I’ll never forget the morning I woke up to discover that I had acne.
It was like a scene from a horror film. I went to bed with normal skin, to wake up in the morning to discover a newly-formed pizza face staring back at me in the mirror.
I was completely and utterly in shock.
At first I put my red-raw family of spots down to an allergic reaction. But this wasn’t a normal rash. These were spots I couldn’t even squeeze. This couldn’t be happening to me, surely?!
For all of my teenage years I never suffered with bad skin. I occasionally suffered eczema, which thankfully I easily managed with steroid creams whenever I had a flare up. So to be told by my doctor it was definitely acne and not an allergic reaction, wasn’t the nicest news to tell a newly-singleton and highly sensitive female.
You may think I’m being highly dramatic and yeah, you’re probably right. But for me, my skin was the organ I was most proud of. So what had I done to deserve this? My doctor put it down to stress and hormones – I was at uni doing exams, my parents had recently divorced and I had an abusive boyfriend (that’s another story). So yes, the doc had a point. Within minutes of being consulted and a little bit consoled, he prescribed me a month’s worth of antibiotics and was told I had to face the world until the antibodies kicked in. Of course facing the world back then was pulling my hair over my face and wearing huge sunglasses. I couldn’t stand looking at my own face, let alone having anybody else see me.
For two months, every day, I took my antibiotics religiously. The doctor promised that eventually the bacteria causing the acne would be killed off and my skin would go back to normal. But it never did.
Every morning I would obsess whenever I walked past a mirror to see if the antibodies had kicked in. I went to numerous beauticians, high-street dermatologists and herbal doctors to find an answer – a cure! No one had either. I went back to the doctor, this time angry. How dare he prescribe me something that doesn’t work? So he changed my contraceptive pill. To be fair the redness of the acne did reduce, but the rash-like spots didn’t. They kept growing, like a disease on my face. It was hideous.
For six months I lived with a face that I wasn’t used to. I don’t care if I sound vain. I understand there are worse things that can happen. I reminded myself that every single second of the day. But it was hard when children on the tube asked their mums, why I had a ‘monster’ growing on my face. Yeah, that wasn’t so nice! Each day I would google ‘acne cure’ and it was always the same shit on every beauty blog and health website: “Wash your face with cold water”, “Put lemon and honey on your face”. Of course none of these worked. Believe me I tried all of the myths and recommendations.
It got to the point where my confidence was on the floor. Nothing was going to cure my acne.
After a while I changed my doctor, as I just wasn’t happy with the advice he was giving me. Little did I know at the time, it was the best thing I did. My new doctor took one look at me and shared a secret with me that even she said, the NHS despise sharing with the public.
“You need to go on Roaccutane.”
What they hell is Roaccutane? Boy was I about to find out! I was referred to a dermatologist and two days later I was having blood tests, signing abortion forms and meeting with counsellors to see if I was depressed. Sounds a bit extreme but this is the process you have to take before using Roaccutane. It is definitely not a medication to be messed with, but it changed my life.
After six months of taking the horse-sized tablets every day; four times a day, my acne was eventually cured. My skin glowed – it was smooth and I didn’t have a single spot, not even a black head on my face. I was finally back to being my pouty old self.
So why was it that my original doctor didn’t prescribe the drug to me straight away? And why does the majority of the public not know of this cure?
Here are the reasons why….
How does Roaccutane work? Roaccutane works by suppressing the activity of the sebaceous glands in the skin. It reduces the amount of oil produced by these glands and reduces the size of the sebaceous glands and the inflammation that occurs with acne.
Why is the drug hardcore? So for six months I wasn’t allowed to wax any part of my skin and to not use any skin products. Every month I had to have blood tests, due to the the high levels of Vitamin A in the medicine. Vitamin A is highly poisonous and can severely damage your liver. Which means you also can’t drink whilst taking this drug. *Cries into her wine*
You also have to stay out of the sun because the medication makes your skin so sensitive and dry that you can burn easily. My god my skin was ridiculously dry! So dry, that my lips used to peel off in the same way a snake sheds its skin. Gross! I can’t highly recommend Blistex intensive moisturiser enough. This product was my hero whilst taking Roaccutane!
Before I was prescribed the medication I had to sign a form to say that if I fell pregnant during any time or six months after taking Roaccutane, I had to have an abortion. This is due to the birth defects that are caused by the drug. I also had to have extensive counselling sessions before using the medication so that my dermatologist could determine whether I was suffering from depression. This is because Roaccutane has been linked to heightening depressive behaviour and in some cases, has caused individuals to commit suicide. Thankfully I was never depressed before, nor after taking it.
So why are doctors reluctant to prescribe this drug? Roaccutane is expensive. It costs £80-£120 a month to buy your monthly dose. The majority of users will only need to take Roaccutane for six months, but in some cases it can take over a year for the acne to eventually cure. The NHS see acne as a vanity disease, other than life threatening. Which quite frankly is true. However the majority of doctors will only refer you to a dermatologist if they know that you can go privately. It is only in severe cases and when acne is truly affecting someone’s life, that they will refer a dermatologist on behalf of the NHS. But even this ‘free’ service can take up to a year until you can finally see a specialist. Doctors also do not like prescribing this medication due to all of its side effects.
What other things does the drug prevent you from doing? There are so many things that you can’t do whilst taking Roaccutane. For example you can’t take part in high intensity exercise and you can’t wear contact lenses. As well as this, you may find that you will suffer from achey joints, random skin rashes and nose bleeds.
My thoughts on the drug. You need to really consider whether this drug is for you. Not only is Roaccutane expensive, it’s dangerous. Your body goes through a traumatic process just to cure acne. Is it really worth it? Does your acne bother you that much? If it really is hard to live with, then go for it! I highly recommend Roaccutane, but only because I didn’t have that many side effects and because it worked wonders for my skin.
It annoys me that so many people are still scouring the internet looking for a cure, all because their doctor hasn’t suggested this solution. I’m sure of lot of people reading this will relate to me, or others will be thinking how vain I am to go through such measures to have perfect skin. Believe me, I know that acne isn’t the worst thing to have. I’d rather have a spotty face than not be able to walk or see. Having acne for over a year, actually put a lot of things in perspective for me. Before my acne-days I never appreciated my natural look and I would often cake my face in make-up to ‘mask’ the real me. I do blame the modelling industry for that! Today, it’s rare for me to wear make-up during the day and I’m proud to let people see who I really am. Warts ‘n’ all! It was a lesson that I needed to learn – to get over myself and to understand that beauty is in fact, skin deep.