Lay off Roaccutane: The miracle drug cured my acne and changed my life
But you’re not allowed to drink alcohol on it
I was lucky, I had never had bad skin as a teenager, and never worried about acne. As it turned out, I just had to wait. As luck would have it, the September I started uni, acne struck, right in the middle of freshers. I was 20 and gutted it happened in the middle of awkwardly meeting new flatmates, going out every night and bonding over cups of tea.
Life went on but I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t leave my room without wearing thick foundation (even though I hated wearing make-up, and plastering my face with heavy oily foundation made my skin even worse) and worrying about my skin was all I thought about all day. It took eight long months and two types of useless prescriptions until I was referred to hospital and prescribed the miracle drug Roaccutane (also known as “Isotretinoin”).
Roaccutane gets a pretty bad rep – it’s been linked to depression and twenty suicides in just two years – but for me, it changed my life. It felt like I’d got my hands on gold dust once I was finally on the way to getting clear skin again.
It wasn’t as if I went into it without knowing the risks. After being prescribed Roaccutane I had a dermatology appointment and consultation at a hospital where a doctor filled me in on all the facts and risks associated with the drug. It was embarrassing and a bit invasive – I had to sign a form promising not to get pregnant while on the drug as it can be seriously harmful to babies – but it was worth it. I was willing to sign any form they gave me.
The doctor also informed me the drug had been linked to, and could lead to depression. I was also told girls have to be on the pill to qualify for Roaccutane. I was glad they were so vigilant, but I also felt so bad about my skin I thought logically the only thing the drug could do would be to kick me out of a depression instead. I had to have blood tests, and then I started to take two glorious pills a day (upped to three afterwards).
The main criticism of Roaccutane is the the irregular and serious side effects, but I didn’t have any. I was a little sleepy at first but soon got over it. I had dry skin for a while too, but just sorted it out with plenty of moisturiser. Dry lips were the real problem. I’ve gone through endless lip balms and I’m trying to pass the Carmex always attached to my hand as a fashion accessory. But the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
The pressure on looking good became overwhelming before I was on Roaccutane. While I’m generally a confident, bubbly person, the problems I had with my skin this year couldn’t be defeated and seemed endless. I was unhappy, felt ugly and missed a number of socials because I was embarrassed and self-conscious. It felt like I was going through a stereotypical “difficult time in any teenager’s life” but I was 20, and sick of it. Roaccutane helped me get over it. It’s easy to say I shouldn’t have relied on the drug, but it’s impossible to attempt to pull your life together when you can’t even look at yourself in the mirror.
For me, Roaccutane was life-changing, but the drug can’t be taken lightly. It’s essential to make sure your family are aware and can monitor if your mood dips or changes as a result of the medicine. You’re also not allowed to expose your skin to sunlight – so the gals holiday to Ibiza you were planning suddenly becomes a fortnight of Factor 50 and lying in the shade.
Sunlight will darken your scars and aggravate the dryness so ditch the tan and have a clear face. And whether you’re in Ibiza or just on a dodgy night out in your hometown (speaking as a girl from Winchester where you’d be lucky to crawl from Alfie’s to Pitcher & Piano… do not go to Vodka) you really shouldn’t drink alcohol. It’s hard at first, but the drug is already such a strain on your liver it’s not worth adding to it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few beers every now and then or a glass of wine but I can’t go near Tequila or vodka or else I have to be carried home by my friends before Spoons has even shut.
But none of that is important. What’s important is I am now only eight weeks in to a 16 week course and I have no spots.
It’s not completely clear. There’s scarring but time heals all that. It’s difficult to explain the massive change Roaccutane has made to my life, or how happy I am. Now, my life is completely different. My skin doesn’t cross my mind. I even leave the house without make up every now. Rather than making me isolated and depressed, being on Roaccutane has made me realise my friends didn’t care what was on my face – or if they did, they hid it fantastically well.
If you have a problem with spots and it’s really getting you down, don’t deal with it yourself, and don’t be put off drugs like Roaccutane because you’re scared about the side effects. I’m looking forward to completing the medication – and being extremely arrogant about how smooth my face is – a luxury lucky, clear-skinned people take for granted.
Sign the pregnancy agreement, ditch the cake-like foundation, make sure you have good people around you for support and get out of your room. Acne doesn’t have to define you, and with help you can get back to the life, and face, you deserve.