Today’s post is about my recent venture with one very popular acne treatment: Accutane. This is a sensitive topic for me because it touches upon my BIGGEST insecurity, but it’s something I have wanted to share for a while. Now, before you all stop reading here because you’re shocked that someone as health conscious as me would use such a strong and potentially dangerous pharmaceutical, read on.
Yes, today’s post is a long one, but I’ve broken it down into two parts. Feel free to read both if you’d like to know my FULL acne/PCOS story, or just read whichever one is most pertinent to you.
PART I: My Past Struggles with Acne Leading Up to My PCOS Diagnosis
As you all know (hopefully), I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). In females (only), this condition essentially results in a hormonal imbalance and can cause multiple side effects varying in severity. One of these side effects is hormonal acne. Thankfully I don’t suffer from many of the PCOS symptoms and (other than the acne) the ones I do experience are mild and are suppressed thanks to my healthy lifestyle habits.
Now, I don’t want to make this post about my “acne story” but to make a long story short, I had beautiful youthful skin until I was in grade 7, so about 13 years old. I started to get a few pimples here and there like most people did at that age. I assumed like everyone else that it would clear up in a couple years and I would be out of the woods… Clearly, I was wrong.
As my healthy lifestyle habits started at a very young age, I didn’t understand why my skin was so bad for so long. I know my issues could have been much worse and it’s important to put your life in perspective, but if you’ve ever suffered from acne, you know how debilitating it can feel and how much of a toll it can take on your self-confidence. Anyway, I saw close to five different dermatologists, probably tried upwards of 10 topical treatments ranging from benzoyl peroxide to retin-A and still nothing worked.
In addition to my acne struggle, I also never developed a monthly cycle during my teen years. When I never got a period like all the other girls did in high school, I figured it was just a mild delay and I would eventually get one and everything would be fine. However, when I turned 18 and still had never gotten a period, I figured something was up. I saw a couple doctors and two endocrinologists who sent me for tons of blood work, ultrasounds and x-rays. It wasn’t until April of 2017 that I was finally diagnosed with PCOS, which would explain my hormonal acne. According to Chinese medicine principles, hormonal acne primarily displays around the lower third of the face around the jaw-line and cheeks, which is exactly where I have my acne issues, whereas the upper half of my face is perfectly clear.
The first suggestion to “solve” (I use this term lightly because PCOS cannot be cured only treated) both my PCOS and acne issues was the birth control pill. Although it did help my skin the most out of anything else I had ever tried, I truly felt like it had affected my mood and body in an undesirable way. I was on Alysena21 to begin with then took a break from the pill for a few months, of course my skin got much worse. I then tried Tri-Cylcen for a few weeks, until I decided I quickly decided that the pill was simply not for me and it was something that I personally did not see fit in my lifestyle.
Finally, after quitting the birth control pill for good, I decided to truly take charge of my PCOS and my skin. I’m currently following a bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT) plan in conjunction with herbal supplements. Hopefully by balancing my hormones my skin will clear up. However, restoring hormonal balance will take time and patience. Since I haven’t seen myself with clear skin in almost 7 years, I find myself getting frustrated and discouraged at times and remaining patient poses as a great challenge for me.
PART II: My Present Acne Struggles
Despite the proactive work my doctor has done for me, my greatest concern with my hormonal acne is the scarring that I risk experiencing should it not be treated promptly –hence the reason why my dermatologist found an urgent need to prescribe me Accutane…
My dermatologist wanted to prescribe me Accutane a few years ago, but being as health conscious as I am, I was very against this so called “miracle drug”. I had read and researched so many different stories and studies that made Accutane appear to be a dreadful chemical. To this day, it probably is in fact quite harmful, although I don’t know enough about the drug itself to state a valuable opinion.
Instead of freaking myself out about the drug itself and opting not to take it, I decided to go for it and give it a try. So many people have had success with Accutane and I longed for the days I could go about my daily activities makeup free. Some may think this decision of mine lacked research and thought but here is how I see it…
For years, acne has been my number one insecurity. It has made me feel down about myself for too long and it’s really all I see when I look in the mirror. It has discouraged me from participating in activities like swimming with my friends because I’m afraid to show my skin or going to the gym without makeup (which is so bad, especially when you sweat!). Naturally, I am a confident, positive and happy individual and I haven’t let my acne prevent me from living of course –that’s a tad dramatic, but I’ve also spent loads of money on various products from oils to makeup all because I want my skin to look nice and acne free. The thought of having clear skin is so exciting to me and I know that clearer skin will truly make me a lot happier. I’m not saying this to sound vain or shallow but most people take their clear skin for granted when I would have done anything to have just that.
Unfortunately, that “anything” is Accutane. I don’t like it no, but I’m also not embarrassed to say that I’m following this course of treatment. I like to think and hope that I’m an extremely healthy individual 90% of the time. Everything I do from what I eat to my exercise regimes are done with the best intention of having the healthiest body possible and I’m proud to say it. Nonetheless, I’m also proud to acknowledge my biggest insecurity (my acne) and recognize that I am not perfect when it comes to healthy living. If taking Accutane falls under the other 10% of my living that isn’t “healthy” then so be it. Sure, I could’ve probably waited a few more years and my acne would’ve cleared up but I might have been left with brutal scars and prolonged frustration. I do my best when it comes to living healthy but I’m also not willing to compromise my happiness any longer.
I guess the purpose of this post was to share my biggest insecurity with you and my little “acne story” but its primary role was to make one thing very clear: I practice what I preach when it comes to health and fitness and I believe that being happy is about doing your best to be the healthiest you can be with food and exercise but sometimes you won’t be doing “the best” you can and that is okay. We all must live life and be happy and being perfect is simply not an option, so for me, taking Accutane, which does not align with my way of living is my current imperfection. These imperfections will differ amongst everyone and will change over the course of your life. So, with that I put you up to the challenge of being perfectly imperfect and above all strive to be happy.
I hope this post has allowed you to get to know me a little better and can help you realize that everyone has “something” and whatever “it” is, is nothing to be ashamed of. Simply accept it and deal with it as best you can.
PS: Once I’m finished my Accutane treatment I will post a final update on how it has/hasn’t helped me with before/after pictures (let’s hope for the best!).
If you have any questions, comments or concerns please, please let me know!