Un, Deux… What?! Month Two of My Accutane Journey

Waiting for the other shoe to drop… this is a feeling that acne sufferers know all too well. As acne suffers, we know a thing or two about disappointment. We also know a thing or two about how to worthlessly spend our money, too. Just think of all the must-have, 5 star rated, highly recommended acne cleansers we’ve purchased. You know, the ones that were supposed to be the end all magical solution to our stubborn acne. How many facial masks have you purchased that have come highly recommended by your favorite beauty guru? Were most of them made of unicorn tears that magically lost their effect when placed on your skin? What new diet change have you implemented this month? Soy-free? Dairy-free? Raw Vegan? As we desperately look for the “cure” we are often left worse than when we started. We’re left with more acne, more hyperpigmentation, crushed hopes, and less space in our medicine cabinet.

I can personally go on and on about the different remedies I’ve used in the past but let’s get to the real reason why you clicked on this link (I won’t keep you waiting any longer *wink wink!) My second month of Accutane has come and gone and my skin has drastically improved. I have noticed a significant reduction in my acne and in the inflammation on my face. I’m attributing this to the incorporation of Clindamycin into my skincare routine. While the Accutane works from the inside, the Clindamycin has worked in reducing and preventing future bacteria and infection on my skin.

Now that you know the good stuff, let’s get to the hiccups. While on Accutane, your skin will become very, VERY sensitive. I am currently on 20mg and will be on Accutane for the next 8 to 10 months. I was very excited for an event that I had planned with my friends and decided to make myself a little homemade scrub to exfoliate. I wanted my new acne free (but scar-ridden face) to be smooth and ready for the next day’s activities and makeup look… moral of the story: DO NOT USE SCRUBS! Yes, my face was very soft. But now I looked like I had spent the entire day on Miami Beach in the middle of July without sunblock. Fortunately, I woke up the next morning and my skin had returned to its normal color and was not as sensitive as I had prepared myself for. I believe this to have been a warning from the Skin Care Gods.

A week later, after I recovered from my fake, but self-induced sunburn, I had yet another lack of judgment. I was rushing to leave the house when my mom reminded me to put on deodorant- forgetting to apply deodorant is something I frequently do and if you live in a humid city like I do, then YOU KNOW this is not something to be taken lightly. I rush back and realize that I should probably also shave my underarms, too. Like every other time I’ve ever done this, I grabbed a razor and dry shaved, put on my deodorant, and walked out the house. I thought nothing of my actions until I woke up the next morning with dry, irritated, itchy, and red underarms. I had no one to blame but myself. This was a bad call that took me two and a half weeks of coconut oil, minimal deodorant, and long sleeves to get over.

Yes, your girl is loving this new skin and all the confidence that comes with it but I failed to remember how important it is to really care for my skin during this time. The hiccups I had could have been very easily avoided and were a result of my overconfidence. I just have to be more mindful and take extra precaution while on this Accutane journey. As a severe acne sufferer for the past few years, I’m beyond excited to finally see something working and I truly believe that there might not be another shoe hurdling down to decimate my hopes this time around.

Tune in next month for my daily skin care routine! What has worked, what hasn’t, and what’s next!

 

 

Everyone’s skin and body are different. This is my story and journey with acne. I am not a medical professional. For any medical questions or concerns, please consult with your dermatologist. 

New Year, New Skin! My Journey With Accutane

If you’re like me, you know the pain of Cystic Acne and the lovely scars (both physical and emotional) that it can leave behind. It eventually becomes your loyal companion, your trusty steed, your frenemy, or that annoying cousin who won’t leave you alone during family holidays. Now, if you’re also like me, then you’ve tried just about everything imaginable to rid yourself of this companion. You’ve researched doctors, facials, at home and natural remedies, you’ve given up dairy (RIP cheese), meat, and junk food. And you’ve probably had to reign in your own anger and frustration on more than one occasion when someone tells you to try yoga or to drink more water. We’ve been there. We’ve done that. It didn’t work. We’re moving on. Thanks for the unsolicited advice.

So after years of battling cystic acne, dealing with its residual ice pick scars, and going through dozens of painful extraction facials, I began to look internally to find out what could be causing my relentless acne. After doing some research, I made an appointment with an Endocrinologist and was told that I had something called Polycystic-Ovarian Syndrome– a permanent hormonal imbalance. My diagnosis completely changed my outlook on acne, I no longer viewed it as having a simple-miracle-over-the-counter-fix. Instead, I viewed it as something that was going to take a lot of care, effort, and time if I truly wanted to heal it.

This past December (with two of my best friends weddings looming in the future), I finally decided to take the plunge and speak to my dermatologist about Accutane. Finding the right Doctor for your needs is a story for another time but I highly recommended doing your research and speaking to friends, family, and exploring online forums. This was my fourth dermatologist and to put it simply: she has been a godsend.

If you’ve struggled with Acne, you’ve probably come across Accutane in your exhaustive research, read about the side effects, or even talked to doctors about it. With that being said, I will skip over the scary stories that the Internet (and people around us) have presented and tell you about my “not so scary” experience.

 

“Type A” Natalia’s First Appointment Prep:

  1. I had my blood work done to check all my hormone levels. If you are interested in Accutane, I would recommend getting your cholesterol and liver function checked, as doctors will need a baseline to monitor you.
  2. Leading up to my appointment, I began taking pictures of my skin just in case my face decided to have a “good day.” Your skin might also be different depending on your hormonal cycle.
  3. I created an acne timeline starting with when my acne began. I made clear notes on when my acne actively progressed and when I have my “better” days.
  4. I jotted down all the common stressors in my life ( i.g. school, work, family, etc.) that could be influencing my breakouts.
  5. I wrote down my skincare routine as well as any other skincare products I have tried to combat my acne (prescribed medications, topicals, home remedies, mask, vitamins, diet).
  6. And lastly, I wrote down all my concerns and questions I had about the Accutane treatment and process.

 

Every doctor is different, but being prepared will never let you down. You want to be as honest as you can be with your doctor. And it is always better to be over prepared than to leave the office wishing you hadn’t forgotten your questions or concerns.

My biggest concern about starting Accutane was the side effects associated with it. After reading posts and watching videos, I was concerned about the medication affecting my mental health; both because of my struggle with mental illness and the toll a possible purging period would have on my self-esteem. So my doctor and I created a plan that involved me checking in with someone that I trust and can openly confide in. I was to be honest if I had a purging period and call my doctor immediately to schedule an emergency consultation to get prescribed antibiotics.

As for my mental health, I was to inform the people around me of my concerns and inform them if I was struggling. I asked them to inform me if they noticed changes in my mood and demeanor. I was also to call and make an appointment with my therapist- most colleges and universities offer free or discounted counseling. And as a therapy graduate student myself, I know the difference a good therapist can make.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff. One month in, I have seen significant improvement in my skin. By the first week, the inflammation had drastically decreased. Friends and family have commented on how much better my skin looks and how much happier I seem. Some small pimples have popped up, but they have either dried up on their own or opened up while I was washing my face and then dried up- this is all apart of the process, you get worse before you get better. I have not had any mental health issues as of yet and I have not experienced any negative side effects that have affected me drastically. I have kept much of my skin routine the same but I have added a moisturizer and a sunblock that was recommended to me by my dermatologist. I have also been using a Clindamycin lotion, which is used to stop the growth of bacteria and decrease swelling. I have experienced very dry lips and I have now committed myself to never losing my chapstick again.

One side effect that did cause some distress was back pain. I, like many others, like to jump to conclusions (thanks, internet), and because of this I immediately thought that the medication was causing harm to my liver and kidneys. I jumped online to look up possible side effects only to find out that back pain…wait for it…is common. And guess what? Yoga stretches actually helped! Who would have thought?! Now when I feel the back pain trying to settle in, I unroll my dusty yoga mat, do some stretches and light breathing, and go on my way.

After my first months follow up, my dermatologist is elated with my results. All my blood work came back within normal range (although I am personally going to take it upon myself to eat healthier) and I am looking forward to not only seeing further improvement in my skin but sharing with all of you!

 

 

  

Everyone’s skin and body are different. This is my story and journey with acne. I am not a medical professional. For any medical questions or concerns, please consult with your dermatologist. 

You Have More To Offer The World Than Your Acne

Acne is horrible. There’s no other way to describe it. Unless you’re comparing it to war, famine, poverty, or disease it doesn’t seem so bad. But take all that (really horrible and serious) stuff away and acne is the worst thing ever. EVER. Trust me, I’ve been dealing with it on and off since I was 16-years-old. Some years, though, it decides to take a break from tormenting me, and my skin is as clear as Kim K’s 20-karat engagement ring. While other years, my skin is atrocious and resembles a pizza with sausage and extra pepperoni on it (pepperoni for the pimples and sausage for the cysts and uneven texture). What? You can’t look at pizza the same way anymore? Whoops!

My acne has seriously taken its toll on me mentally and physically. Mentally it debilitated me. It broke me down and brought me to my lowest point. I suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and agoraphobia. I stopped taking care of myself. I didn’t do my hair or put on makeup. I stopped dressing up. Forget about dressing up. I didn’t get out of my pajamas. I didn’t feel a need to take care of myself anymore. What was the point? I was ugly no matter what I did.

I was treated like an outcast. I was treated like I carried the plague. I was treated like I was invisible. So, I felt invisible. It was as if people just looked right past me as if I didn’t exist. And for those who did notice me, they stared. They stared right at my face without any kind of indiscretion. And let me tell you, it hurt. I was embarrassed. I felt ashamed of myself. I can’t tell you how many times strangers would come up to me with their unsolicited advice about how best to take care of my skin- as if I wasn’t already seeking the help of board certified and licensed professionals, as if I already hadn’t spent over $500 dollars in the course of 3 months going to different Dermatologists and Endocrinologists trying to get a medical explanation as to why this was suddenly happening to me. I get some people were just trying to help- but some advice for anyone who doesn’t have acne, please don’t feel that it’s appropriate to go up to someone and mention their acne to them when they are probably hoping that no one notices the breakout they woke up with that morning.

It was a terrible time in my life. And I don’t say, “was” as in it’s over and my acne has cleared up. Because it hasn’t, I still have severe hyperpigmentation all over my skin and I do still get cystic acne- although, I have overcome my anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia! Which is honestly the best thing that has ever happened to me. I would rather deal with cystic acne my entire life if it meant I would never experience another panic attack again. And that’s saying a lot because I pray every night for it to go away or at least get better. My skin isn’t as bad as it was last year and that’s due to changes in my diet and the intake of vitamins and supplements (but that’s for another conversation altogether). It has been a long road to self-love but it has been a very informative one too.

Through the years, I never forced myself to go anywhere or to do anything I wasn’t comfortable doing. Even if that meant disappointing friends or family for not showing up for a birthday lunch. I didn’t wear makeup obsessively. In fact, I barely wore makeup at all! To me, wearing makeup was apologizing for what I looked like. To me, wearing makeup was only to make other people comfortable with my appearance or to stop people from staring when I went out in public. Eventually, I stopped being ashamed of my acne because it was a part of me. It wasn’t the Cindy Crawford beauty mark or anything glam like that, but it was a mark that made up my features just as a beauty mark made up Cindy’s features. My point: I had acne and I wasn’t going to apologize for it, I wasn’t going to apologize for being me.

Nothing insulted me more than someone complimenting me and telling me how beautiful I looked when I was wearing a face full of makeup. Because I never heard those compliments from them when I wasn’t wearing makeup. You know what I mean? So, to me the compliments were fake. They were complimenting my façade- the filtered version of me.

I braved a bare face wherever I went. The farmers market was scorching, so I went makeup free! Work? Makeup free! The pharmacy where people constantly stopped me to talk about my skin? Makeup free! Girls night? Makeup free! Date nights? Makeup free! I was tired of wearing makeup because I felt like I had to. Once I took control over that, I started to feel strong, I started to feel brave, I started to feel beautiful.

If you’re suffering from acne, eczema, rosacea, or any other kind of skin problem, please don’t feel ugly. Please don’t feel like you need to hide away from the rest of the world. Don’t isolate yourself. Don’t hate yourself. Don’t feel like you are any less of a person. You are so beautiful. And most importantly you are not invisible. I promise people notice you. And it’s not because of your skin, it’s because of the beauty that radiates through your mind, your heart, and your soul.

If someone can’t look past your skin problems, then forget them! Who cares if you meet one jerk who judges you based on your skin. You are smart, you are funny, you can dance, you can cook, you are an artist, you can run a 10-mile marathon, you get straight A’s, you are the first in your family to go to college, you have beautiful eyes, and thick luminous hair, you can play the piano, you write music, you volunteer at your local animal shelter on the weekends, you feed the homeless, you know 7 languages…. You offer the world so much more than you realize. And if you come across a person who decides to judge you because of the way you look, it’s their loss and they were never going to have anything to offer you anyway. You want to meet someone who shares your same values, opinions, and views. You want to meet someone who believes in the message you want to put out into the world. You want to meet someone who wants to change the world. And I promise you, someone who decides to judge you because of what you look like will never be able to offer you or anyone else any of those things.

You can’t change the face you were born with. There is only one you and you have to try and accept yourself as you are. Even if you were perfect, even if you didn’t have acne or whatever issue you are dealing with, people are always going to find something to judge about you. So, let them. Let them judge you. Let them live day to day with that kind of negativity. And you? You go be happy. You go live your life for you, not based on how others perceive you. Because remember, you have more to offer the world than your acne.

What Is Hyperpigmentation & How To Treat It

Do you ever get a pimple, pray for it to go away, and even after the acne gods have answered your prayers you find yourself dealing with the aftermath of the pimple? You know, the brown, purple, red, pink-ish dark marks that your pimples leave behind? That’s called hyperpigmentation, it occurs when an excess of melanin, the pigment that produces the color of your skin, forms little spots on your skin. But why does this happen to some people and not others? Well, if you’re young and healthy, not pregnant, or experiencing any hormonal changes from pregnancy, birth control or any diagnosed hormonal imbalances, it simply means your body produces more melanin than the average person. It’s fairly common in most people. I’ve actually been suffering from it since I was in high school! I never quite understood why my friends didn’t have the same reaction to pimples like I did. I wouldn’t mind breakouts so much if I didn’t have a ton of inflamed red marks on my face afterward, you know? Even when I’m not broken out, I still look broken out because of all the marks! What’s so bad about one pimple? Not much, but combine that one pimple with a face full of hyperpigmentation, and now you’ve got a problem. But don’t worry, there are various preventatives and methods to help reduce the appearance of your dark marks!

Your skin absorbs 60% of what it touches. So, let’s think about how many times a day you touch your face. Now, let’s think about how many times a day you pick at your blemishes. Do you know how much dirt and bacteria is underneath your nails? I’ll spare you the gruesome details. But, girl, it’s a lot!  Stop picking at your face because it’s not only causing you to breakout, it’s also causing you to develop more hyperpigmentation. The more pimples you get, the more marks you will get too. I know it’s hard but try to resist the urge!

Whether you exfoliate with a toner, scrub, or peel it’s one of the most important steps in your beauty routine and should not be skipped- even if you have clear skin. Exfoliating prevents dead skin cells from building up and clogging your pores which not only produces more oil, it causes more breakouts. And again, the more breakouts, the more hyperpigmentation. Exfoliating also stimulates collagen production, which causes new cell turnover. This will leave your skin looking healthy, bright, and smooth.

 

Vitamin C is a magical antioxidant that reduces skin inflammation, promotes collagen production, and reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation. In addition to all that, the new cells help smooth uneven texture. Thus, giving your skin a bright, fresh, and healthy glow. Don’t worry about breaking out. Vitamin C aids in repairing the skin’s barrier. Once it’s healed and working properly, you will notice the oil production on your face has balanced out. This will then result in properly hydrated skin, soothing any itchy, flaky, or dry patches.

Moisturizer and SPF should always go hand in hand. Although, if you could only choose one, it should definitely be SPF. Moisturizer softens and hydrates the skin while SPF protects it from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, which can cause skin cancer and premature aging. It also darkens your hyperpigmentation causing it to appear brighter and more irritated.

 

For persistent hyperpigmentation there are chemical peels, lasers, and microneedling that can help renew healthy skin cells faster and more effectively than at home treatments can. Before deciding on any procedure, check with your dermatologist to see whats best for your skin.

 

**All of the products on this page are vegan cruelty-free with the exception of a few products containing beeswax!