. Not only because I’m wearing a panda shirt in the picture above but because I want to share this positive experience with you all! I AM somewhat nervous posting my horrid pictures since I never thought I would be sharing these pictures with anyone but hey, everyone has their insecurities right? I realize dealing with acne can be emotionally draining, I went through it all and I understand the emotional AND physical pain of how bad it can get. If I can help someone by sharing what I did, why not?! I went through a lot of ups and downs, self esteem issues and I’m finally back to regular ole me! I’m so much happier, my confidence is back and I’m so thankful I was able to do what I did. This is my super long journey on what things I did in order to help my skin issues. I’m going to be completely transparent, in my natural state (no makeup, no cosmetics, nothing), showing you raw pictures of my acne progress so get comfy, grab a healthy snack and enjoy reading!
For so many years, I have struggled with acne but this past year was probably the worst one yet. I’ve gotten so many questions about my skincare regimen and what I do to take care of problematic skin. This post is for anyone who is curious to learn more about one of the most controversial drugs on the market- Isotretinoin or Accutane. I know some of you all are probably disappointed because you were expecting certain cleansers and products that I use to help prevent/treat my acne but I will be talking about everything that led me to use this drug, including previous medications, topicals, products and various skincare regimens…basically the whole shebang! My acne was at its worst and this drug helped clear it up in no time. I will be talking about EVERYTHING there is to know about it-price, side effects, pros & cons, what you should and should not be doing WHILE on Accutane and of course, the most anticipated topic- THE RESULTS!
Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different and this drug will respond in various ways. I, personally know 4 people who have been on this drug and the side effects are entirely different, for men and women.
P.S. If you are interested in seeing solely how Accutane worked for me, scroll on down 🙂
So, let’s start way back when I started struggling with breakouts and my back story of acne. I was a sophomore in high school when I began getting a pimple or two occasionally. As many teenagers go through this, it was no concern to my family and I. A simple salicylic acne wash from the drugstore such as Clean and Clear face wash or Biore would usually do the trick. Towards the end of the school year, I started experiencing more acne. During that time, I was put on birth control (Ortho-tricyclen) because of ovarian cysts. (I know some girls have complained about birth control making them gain weight; this did not make me gain anything at all). In addition to helping with the cramps and issues I was going through, birth control really helped clear my skin on the hormonal side. You all know I’m an anxious person, stress induced acne is a real thing and I suffered from it up until this year! Anytime I got overly stressed, upset or even excited (yes, excited), a little friend would pop up on my face. Up to this day, I never stopped taking birth control. It most definitely helps my skin but my acne started to come back after a certain point.
Throughout high school and college, I was seeing a dermatologist back at home routinely due to random, bad breakouts. I was put on Bactrim, an oral antibiotic that was pretty powerful. Within two weeks, my skin was back to normal. Bactrim was the first oral antibiotic that I ever used to help clear my skin and it worked magic on my skin. A couple times a year, maybe 4-5 times, my doctor prescribed Bactrim to help with my sporadic breakouts.
Junior year in college came around and stress was in the air! My acne was an ongoing thing. Unfortunately, my body started to become resistant to the Bactrim, so I stopped. Why take a medication when it’s not responding to your body, right? Not to mention, this medicine isn’t the best thing for your insides either. I was lucky if I had 4-5 pimples on my face daily. Junior year was one of the most stressful years of college for me. EVERYTHING stressed me out for absolutely no reason and it made my acne even worse. I dealt with it and took the best care of my skin as possible with no medication except for birth control.
Here is my skincare regimen that I started a while ago. I still do these steps but with different products which I will mention later on:
- Wash my face morning and evening with a strong salicylic acid face wash by Clean & Clear. No more, no less. Some people need a strong cleanser for their face but I didn’t. I thought the harsher the cleanser, the better results for my skin. This cleanser burnt my face and left it red, don’t be like me and continue to put these types of things on your face if it irritates your skin.
- Toning is something I incorporated in college as well; it helps better clean your skin after a long day of facing the world. I used the orange Clean & Clear facial toner; again, this has loads of alcohol in it and burnt my face to bits and pieces. I have sensitive skin so this toner and I were NOT friends back in the day. I thought the burning sensation meant it was working…I was wrong.
- I moisturized, even if I had pimples that were filled with dirt and oil, moisturizing is key. If you don’t believe me, look it up. I liked to experiment with different moisturizers, all from the drugstore. Some of my favorites were the Clean & Clear daily moisturizer (purple and gray bottle), Aveeno Daily Moisturizer, Olay and Ponds. I still love using all these moisturizers. They are cheap, gentle and moisturizing.
- Eating healthy is crucial. I’ve always preached that what you put inside your body matters. Eat as healthy & clean as possible. I’m not saying to be on a strict diet but after experimenting with eating clean-avoiding too much sugar, fats and oils, my skin did clear up a little and started glowing. It matters!
- HYDRATE! This is one of the most important steps. I read so many articles where they said water would detoxify and clear your skin. It most definitely works. I would keep a jug of water next to my bedside table and kitchen. I would set goals to finish both jugs by the end of the day. I did this everyday for only 1 week and my skin was beyond clear. I won’t lie, it was difficult because I spent so much time running to the bathroom BUT it does work!
- Wash my hair often. I know this may come to a surprise to many people but the oils from your hair transfer to your face in multiple ways. Sleeping on pillows, playing with your hair, fixing it, etc. Believe it or not, if I had a couple of breakouts, I would wash my hair (since I don’t everyday) and my pimples would simply disappear in no time. After realizing how much my acne cleared up after washing my hair, I noticed that getting my brows or face threaded also helped clear my acne. It’s actually pretty simple- you have oil glands wherever you have hair. Being Indian, I have thick hair…everywhere, including my face. Keeping your face “hair free” helps prevent oil buildup. Do what you have to do to get rid of that hair, girlfriend–whether it’s laser hair removal, waxing or threading. Just please don’t ever take a razor to your face. (insert horrified emoji here)
- Change my pillowcases on the regular. I changed my pillowcase everyday because of oil and product buildup that can transfer from your hair to your face. I like to think it works and idea of a fresh, clean pillow made me happy.
- What’s better than a facial spa steam? A facial spa steam at home! I steamed my face about once a week. I brought a giant pot full of water to a boil and covered my head with a long towel. I steamed my face till my pores were wide open and everything was sweated out. I then closed my pores by taking a couple of ice cubes and massaging my face. This really helped my get that deep clean I needed.
- I worked out, hard. Working out cleanses your body of toxins. Sweating was the ultimate cure for my acne for some time there. I would spend 2 hours in the gym doing cardio or group fitness classes. I also joined Bikram Hot Yoga, which did WONDERS to my skin. (It better considering the amount of sweat I lost)!
- I stopped wearing makeup on a daily basis. I never used to feel the need to wear makeup until my acne got bad. I want everyone who struggles with acne to know that caking on makeup to cover your acne looks a lot worse than a bare face. I know it’s hard, TRUST ME, I know. I used to wear so much makeup to attempt to cover up my acne but in the end, it only accentuated the pimples I had and not to mention, makeup is not good for your skin! Try to wear makeup only when you plan on going out for an event or party. Class, library time or simply sitting at home does not require a full face of products ladies!
All the above is everything I started doing my junior year, it may seem like a lot but it’s not at all- be healthy, workout, hydrate and avoid makeup pretty much sums everything up.
Now, senior year rolls around and my nerves of LIFE/ GRADUATION were at an all time high and my skin only got worse as the months passed. I used various topicals: Benzoyl Peroxide 5%, Tretinoin Cream, 0.05% and Erythromycin (3%) & Benzoyl Peroxide (5%) Topical Gel. These topicals were very, very strong and effective to a certain point but my pimples would yet multiply and get worse day by day. In a short amount of time I also tried many types of oral antibiotics since the topicals just wouldn’t cut it for me. I went back on Bactrim for a period of time then tried out Minocycline, Amoxicillin and Tetracycline. Short term, of course all of these worked. Unfortunately, my skin wasn’t reacting to some of these drugs in a positive way and I had to find another way to tackle my acne.
At the beginning of this year, my skin was the worst it could EVER be. I had red, cyctic acne all over both cheeks. Besides the fact that it looked horrible, it was SO painful and greatly affected my self-esteem. I kid you not, I hated going out with my friends, going to social events, etc. I would avoid being in public as much as possible, which was never like me. Many of my friends didn’t realize how bad my skin was only because I graduated in December and my acne had escalated in a short amount of time. I finally decided to see a dermatologist here in Lexington where I was given the option to be on Accutane.
My Accutane Journey
I’m sure you all have heard about how serious of a drug Accutane is. It’s been questioned being on the market due extreme side effects such as depression and suicide. I mainly knew about it’s somewhat “bad” reputation solely because of these incidences but I knew I had to do something about my acne and so did my parents. My dad steered away from Accutane for the longest time. Accutane was never brought up to me until he saw how much my acne breakouts were affecting my life. It was BAD. Once I got the cue from my dad, I made an appointment immediately with a dermatologist in Lexington. I took a list of cleansers, medicated creams, topicals and antibiotics that I had previously tried out to help prevent my acne so she had an idea of what I did in the past. After seeing how many times I have tried to clear it up, my doctor said I should get started on it. This girl was excited to say bye to acne forever.
Being on Accutane is a long process. First office visit, I had to go through a lot of paperwork, signing and initialing saying that I agree to the terms. I was then given a booklet to take home and read. I had to sign up online with an iPledge program where I have to take a monthly quiz before I can pick up my prescription and I had to take a pregnancy test all in one day within my first appointment.
Every month before my doctor’s visit, I have to get my blood drawn and get a pregnancy test done. They reiterate about 50 million times to NOT get pregnant while on Accutane due to deformities and complications of your baby. So make life simple and don’t get pregnant. They feel very strongly about this so being on birth control while on Accutane is mandatory.
Let’s talk about the price. Accutane was roughly around $300 a month for me for 30 pills. This does NOT include the lab work or office visits every month. Every office visit was approximately $98 and they are mandatory in order for you to pick up your prescription. I know, the numbers most definitely make me cringe but if you factor in endless dermatology appointments along with medications they prescribe & expensive other creams, in the end, it’s worth it in my opinion. Accutane is a serious drug which can be dangerous. It’s not for everyone but I did my research and it was the best decision I made for myself, I couldn’t be happier with the results.
I apologize that some of these pictures may be a bit graphic. It’s acne and it’s what I dealt with for months so if you simply can’t handle a few images, simply click on the little X in the corner. This was my acne on a typical “good” day. Back then, I was actually somewhat content with how my face looked in this picture which is absurd. This picture was taken right before I started taking Accutane for my own documenting progress. If I would have known I would blogging about it today, I would have tried to be a little more professional but this shall definitely get my message across regardless.
During month 1, the side effects were immediate. The first night I took the pill, I felt like my hands and feet were tingling, similar to a numbing sensation. I psych myself out all the time so I assumed it was all in my head. After a couple of nights, the tingling sensation went away. The most common side effect is dryness- my lips were a cracking mess. It is disgusting, uncomfortable and very painful. Sometimes, I couldn’t even smile or laugh without my lips cracking open and bleeding. Vaseline made it worse as well as any type of chapstick. Aquaphor was the only thing that relieved my lips of the burning and drying sensation. It was a start to a whole new friendship. I didn’t mind any of these side effects because within a week, my skin slowly started to clear!
It may not seem like a huge difference to you all but it was BIG for me. (excuse the hair in the way, oops!) I could see the cystic acne visibly going down and becoming part of my skin, instead of popping out of my skin. Does that even make sense? This time, I started experiencing different side effects, chronic headaches, dandruff and muscle pains. Nothing I couldn’t deal with though, anything to get rid of these horrid breakouts! Just kidding, there is a nurse on call 24/7 whom you can call while on Accutane if you have ANY questions, concerns or complications. My nurse became my best friend because I worry so much about everything. The dryness was worse than the first month. If you look closer, you can see my skin peeling but I was on my way to being acne free! This month also I started to using Aquaphor mixed in with my moisturizer because of how dry I was getting. Crazy, I know.
HUGE difference, eh? It was that time of the month, so I had 1-2 pimples with a little discoloration but by month 3, my acne was practically gone! (Sorry about the lighting, I think this was taken at night)! Month 3 was interesting. I dealt with a lot of side effects and learned what I should and should not be doing while on this drug. Mid summer, I went to the pool a couple of times. I have never experienced a sun burn because, well, Indian people usually don’t burn. I was burnt within 10 minutes of being outside and it was PAINFUL. Always, always, ALWAYS wear a sunscreen. I sometimes contemplate on driving with long arm gloves because I burn that easily in a car while on this drug. Also, don’t stay in the sun for too long. A couple of times while outside for more than 30 minutes, I saw nothing but darkness. I practically went blind and couldn’t see anything for a good 10-15 minutes. I had shades on but that most definitely was not cutting it. Everything on your body needs a shield or lubrication while on Accutane and these were my first learning experiences. Because of my dry skin, I started to get bad eczema on my arms and hands. I started to get random nose-bleeds as well. I needed as much moisture as possible so I invested in a humidifier for my bedroom. I felt like a shriveled up prune most days to be honest. I also began to experience nightly sweats. This was so uncomfortable because I couldn’t stop sweating at night no matter how low the temperature was. It was so bad that I would have to roll to the other side of the bed because my side would be somewhat damp. (TMI? My apologies.) I had some bad experiences drinking alcohol while on the medicine as well. I asked my doctor if it was okay to drink and she said there’s no issue with it. I felt sick and nauseated with just a glass of wine a couple of times. I pretty much stopped drinking as well.
I’m jumping with joy! WHAT a big difference! I am amazed at how much my skin has changed for the better. New side effects were hitting me by month 4. SUPER dry eyes. This was super uncomfortable, I pretty much have blurry vision every time I wake up in the mornings because I can feel my eye sockets moving around looking for some type of moisture. I felt like there was sand in my eyes. As a result, I would get styes. I still have a tiny bump on my lid where the stye hasn’t gone down but the pain is gone. Systane Everyday Eye Gel Drops have been a life saver for me though. Bleeding gums were also new to me. I had a mouth full of blood every time I would brush my teeth, no matter how gentle I was. I was still pulling through and was so excited for the progressive results UNTIL my hair started to fall out.
Now, many of you all may think that hair falling out isn’t a big deal but it hits close to home for me. I have an autoimmune disease called Alopecia where I had large bald spots on my head at one point in time. When my hair started to fall out, I decided I wanted to discontinue taking this pill because I couldn’t deal with losing my hair again. It’s normal to lose hair while taking Accutane and I’m not going to lie, I am losing a lot, even now. My drain is full of hair every time I wash it and my pillowcases have strands stuck to it every morning. It is scary but my doctor said that Alopecia and hair loss in Accutane are not related and reassured me that my hair WILL come back unlike some instances in Alopecia. I felt like I was compensating one issue for another but I have one more month left and want to finish the complete regimen.
And this is my skin now. I am on my last month of Accutane, thank you God! I feel like I’ve been through a lot being on Accutane but I couldn’t be happier! I’m still experiencing intense dryness, eczema and hair loss. Hair loss is still one of my biggest concerns throughout this entire journey but I’m only a couple more weeks away from having clear skin.
Even though Accutane helped clear the majority of my acne, I still have to care for it the way I did before if not more. Nothing in my skin care routine has changed except for the products. For cleansers and moisturizers, I use everything Cetaphil which is recommended by dermatologists. I honestly wish I started using these products before because they are so great. I tone my face with Witch Hazel which has NO alcohol in it. I only exfoliate with raw sugar and honey if I have a full face of makeup on and wear my Aztec Healing Clay mask maybe once a week. Simple as that!
If you are struggling with breakouts, hang in there. I know it can be rough on your self esteem but try out different things and see what works best for you, thats all you can do, right? Just don’t give up! And to those who have clear skin, take care of it! Hopefully this post is beneficial to you all and you learned something about my skincare routine or about Isotretinoin. If you have ANY personal questions or comments, please feel free to message me and I would be glad to answer!