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. 

New Year, No Meat, No Drink: Going Vegan Without The Aid of Alcohol

That’s what my first month of 2018 is shaping up to be at least, as my roommates and I embark on a month of vegan eating and sober living.

Like most great things that happen in this world, this decision was brought on by a New Year’s Resolution, and my utter and complete lack of healthy living in the final months of 2017. For me, 2017, was a year that can be summarized as a year of “in flux.” Really going back to late 2016, I came home from traveling, didn’t really know what I was doing or wanted to be doing. I ended up getting a job that I actually enjoyed, only to be let go in the fall of 2017. So, I’ve just been freelancing and job searching since.

That time was marked by a series of highs and lows – and in each, I ate…and I drank. When I got home from my travels, I was a little low. I did not want to be back. Then I got my kick-ass job and I made some really amazing work friends that quickly transitioned into real friendships. We went out all the time and I loved it. We were modern ladies (and some men) going on work lunches to nice places, getting a few drinks after work. It was like everything the media had ever told me being an actual bonafide ADULT was like. And then…I got let go. In the wake of losing a job full of people I enjoyed and worrying about money/my professional life, I began to stress eat. Boredom eat. Depression eat. Happy eat. Treat yo’ self-eat. Ya know.

My roommates fared just as well. With a year filled with tumultuous inner-lives, not to mention the anxiety and fear of a seemingly incompetent, bigoted government weighing on our shoulders, 2017 was a year filled with stress and eating poorly and drinking with the ladies of my home. Being completely self-aware, we decided to change this. We decided to make a New Year’s Resolution – which is a binding legal contract. It always sticks, right? Right. Good.

No. Y’all, of course, I’m completely aware that resolutions don’t always stick and most people drop them after the first month. Of course, we’re hoping for a better outcome for ourselves. And in knowing ourselves we knew we just couldn’t make a vague declaration of “better living”. We knew we had to fully discuss the reasoning behind these changes, and then put into motion an actual plan. Reason + Plan + Support System = Trifecta of accomplishing your goals.

We decided to go vegan starting January 1. Not just vegetarian, but V-E-G-A-N. Yup! Living that no animal by-product life! One of my roommates was already vegetarian, so it wasn’t a hard leap for her, and we know none of us should have dairy (I won’t get too detailed but it destroys our insides). But no meat? No honey? No eggs? And a slew of other things I probably haven’t even encountered yet, and when I do, I’ll cry because I can’t have it!

I’m a big meat eater and I have eggs at least 3 times a week. I also put honey on my toast and in my tea. And I absolutely love to cook. But the decision to go vegan for the month of January was born out of a strong desire to overhaul the way I looked at food and thus my relationship with eating. To know that living on a whole foods, plant-based diet could be satisfying, fun, innovative, and a joy to cook.

I wanted to feel good again. I wanted to have a bunch of energy. I didn’t want to constantly be bloated. I also wanted to feel like I was doing something good for this world while I worked on myself. And reducing the amount of meat you eat has been shown to significantly reduce your carbon footprint and be better for the environment. Also, bees are dying, y’all. And we need them.

Now, I know one can still be unhealthy when eating vegan. After all, fries are vegan. Oreos are vegan. I could just live on those two things and call myself a vegan and I wouldn’t be lying – just extremely unhealthy. No, we’re making the conscious decision to not just be vegan but eat whole, healthy foods. A rich tapestry of fruits and vegetables and nutritional yeast! It helps that my two roommates are down to be vegan. It makes the transition and the meal prep and the going out a lot less challenging. If I only have vegan and healthy options in the house, well, I’m going to just have to suck it up and eat it.

It also helps that my roommates are down to clown with NOT drinking. We are a house of decadent indulgers. We enjoy good food, good company, and good wine. We also enjoy a nice night out, filled with socializing and booze. However, in the last few months of 2017, we indulged more than we abstained. We went out more than we didn’t. And I was hungover more weekends than I was clear and focused. And while I had a good time, the recovery was not ideal. My body did not thank me and my soul was on the fence.

In years past I’d scoffed at people who did sober January. Ok, Susan, you’re not going to drink for the month of January? Are you not an adult, can you not control yourself? Also, good for you for choosing a month where literally nothing happens, so you won’t really be resisting temptation. Hi, I am now Susan. The scoffer has become the scoffee.

I know. But we knew that A) Our drinking, while not catastrophic, was not exactly healthy and B) That eating healthy while still drinking and subsequently marinating in the constant bloat from that…well it kind of defeats the purpose.

I’ll admit. We did pick this month to do both, not just because it’s the beginning of the year but we also fully recognize that it’s a month where there aren’t really any holidays. There aren’t really any birthdays or events we need to celebrate, etc. It makes the transition and the positive outcome of this experiment a little easier to obtain. That being said, I’ve already met a friend out for drinks once this past week and had to order a club soda with lime over my usual red wine or Gin & Tonic, and I had to turn down her plea to go to A Tavola (local, delicious fancy pizza).

It’s only been a week or so, but I am happy with what we’re doing. I do feel good. I do have more energy, I’m not bloated, I want to get out and move my body, and I have a bit more mental clarity. Who knows exactly what it’s from – veganism, cutting out alcohol, both? Would I feel just as good on a diet consisting of lean protein and veggies? I don’t know. I just know I like it right now.

What do I hope to accomplish with this? Redefining my relationship with food, especially “healthy foods”, as well as alcohol. I want to really test my body to see what it can do and how it feels. Will I continue being vegan post-January? Probably not. But I might opt for more vegetarian options a few nights a week, and have a greater understanding of how to be truly dairy-free but not unsatisfied. Will I ever drink a drop of alcohol again in my life? Yes. I will definitely drink again. I love the pairings of alcohol with food and the simple elegance of a glass of red wine. However, I know this month off will be good for my brain and my liver (not that I drank an inordinate amount, but you get the point). It will also, I hope, redefine my relationship with alcohol and the need to go out and drink. I’m an adult lady, my body doesn’t like lots of alcohol, and I need to start listening to her. I just need to pull a Kris Jenner and pour myself a generous amount of red wine each night and go to bed. The simple life.

I’m excited to see what this month unfolds for myself and my roommates. I’m excited to not only feel better but to see how creative we get with our meals. I’m excited to see what we cook and how it tastes and how we’re communing with one another. I’m looking forward to how this community we’re building in our apartment and the healthy eating/drinking habits we’re forging will continue to manifest throughout the rest of the year. I’m wondering if at the end of the month, will I even want to eat meat or have a drink. Probably, but in lesser amounts.

I’m just jazzed for 2018! The possibilities and hope a new year brings. The changes this year has already brought. 2018 is the year of the witch and I’m excited to get back to my roots…vegetables.

This Is Why I’m Judging You

I have never been a judgmental person. I’m usually the friend anyone can come to with anything and I will listen to whatever they have done, whatever they are thinking, or whatever it is that they are feeling. I’ve seen it all, I’ve heard it all, so nothing really surprises me anymore and regardless if I haven’t seen it or heard it before, it’s not my life to judge. As a friend, and as a fellow human being who has gone through their own fair share of hardship, I’m only here to listen, help, and comfort. However, my listening isn’t silent. I am that person who asks a million questions- only out of pure interest I assure you! I find other people’s logic, reasoning, and perspective stimulating. I love to understand people’s actions- good or bad. I love to listen, but I love to talk even more.

As someone who loves to talk, I’ve never been the type of person to push my opinions and beliefs onto other people. I will most definitely help you understand my reasoning and actions if asked- so be prepared, but if not then I keep those reasons to myself.

So, it was surprising to me when a friend recently asked, knowing I’m a vegan if I judge other people who choose to eat meat. Out of passion, love, and anger and without thinking I immediately said yes. We sat on my couch and discussed my answer for almost two hours. As I was digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole I didn’t want to be in, I realized once my friend left I really needed to evaluate what it was I had been saying and thinking in those past two hours.

I felt awful saying I had reined judgment on anyone and the way they choose to live their lives. I’m so open-minded and accepting of almost everything else, so why did I feel such anger when suddenly asked if I judge people who eat meat? Why did I immediately respond by saying yes? I speak without thinking probably 85% of the time. I have diarrhea of the mouth on a daily basis. I’m so honest and open with people that I never seem to know when too much information is just that- too much. So was this another diarrhea of the mouth moment? Was I speaking without thinking? I really didn’t think so. I had too much anger toward the question.

It hurts and saddens me to know that people turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of animals. I was raised in a household that strongly supported and respected the lives of animals. I was never allowed to go to the circus, zoo, or Disney’s Sea World. I was raised to eat meat, but I wasn’t raised to enjoy animals for entertainment or to wear animals as fashion pieces. I was raised to adopt and not shop. As I got older, it was a major adjustment for me to see that other people weren’t raised that way or that some people just don’t have the love for animals that I do. It was a major adjustment for me to see that my own brother, who raised in the same household, goes against many of the things that were instilled in us as children. I’ve always disagreed with his choices but I have accepted them and him as the person he is because we are all different in many ways- not by just body types, skin color, and religion. Our perspective makes us different. And we can’t judge each other because we see things differently. This is always something I’ve believed. So again, what changed now?

I quickly realized it wasn’t that I judge people who eat meat. Do I strongly disagree with them? Yes. Does it make me not like someone or think poorly of them because they choose to eat meat? No. Some of my favorite people choose to eat meat. However, I stand adamantly in my beliefs that an animal should not be killed or hunted for sport. I stand adamantly that an animal shouldn’t be worn as a coat or a belt. I stand adamantly in choosing to use vegan and cruelty-free products. But that’s just me, I’m pretty extreme in my beliefs and I don’t expect everyone else to be. I do, however, expect people to take the time to realize there are certain brands or companies they can avoid that severely mistreat animals. If you want to eat meat it, eat it! But does it have to be with a company that abuses their animals? If you want to wear makeup does it have to be with a company that tests on animals? If you want to wear a leather belt does it have to be from a mass manufacturing company in the states that kills an animal just for their skin instead of from a 10-generation owned farm that uses every single part of the animal?

My point is, I was too quick to judge. I was too quick in speaking without thinking. I was too quick in forgetting that some of the people I love and respect the most wear leather, eat meat, and adopt from breeders. Not everyone is like me and I don’t expect them to be. But I do expect people to educate themselves more so they can understand why eating meat can be unhealthy for us. I do expect people to gain better knowledge into understanding which companies and brands mistreat, their animals. It’s not only important to be educated on these matters because of the animals it’s important so we’re not being taken advantage of by these companies anymore.

I was filled with so much anger when asked the question by my friend. It’s not that I judge people who choose to eat meat, it angers me that people don’t educate themselves enough to understand what really happens and goes into the mistreatment of animals for the sake of our own personal enjoyment. There are so many little things we can do to make a difference and still be able to enjoy the things we love. When my friend asked me that question, I answered out of anger because I was angry. I answered out of disappointment because I was disappointed. I answered with judgment because for a brief moment I was judging. But now I would like to admit, I no longer judge and wholeheartedly apologize for the judgment I placed upon those who just don’t know better. But I do hope with this, if you are one who doesn’t know better, you are inspired to take matters into your hands and educate yourself because you deserve it and the animals deserve it too.

Hydrate Your Skin With One of These 8 Moisturizers

Tarte’s Drink of H20 is packed with electrolytes that will refresh and moisturize dry skin. This fast absorbing, non-greasy gel will infuse the skin with marine antioxidants and hyaluronic acid that will brighten up any dullness while plumping the skin to even out texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines.



Tatcha’s Water Cream is oil-free, non-comedogenic, non-irritating, and non-sensitizing. Making it the perfect moisturizer for sensitive and acne-prone skin. It’s jam-packed with Japanese nutrients and powerful botanicals that visibly tighten pores, smooth uneven texture, brighten dullness, and control excess oil to restore healthy-looking and glowing skin.



Formulated for dry and sensitive skin, Ole Hendrikson’s Nurture Me Moisturizing Crème is the perfect blend of vitamins, sunflower, and rosehip fruit oils. It reduces visible redness and hydrates the skin giving it a supple and healthy glow.




Alba Botanica’s Acnedote is an acne-fighting moisturizer – yes, you read that right! Usually oil control products are incredibly drying on the skin, however, this one manages to hydrate the skin while keeping the pores unclogged- thanks to salicylic acid and willow bark extract. It’s dermatologist-recommended and available in your local drug store at an affordable price. Highly recommended!




Lush Ultrabalm is an all-purpose moisturizing balm that is made of only three simple ingredients: rose wax, candelilla wax, and organic jojoba oil. Each ingredient serves a specific purpose to soothe irritated skin, deliver extra moisture, and create a protective barrier from outside elements.





Vasanti’s Brighten Up! New Skin Amplifying Moisturizer is a personal favorite. It gives you a smoother, brighter and younger-looking face with a light-weight, non-greasy formula. 98% of this product is made from natural ingredients such as Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Persea gratissima (avocado) oil, Avena sativa (Oat) and Kernel Oil. It’s also sulfate, parabens, and phthalates-free!





Josie Maran’s Whipped Argan Oil Face Butter is that miracle product that works for all skin types – normal, oily, combination, dry, and sensitive. Free of parabens, sulfates, and phthalates this product does wonders to relieve dry skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and reduce redness and inflammation.





Juice Beauty’s SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer is a light-weight moisturizer that comes with that all-important cancer-preventing agent: sunscreen! So it’s a good choice for those get-up-and-go mornings when you need products that multitask and save you time. It contains antioxidants, aloe vera, and vitamins to maintain the moisture balance of your skin. It also protects against premature aging of the skin, so this one’s an all-around winner.





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

7 Facial Masks To Help With Dark Marks, Texture, and Dullness

The road to clear skin is not a smooth one, to say the least. It’s full of bumps and potholes and craters—no pun intended! It’s probably one of the only times in your life when you should be taking the road most traveled. Because in this case, when it comes to your skin, you want to exhaust every option imaginable before taking any extreme routes like Accutane, Birth Control, Acid Peels, or Acne Chemical Peels.

I have tried everything plausible to help my skin. You name it and I’ve tried it. (Everything except those really scary peels I mentioned and Accutane.) But that’s what I’m here for- to be your test dummy so you won’t experience excessive breakouts or spend unnecessary money like I do!

My go-to skincare product is always going to be a facial mask. I do them at least three times a week. With facial masks, you almost always see immediate results after just one use, which is why I prefer them and recommend them to anyone. Of course, the continuous use of them over time will show greater results, but unlike the first-time application of most skincare products, you should see results right away. In my opinion, facial masks should give you a clear indication of how well they work and the type of results you should look forward to seeing just after one use.




This mask is the definition of a decongestant mask as it’s made from 100% natural calcium bentonite clay. You will literally feel your skin pulsate as the clay deep cleans your pores and balances out your skin’s natural oils. This mask also helps reduce the appearance of acne scars and improves skin texture.




Need more proof that grapefruit is a skin-saving solution? Try this grapefruit vitamin C-based mud mask to brighten your skin and enhance your glow. It gently exfoliates to minimize pores and shine in just 5 to 10 minutes. And if the mud application isn’t your thing, try the paper mask or sleeping mask versions which offer the same benefits!



This Chinese-inspired exfoliating face mask is an intense treatment to remove dullness and unevenness in skin tone. The Nicaraguan and Chinese-sourced ingredients illuminate, even and revitalizes skin with its mix of ginseng, rice extract, and sesame seed oil. It can be used 2-3 times a week to reveal an improved and brighter-looking complexion.



This hydrating facial mask is jammed packed with natural nutrients that will get your skin looking better than ever. The Kojic Acid, extracts of Licorice Root, Mulberry, and Grapeseed will help reduce the appearance of old acne scars and even out any skin discoloration, while the Olive Leaf Extract and Vitamin E hydrate and brighten your skin.



Boasted as a fan favorite from Tacha’s signature collection, this mask will give your skin an immediate glow. With two types of Vitamin C and AHA’S from 7 different fruits, the natural nutrients and vitamins gently remove dirt and oil buildup from your skin, which will help improve skin texture and promote the production of new skin cells.



Pumpkin is great for all skin types because it’s rich in Vitamin A, C, E, & T! Vitamin A soothes and softens the skin, vitamin C helps heal the skin, and vitamins E & T are acne fighting vitamins. So, pumpkin masks are especially great for anyone battling acne. This hydrating masks decongests the skin and rids it of excess oil and in doing so it shrinks your pores and reduces inflammation and future breakouts. This masks also makes a great exfoliator.




Touted as a green juice cleanse for your face, this mask works to help your skin in four ways: removing dead skin cells; fighting dullness; improving skin texture, and balancing skin tone. It does all this with ingredients like kale, lime pearls, and papaya, and is suitable for all skin tones. Plus Pacifica products are known to smell great, so this is a win-win solution!





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

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!