What It's Really like to Go on Acne Medication

Anybody who's had acne knows there's a certain point when you feel helpless.

For some people, this point is so severe that they need to seek a doctor's help. I was one of those people.

bobble head with acne

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I remember looking square into the mirror, my face inches from the reflection as I fogged the surface. I couldn't believe it—another handful of zits seemed to pop up out of nowhere. I felt tears start to build up as I mentally recited all of the practices I had diligently followed in hopes of curbing my breakouts: Wash your face, use salicylic acid, don't use oily products, never skip the toner, wear non-pore clogging makeup… the list went on. I stared at over-the-counter zit medication that littered my sink. Something had to give.

I confided in my parents about the way my acne recently made me feel. They were also aware of all of the products and precautions I took to try to fix the problem myself. Although they assured me that acne was a normal part of teenage life, we decided it was time to enlist additional help.


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We went to my family dermatologist and here is where I heard the word "Accutane" for the first time. My mind went dizzy with all the precautions the doctor said I would have to take. Accutane was a hardcore and highly regulated drug that could create crazy side effects like extreme dehydration, skin peeling and feelings of sadness. We weighed the pros and cons with my doctor and decided to go for it. I had no idea what to expect in the coming months.

doctor and patient

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I started taking the pill and thought I was experiencing severe headaches. I was unsure if it was my nervousness or actual headaches being caused by the new meds. I tried to persevere and eventually, these became better. In a few weeks, my whole body felt like it had been sucked dry. I had to buy oily ointments to rub on my skin because I felt like a snake about to shed its skin… and shed I did! I remember being in front of my computer one day only to realize that my lips were legit peeling from one side to the next. I remember my mouth open in awe as I peeled off one layer of skin on my lower lip as if it was a sticker.

People on this particular medicine are asked to take severe precautions in the form of medical tests every month. I had to go to a lab to get my blood drawn out to make sure the med wasn't affecting other organs. It was grueling to have to sit there every four weeks getting vials of blood taken out. I was at the lab so much I became BFFs with the nurses who would draw my blood.

My doctor recommended I stay on the medicine for six months, but around month four my skin had completely cleared. I felt as dry as a dessert but my big acne was gone. I couldn't have been more relieved! During one of my doctor visits I asked if it would be possible to stop the drug early. I explained every other inch of skin on my body felt like it was going to crack and that I needed relief. To my surprise, my doctor agreed that we could halt the treatment!

happy girl in front of yellow wall

(via Unsplash)

The months of Accutane had lasting, positive effects on my clear skin. I'm not saying I never broke out again, that would be a lie. There have been many times since my treatment where I wake up with gnarly zits. That said, my acne never flared up the way it used to and I became comfortable in my own skin.


Want to get to the root of your acne problem? THESE skin sins may be causing your breakouts!