Fighting acne

woman with hands on face - credit: www.amhc.org

image credit: amhc.org

First, apologies for the long post. This is not an easy post for me. I don’t use my blog to vent, or to moan. I have hung on to this unpublished post for almost three months now and although the situation has improved since I wrote it, I am far from happy. My blog is beauty related, and there you go, I don’t really feel beautiful sometimes because of this. I don’t think I ever spoke this openly and in-depth about this issue that has accompanied me for about 18 years now. To me, it is always visible,  its scars are ever so present, as a painful reminder of everything I had to work through all these years.

I started suffering from acne at around 15. There were just pimples in the beginning but soon they became huge painful boils under my skin, which was always red and swollen. My face was always the only place where they would appear.

When I was 17, I had my first treatment with Roaccutane, a powerful retinoid from the vitamin A family. I took it for six months and the side effects were horrendous: body aches, soft tissue extreme dryness, cracked and bleeding lips. It was awful, but I came off the other side with great skin, and thought I had won.

However, six years on, when I moved to London my skin reached a state it had never been before; the boils were back, bigger, deeper and more painful than ever. So much so that the GP suggested I saw a dermatologist. And they told me what I really dreaded: Roaccutane was the only way out. Terrified of the side effects, I said I didn’t want to go through all that again. Once is enough and I would rather live with the acne. I was lying. nothing is as bad as living with it. So I entered another course, this time during a whole year on a lower dosage, so cut down the side effects. Once again, the medication worked its magic and I had a spot-free face.

But the two violent bouts of acne cost me dearly, I was left with the scars to remember, everyday, all the pain it had inflicted on me during the best years of my life. I am not saying I lost my confidence; although there were lows, I have always been an outspoken, extrovert, confident woman who never let the acne define me. It could’ve been much worse in that respect – but I remain sensitive about it.

One good thing it gave me is my love of make up, which stems from the need to hide myself for years. I had a long fringe that would conveniently cover my cheeks most of the time. I think most of my acne trauma is in fact, due to the incessant treatments, and the physical pain of the boils. As only the scars were left, I decided it was time to face the world, however ugly I believe they are. And I did. I left all those feelings in the past and embraced a pull back do.

But recently my skin hasn’t been happy and the breakouts are re-occurring. Not the monthly ones, which I learnt to ignore. They are cystic again, they are growing on top of each other, a classic sign of when things are going bad…. you wouldn’t probably be able to see them, but I know they are there. Hurting.

So I went to the doctor and I was told I could get a referral to a dermatologist, who would probably put me on Roaccutane, I broke down in tears. I cannot do that to myself again. So I went on antibiotics for a while – and improvement is pathetic for me to be pumping myself up with drugs everyday. I hate my scars. I always hated them so much, but now it’s serious. I had enough.

The final low was this bright red, sore spot bang on my cheek.Why won’t it just leave me alone? I should be worrying about wrinkles at this age… not freaking acne!

This time it is really affecting me. I want it to go away, I want the scars to go away and I never want to remember this was part of me for all this time. It is more than half my life. And I got myself thinking about taking Roaccutane again… and that makes me really sad. It looks like acne cornered me again…

I tried everything. Products do help, recently Skinetica and the Elemis range have been helping to control it without being too aggressive (yeah, I am also tired of slapping things on that make me red, flaky, horrible). However, it is always there and suddenly, I have an awful bout and it gets much worse. Medical advice that is not Roaccutane seem to be useless.

This is haunting me and I thought it was finally time to put it out there. I cannot keep this to myself anymore. Lots of stuff now cross my mind. Could Roaccutane be the way, again? Being such a strong medication, is it safe for me to have it for the third time? If I decide to get pregnant in the next couple of years (I am no spring chicken, I really need to decide soon if I am to), could it affect my baby? I know the textbook answer to those questions, as I read extensively on the drug. But the questions will always be in the back of my head. “Am I giving myself a bigger risk of liver disease?” “Am I jeopardising my fertility?” . Also, is there something I have not found yet that can help me?

I have decided I will not take it again. There *must* be another way.  But the biggest question of all still remains: “Will I ever be free from it?”.

HEEEELP!!!!

ps. I’d like to thank Grace from All that Slap, who has talked openly on her blog about a highly sensitive issue she faces – it inspired me to talk seconda and she encouraged me to do the same. Thank you for the support! x
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10 thoughts on “Fighting acne

  1. I vent often on my blog! life is not all love and light so its brave for you to share this.

    The thing is I am surprised that your dermatologist has not told you that you can not get pregnant while on roaccutane!!!

    Everyone I know who took roaccutane says they were also given the birth control pill so I am surprised your doctor didn’t mention this hugely important side effect. also in the states – the doctors recommend a detox bc your liver is affected and vitamin a is oil soluble so stay s in your system so they dont recommend getting pregnant straight away anyway.

    as i am not your dermatologist i strongly suggest that you talk this over.

    also with scarring – there is laser treatment – forget creams – they wont do much – try skinrolling and laser – they are the best things for scarring

    good luck!

    • Hey Naomi
      I agree – some people get upset when you show life the way it really is! But I had this kept in for too long, it was bound to come out eventually, hehe! Thanks for your comment – it is really nice to find support out there, it was extremely hard to push that publish button. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and the concerns you raised!
      In regards to Roaccutane and pregnancy I don’t think I mentioned on my post I wasn’t told; I was made aware by the dermatologists both times I took it that I should not be/get pregnant during treatment (they actually bang on about it before and then every time you see them!!! Like brainwash, but certainly needed when the risks are so high!) and was prescribed contraceptives I had to start taking a month prior to starting the drug. I also had to sign a form stating I was advised about the teratogenic effects of the drug and that I should not fall pregnant during or at least 6 months after the treatment. The first time around, when I was underage, my mother had to sign on my behalf! In addition, I read the paperwork on the drug many times over. I also had to do liver/kidney function tests once a month to make sure both organs were processing the drug efficiently. I didn’t have any alcohol or fatty food at all during treatment and a while after not to overload my liver.
      The concerns raised at the end of the post are really about what happens after, two treatments might have already had some effect on my body I am not aware of, what I can say for sure is that my skin is 10 times more sensitive nowadays than it was before treatments (it got a little after the first, it got even more after the second, almost 10 years ago, and remains sensitive) and my hair has thinned permanently. If I opted for a third one, even though I don’t seem to find proper studies on possible long term effects after repeated uses of the drug, this will always live on my mind (could it affect my fertility? could it make me more prone to liver disease? Am I going to go bald?). And that is the reason I cannot bring myself to take it again. I found it so aggressive that I can’t take my body through it again.

      As you mentioned, I actually have looked into laser for my scarring and it is ultimately what I will be doing – for what they are, I think it is the most effective way! I need at least three full face courses, and I intend to do them back home in Brazil (I will need to be there for a while, as session can’t be less than a month apart!). However, I worry that if the breakouts don’t stop, I might lose my laser work… so still trying to stop the breakouts to actually follow through with the laser! I would be emotionally wrecked if I did the laser treatment and acne re-appeared and spoiled the effects. Eeeek!

      I started dermaroller – did first one 2 weeks ago and should do the second in a month; still can’t see any improvements, but I am aware I wouldn’t in 2 weeks anyway. I am hoping I see some improvement and probably reduce the amount of laser sessions I do in the future! :)

      Again, THANK YOU so much for dropping by and your good luck wishes; it is support like yours and others that makes sharing such a difficult issue worth while!
      x

  2. Very brave post. You know that I understand what it took to write this post, I have great admiration for you doing it. Others are going through the same thing and can completely understand.

    I myself have had very very bad acne for more than half my life now. As a teen I used to think, its okay when I hit my 20s this will stop and I will have clear skin – oh how wrong I was. It got worse….and I am in my 30s now and still have it. I have tried all sorts of products – antibiotics, topical creams, every “spot” remedy on the market and nothing seemed to have a significant impact. I also asked for Accutane but 2 Drs refused to give it to me. I also asked for Retin A cream but they also refused saying my acne was not bad enough.

    My confidence has really taken a knock in the times my skin has been really bad. People have been rude to me, even asking me what is wrong with it – why is it so bad! Sometimes I have been close to tears at work or out in public because of it.

    I have been trying to use only natural skincare products in an attempt to improve my skin and this has certainly helped. I don’t use any foaming cleansers or anything harsh on my skin. Whilst my skin is not clear its MUCH better than its been in the past.

    There is unfortunately no quick fix for this and it sometimes feels hopeless but don’t ever believe for one second that you are not beautiful because you are – both on the outside and the inside. If you want to know the brands of skincare I am using which have helped please let me know.

    Lots of love and a big hug xxxx

    • Hey Grace

      Thanks for the kind words – and your support and encouragement, it means an awful lot to me. I share the same history – topical creams, lotions, gels, antibiotics (large spectrum and specific ones), various peels (from acids in several different concentrations to natural ones), microdermabrasion, over the counter creams (at the moment I have 8 different ones in my little skin med drawer, some from the UK, some American), all added to my two courses of roaccutane, the retin-a cream is still in my drawer for emergencies (haven’t used it in a while, it is soooooooo harsh on my face, it hurts soooooo much, plus makes everything around it, including lips, very dry).
      I am sorry you weren’t given all the prescription options, if it helps, they didn’t seem to work miracles for me, long term :(
      I had people approach me on the bus stop and give me “home” recipes to get rid of acne, bless them! Someone once in a club (a girl) actually told me they “couldn’t talk to me because what was going on in my face”, she couldn’t concentrate. That was horrible. Sometimes I catch my reflection in windows and feel very conscious.
      This a particularly bad time for me, I am hoping it calms down soon and it can go back to my relatively better skin days, which are far from good, but much better than the current situation.
      I must admit I didn’t notice you have problematic skin – and I pay a lot of attention to people ;), but I know how it is, even if people can’t see it as bad, it is always there in your head – for me it is not just what they are now, but all the pain the have inflicted on me for this long. I am sure you can relate to that.
      I will keep my dermaroller treatments to see if it helps with the scarring, and ultimately will do laser. Please forward the brands you are using, it would be great to try!
      Again, THANK YOU.
      lots of love xxxxxx

  3. I has adult cystic acne since I was 12. It was horrible – the same boils you describe. Among other things, I tried Roaccutane several times; it was hard, and never worked. In my early twenties I want to an acne “specialist” who put me on it again, for a much longer time…. but this time it worked! I’ve been cured! However, I have to take something called “Flutaminde” for a few years to keep the Accutane going in my system. Maybe you can discuss this with your specialist? It’s such an amazing feeling that I hope you get to experience one day. Roaccutane is hard and uncomfortable. But for me the results were so worth it, especially if I can keep the results!

    • Hi Crisd
      Thank you so much for your comment! And I am glad to know you are cured! Although I had amazing results with Roaccutane and stayed acne free for more than 7 years I would never, ever touch that again. I just cannot bring myself to. Since having the last time, my skin became much more sensitive to light and my hair thinned substantially. I just cannot go through with it again.
      My current breakouts are nowhere close to the acne I experienced earlier in life. They are spots, no nasty boils. Psychologically though, they are a reminder of those days and how much pain I went through, and that is why the tiniest blemish makes me panic. My skin goes through phases, at the moment, is kinda ok, just some “time of the month” breakouts, but overall, ok!
      You, I am sure just like me, know too well how it is to battle with this thing, always on your face!
      Isn’t Flutamide to treat testicular cancer, primarily and also PCOS in women? It kinda makes sense so use for acne as is a hormone “control” drug! I will certainly ask! Did you take it immediately after the roaccutane treatment? Or is it a completely separate treatment post roaccutane? I will investigate! :)
      Thanks again for visiting and for your lovely comment!
      Dani xxx

  4. It is used to treat cancers which I thought was strange but it does work for post-accutane maintenance. I started on it almost immediately after finishing Roaccutane. I still have bumps here and 5 years later I’m no longer as diligent with the Flutamide so I fear a relapse often, but my hormones are also messed up. Personally as much as accutane sucked I would do it all again if I had to in order to keep the acne away because no physical pain or discomfort is worth the emotional pain of acne to me. My hair thinned, fell out, broke and changed for other reasons, and for me the acne was still worse. It sounds like you’ve more or less got it under control though so I hope it stays that way!

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