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30 May 2013

Life On Roaccutane | Introduction & My Acne Story So Far

The point of this blog post is to tell you all that I have suffered from acne for a good 4 years (since I was 14). It started with pimples here and there, which I blamed purely on being a teenager, but more recently acne has been affecting my life more and more until the point which left me to consider dermatologist assisted treatment. I'm not a doctor or a dermatologist, I'm just a teenager who is battling acne and I thought I'd make this blog post to tell you about my journey and give you more information on the ultimate acne-killer for the majority of people, which is Roaccutane.

I first started with little breakouts, which I controlled with anti-acne cleansers such as Clean & Clear and Neutrogena etc. Alongside those, I would use over the counter treatments such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide which are popular acne treatments for mild acne cases. But after a while, these weren't enough to prevent more breakouts from occurring, so I made an appointment with my doctor and he prescribed me with stronger antibiotic topical treatments (Zineryt, Finacea, Isotrex, Zindaclin). So far so good, for a while, until my acne began to flare up all over my face again. Another appointment was made and I was given oral antibiotics too. I remember being on Erythromycin for 6 months and was then switched to Oxytetracycline for another 6 months. I can't remember exactly why these were changed, most likely they didn't help my skin at all. Then my doctor prescribed me with an antibiotic called Lymecycline, which I was on for around 16 months, and my skin cleared up completely! I was very happy, my skin was practically perfect, bar a few acne scars. 

Photo from an old acne post after lymecycline
My skin was amazing for a good 6 months after being on lymecycline. However, the breakouts slowly started coming back and I gradually went through all my stages again for 6 months until my acne was as bad as it ever had been! The doctor prescribed me with lymecycline again, thinking it would give me the same great results as before, I agreed and unfortunately my acne did not improve like last time. After 3 months on the antibiotics, I asked to be referred to a dermatologist. 

The NHS waiting list for a dermatologist can be up to 18 weeks. Two weeks after being referred, I went though a very miserable period of my life where I would just constantly cry and refuse to look in the mirror. Normally, makeup would cover the majority of my imperfections, but my acne was becoming more and more difficult to cover and I would just break down all the time. So, I decided to have private treatment, and I was seen the week after my GP sent a private referral.

I discussed my options with my dermatologist and he went through the 'step ladder' to treating acne, as I'd tried nearly everything under the sun already to treat acne, he recommended I discuss the treatment 'Roaccutane' with my parents. For those of you who aren't familiar with Roaccutane, it is a drug containing isotretinoin, a substance related to vitamin A, and part of a medicine group called retinoids. It is used to treat severe types of acne and for acne which has not responded to any other treatments, including antibiotics. It works by suppressing the activity by your oil glands, thus reducing the amount of oil produced, tackling acne.

Average treatment time is around 16 - 24 weeks, which was perfect for me since I don't start University until September, so fingers crossed my skin will be in better condition by then! Anyway, the most important thing about Roaccutane treatment is that you cannot be pregnant, be breastfeeding or planning to get pregnant as isotretinoin will harm an unborn baby and will increase the risk of miscarriage. Due to this, some dermatologists may ask girls for a pregnancy test beforehand and/or ask you to use two forms or contraception if you are sexually active. There are also lots of side effects that come along with the drug; common ones including headaches, dry skin, sensitivity to the sun, joint and muscle pains. And rarer side effects including depression, strange behaviour and hair loss. These are only a select few out of a what seems like a never ending list of side effects. The patient information leaflet will all the information about Roaccutane can be found here :

The drug can also alter liver enzymes and increase liver enzymes and cholesterol levels in the blood as well as other things, so monthly blood tests need to be taken. My white blood cell count was lower than normal before starting treatment, so I need to go back for another blood test in two weeks time so my dermatologist  can keep a close eye on it!

I started on Tuesday with 30mg a day for 4 weeks, then I'm seeing my dermatologist again so see how things are going! Below are photos of my skin the day before I started Roaccutane, I mainly suffer from breakouts on my cheeks and have a lot of redness and scarring from previous spots. My skin type is oily and I also suffer from blackheads around my nose, chin and the top of my forehead. I've got a lot of clogged pores on my chest area and red spots on my back! 

Right side of my face
Left side of my face

As far as my skincare routine on Roaccutane, my dermatologist recommended not to use any anti-acne products as the medication will make my skin more fragile and dry, and these kind of products will irritate my skin even more. At the moment, I'm using Cetaphil  Gentle Skin Cleanser as a wash every morning and night and Aveeno cream as a facial moisturiser in the morning and night too. I think I'll stick with my Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream just now, but I'm finding it a bit difficult to blend over the Aveeno cream at the moment. My skincare routine may change as I progress with my treatment, but I'll be sure to let you all know if it does.

I think I'll take photos of my skin and write about any side effects I experience weekly and merge each week into a monthly blog post about Roaccutane. If you have any questions about anything I've mentioned, please don't hesitate to comment below and I'll do my best to reply. I strongly advise you to talk to your doctor, dermatologist or even pharmacist about any questions about any concerns you have about acne. I spent a good month researching about roaccutane before starting treatment and advise you to do so too, if you're considering it. :)
Copyright @ Alix Staines.