Resorting To Accutane


I've been an ITG reader pretty much since the beginning, and while I'm in love with the idea of a simple routine (especially from reading about other people's products and stories here), I've had severe acne for most of my life. There was this huge disconnect for me between 'keeping it natural' with a simplified routine, and at the same time trying to cover all the spots on my face with heavy makeup. I've spent the last year trying to finally get my skin to a good place, and it's been a serious battle. Accutane is the only thing that's worked for me. I'm not a writer, but I wanted to share this story, mostly because Accutane has a terrible reputation (the side effects are severe—the drug has been fingered as the cause of several instances of suicide). For people like me, the options are to either deal with the acne and use tons of makeup to cover its marks, or take this drug and hope that nothing bad will happen.

—Lauryn Goldberg

I've had acne for 12 years, which pretty much makes me an expert. It started out gradually when I was 13, and by the time I was 17, I was taking Accutane and wearing as much foundation, concealer, and powder as I could to cover the painful (physically, emotionally) bumps on my face. Everyone said what was happening was normal, but nothing my dermatologist prescribed worked. Years went by with very little change. I started to believe that I would never have great skin and decided that no one should ever see me without makeup.

Accutane was the last resort, but it is also the only thing that worked. I didn't see results until month four, and continued to take it for the full six-month time frame until I saw completely blemish-free skin. I battled the extremely drying side-effects by investing in night cream and staying inside to avoid the sun. By prom time my senior year, my skin looked great. I remember being so excited about doing a smoky eye—when you have acne, makeup is not about enhancing your features, it's about getting your face to a neutral place. A clear, skin-colored, matte place. You focus on covering the blemishes, and not attracting too much attention to what lies beneath. I was so stoked about not having to worry about my skin for once so that I could focus on something else.

I had the occasional breakout during my college years, but by my third year, my acne had gone from the occasional spot to so severe that I found myself again wearing loads of makeup to cover it all up. Somehow, I was back at square one.

Before, I rushed to the dermatologist demanding pills and creams, but at this point I wanted to try a more natural approach. I threw all of my old products out and worked on simplifying my routine with gentle cleansers, organic makeup, and skin masks. I saw some slight improvement, but not enough. I came to understand that when you have adult acne, people look at your skin and assume that you have skin problems because you're 'doing something wrong.' For most people struggling with acne, it's much bigger than having the right cleanser or how often you get facials. Hormones, stress, and genetics all play a role and it takes a lot of trial and error to find a successful fix.

Around the time of my 23rd birthday, I had this realization that I had been struggling with acne for 10 years, and worries about my skin were weighing on me every day. Each morning I would inhale deeply, preparing myself to look in the mirror. And after initial inspection, I'd strategize about how to cover and conceal what was happening on my face. It was not just acne; I'd had pimples for so long that my skin was starting to scar on my cheeks. It didn't make sense that I was using tons of makeup to cover all the pimples on my face, while trying to be 'good' to my skin with a minimal-as-possible skincare routine. So I had circled back to that last-resort point. I didn't want to wear makeup anymore, I wanted clear skin.

I lobbied hard for Accutane from my dermatologist. We had a lengthy discussion about how Accutane had changed from when I took it eight years prior. First off, it's no longer called Accutane; what I took is called Absorica. Absorica and Accutane are essentially the same drug, with a minor change. Previously, taking Accutane meant having to consume a large number of calories for the drug to work properly. However, the new-and-improved drug absorbs into your system regardless of how much you eat (hence the name). There were still the required blood work, as with Accutane; along with birth control; monthly visits to my dermatologists documenting my process; and online quizzes (about my mental health and sexual activity). It was a lot to consider. Accutane gets a bad rap, so while I'd tried it before, I was still apprehensive to go another round with the new drug. Side effects include all the fun stuff: depressed mood, blurred vision, joint pain, severe blistering, and rectal bleeding. And that's the short list.

I was on Absorica for five months. The side effects that I'd experienced at 17 with Accutane were manageable, but this time around, they were quite bothersome. I invested heavily in Vaseline and Chapstick, because my lips became dry and cracked within moments of not having a protective layer of moisture. I started using Lancôme Bienfait Multi-Vital Night cream on my face during the day, and by the fourth month, I was putting straight Vaseline on my skin as a nighttime moisturizer—sexy, right? Even with all of this moisture, I constantly had a dry white line around my mouth.

The skin on the rest of my body required a twice-daily coat of Eucerin Intensive Repair Very Dry Skin Lotion to avoid feeling itchy and dry. Absorica made my skin paper-thin, meaning the tiniest impact would cut or scrape my arms, hands, and legs. And then scab over. Fabrics that never bothered me before were suddenly unbearable against my super-sensitive skin.

I took Absorica during the summer, so I couldn't stay outside very long as the risk of sunburn is high and can be damaging. I loaded up on SPF 100 sunblock when I did venture out, and even spent a week in the Caribbean wearing a long-sleeve rash guard with my bikini, complete with baseball hat and SPF lip balm.

When I went to see my dermatologist after the second month, his first comment was that my makeup looked bad and recommended that I switch to liquid foundation. That afternoon, I picked up some Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation, which worked much better. I stuck with Touche Éclat to cover my acne scars.

Around the third month, I quickly noticed my face transform from a red, blotchy mess to smooth and pimple-free (even if it was extremely dry). Instead of mentally preparing myself for what I was going to see in the mirror each morning, I was racing to get a peek. My face!—I had not seen my skin so clear in years. I was suddenly thinking, 'Maybe I should grow out my eyebrows?!' and considering blush and bronzer possibilities.

After those five months, I'd had enough of the side effects. My complexion had improved drastically, and I was ready to be done. My dermatologist shook my hand and told me that I'd done a great job, and he was proud of me. I teared up when he said that.

I've been off Absorica for six months now, and I wear considerably less makeup than before. Sometimes I spend whole weekends without it. But what's really strange about this entire experience is that most people haven't noticed a difference. A friend of mine recently said to me that she always sees me the same—that once people have an image of you, it kind of sticks. I have to wait six months to go through any laser treatments to remove the scars on my cheeks. Right after I finished Absorica, I was running the laser idea by my dad and he told me, "You know, you don't have to remove every small spot on your body." He's right. Some scars might still fade, or maybe I'll laser them off, but what's important for me is to appreciate how far my skin has come and the hurdles I jumped over to get to this point. I won't take clear—or mostly clear—skin for granted.

—Lauryn Goldberg

Lauryn is a producer and art director based in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Twitter @lauryngoldberg. Photos by Noa Griffel.

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  • Chasey

    Thanks for including insight regarding the "un-glam" side of beauty. Acne is never fun at any age. I'm 24 and still currently working on it!

  • MK

    Thanks for the article. Acutane does get a bad rap, but when you're a shy teenager in severe need of self-confidence (as I was), clear skin can make a world of difference. I was on it for about a year when I was 17, and it worked wonders--I stopped needing concealer and foundation altogether! I went off of it when I went to college--mostly because those monthly blood tests were so annoying--and while my skin was never perfect again, it had drastically improved. Today I still use prescription topical medicine for my skin--it's not a miracle cure but it beats having to punch through an image of a deformed fetus every time you take a pill. Still waiting for the day my skin clears up completely ... maybe by my mid-thirties?

  • Cara

    You are so brave and having had severe cystic acne before, I understand the pain that you went through - it's really a mentally scarring ordeal. All the best with your skin x

  • spen

    i have been waiting for an article like this for the longest time. by the end of this article i was going "yes! yes! yes!" because your struggle with acne is almost the same as mine. it's frustrating when acne strikes back with vengeance when you thought you had sent it back to remission. thankfully i have found a skincare routine that works and doesn't require oral medications.

  • Putri

    This is perfect. This post just came in perfect time because I was just debating about going on Accutane, now after I read this, I'm 100% sure I'll take it.

  • Caroline

    Bravo Lauryn-refreshing to see this side of the story published. I was put on Roaccutane (UK) after a decade of acne (face, back and chest....the boys did not flock to the teenage me).
    I respect my doctors reticence to prescribe it (it is strong and dangerous drug) but almost cried when I bumped into a dermatologist in a hospital corridor, who told me I should have been to see her years before.
    It is no an easy fix or miracle cure, and the side effects are more extreme than you can imagine (exhaustion, extreme dry skin, premature aging, lots of blood tests etc etc) but it gave me the leg up my body desperately needed.
    Use with caution and care and keep your fingers crossed.

  • Anna

    Totally what I meant above in my epic comment - all that "you're doing it wrong" is so damaging, even if it's meant well! I'm so glad your results have been so positive.

  • Heather P.

    From one adult acne sufferer to another, well said! I was on Accutane as a teenager, but didn't last long because of the side effects. My whole body would break out into a deep red rash, completely at random, so I was sent home from school more than once for it. Not fun!

    I'm glad to hear you're still fighting the good fight. :-)

  • Michelle

    This was an awesome contribution from Lauryn-- thank you so much! My adult acne is persistent, but not severe-- just bad enough that I spend a totally unreasonable time obsessing about my skin and dreaming about what it would be like not to do a blemish count first thing in the morning. It's always a strange relief to remember that there are lots of us out there.
    Have any adult acne sufferers tried spironolactone? I am thinking of asking my doctor about it.

    • Prenouveau

      Yes! Just posted about this below. Spironolactone for me was better suited to my hormonal cystic acne than Accutane was. I'm now on a low dose of 25mg/day (started at 100) and I never have a cyst as long as I'm on it. I've experienced no side effects from it. You do need to be on birth control if you take Spironolactone, though I think it helps increase the effectiveness.

  • Molly

    I'm on week 3 of Accutane now, and I have nothing but positive things to say about it. I've been lucky so far not to have any side effects except for extremely dry skin. Aquaphor is my best friend now! But already I have about have the pimples I had when I started. Can't wait till my skin is finally clear. I'm 29 and have struggled with acne since I was 13.

    • Millie Angelova

      Hey @Molly, I see you started taking accutane recently and you bare about my age. I am literally scared of the pill and have been reading about people's success stories forever to make up my mind. Just wanted to ask whether you got through with the treatment and how you are feeling with side effects and all? Did it work so far?

      • Molly

        Hey Millie. I'm still on the accutane, in the middle of month 5 now. My skin has been getting better each month. I had a bad breakout last month when my dosage was raised but it's all clear now. The side effects for me haven't been too bad. Super dry skin, some muscle pain, red and dry eyes and a bit of hair thinning (not noticeable to anyone but me, just more shedding when i'm washing my hair etc). But to me the side effects have been worth it. For the first time in forever last week I started being able to leave the house without foundation on which felt amazing. Happy to answer any questions! Good luck with your decision.

        • Millie Angelova

          Hey Molly, thank you for the quick reply :) I am really happy for you, I hope that soon the acne will be just a bad memory for you :) I am more concerned about any long term side effects that the drug might or might not have, I guess I will have to read some more about it. But I have the feeling that at the end I might decide that it is worth taking it. Thanks again and good luck!

  • Emma and Emily

    Such a well written piece! So interesting to see how acne affects different people. I had a lot of under the skin spots for about 3 years, which have gone away with age. Now I am left with the occasional hormonal break out.
    So glad that you've got through your acne yet again!

  • anonymous

    Really great post. I applaud your dedication to your skin - while your dad is right and you'd be going overboard if you chased down every mark on your face and body, we live with our complexion the rest of our lives and some degree of dedication is very smart. I wonder if a course of old-school antibiotics in between your courses of Accutane/Absorica would help keep the acne at bay? Might be worth asking your dermatologist. And we should always be making a mad dash to the dermatologist any time we have concerns about our skin! Even if we have to shop around to find one who is dedicated to our fight!

  • thebloginista

    Hi Lauryn! I, too, have suffered from acne for the past 5 years and nothing I've tried has been a permanent solution. I've been on oral medication from the derm (Doxycycline), Rx topicals (AcZone), gone in for cortisone shots on my face when my terribly painful cystic pimples just refused to go away, etc. I feel your pain, both mentally and physically. My derm has recommended Accutane as a "last resort" option for me but I have been hesitant to even consider it because of the side effects. Your story is very encouraging, however, and I'm so glad you've had such great results and feel better about yourself.

    Also, I couldn't agree with you more about how frustrating it can be to read beauty tips about keeping your skin looking "natural" with minimal makeup when it seems like they are only geared towards women with perfect (or nearly perfect) skin.

    I'm sure my acne issues aren't nearly as bad as some other's, but it all comes down to what you feel when you look in the mirror. I wish there was a less harsh solution than Accutane which offered similar results in terms of clearing up the skin, but it's good to know it's out there and an option.

    Thanks for sharing your story. xo

  • Danielle

    Thanks for this, I have suffered the same for years and now being 29 my skin is slightly getting better. When I was 13-25 no doctor gold me about diet changes as that wasn't really the thing then. I cut out dairy and gluten and that has helped significantly for me.

    Well done and good luck to you

  • Jessica

    I took Accutane (generic, Claravis) when I turned 30 and still I had bad acne. I took it for my persistent back and arm acne, which was bad stuff, as well as the acne on my face and neck.

    I had not worn a sleeveless shirt since I was 18. The acne would crawl down my shoulders to my arms, so I always hid my bad skin. I don't I went swimming more than twice in all that time: I didn't want to wear a bathing suit that would show all of my body acne.

    Finally I'd had enough. I went on Accutane.


    After, I still have dry skin and lips, and it's still worth it to me. Absolutely. A bit came back, but if I leave it alone and don't touch it or pick at it, it goes away and I'm fine.

    I can now wear swim suits, tank tops, sleeveless dresses, the whole deal. It is so much better. It has changed my life, it really has.

    I agree with the "you don't have to get rid of every little blemish" idea, though. It's nice to be less than perfect, I think. I have a droopy jaw line, and I always thought that if I ever had the money, I'd have my droopy chin and throat skin snipped and shaped so I'd have a clean, crisp jawline. But do I want to look perfect? Is having a droopy throat that bad? I kinda like it, honestly. It's CHARACTER. I like character. I like it a lot.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It was good to read.

  • Gigi

    I too have struggled with severe acne due to extremely over productive sebaceous glands. I have been on and off accutane since the age of 17 and zero side effects except maybe a minor dry lip. People always tell me I have the most beautiful, clear skin and when they ask me my regime I feel like a fraud mentioning every product without praising accutane. It changed my life in many ways and gave me much needed confidence. I eat raw and plant based, drink at least a gallon of water a day, exercise every day for at least 1 1/2, dry brush, salt bath, oil pull, and have practiced the healthiest of lifestyles for years now, but when it comes down to it, its all about genetics. Whenever I hear people talk down on accutane it frustrates me because it can be a miracle worker and it shouldn't be something everyone feels the need to shun. Its 2014 and Drs know much more about it now then in the past, so a good Derm who cares about your inner well being and checks your blood work in depth to prevent negative side effects is the priority when taking it! That is all :)

  • Eva W.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I had debilitating acne in high school and into college. It was extremely painful and disfiguring. It also completely took over my life - I couldn't let anyone see me without makeup - my self-consciousness was debilitating. I couldn't focus at all on my self-development in the first half of college because of my acne. Then came Accutane. Accutane is a MIRACLE DRUG. It SAVES lives. After six months of Accutane, with mild side-effects, my skin cleared and I got internships, studied abroad, and felt confident dating. I think it would be great if ITG could provide more support, or stories, about the emotional side of aesthetic issues, like this piece lightly touched on.

  • IchBinOlga

    This is the best text I have read so far on any beauty website. Very touching, especially that I struggle with "allergy acne", which is totally not my fault, yet people oftentimes look at me like I did something wrong and this is my punishment for being lazy or foodie-greedy.

    Still, Lauryn, for a person struggling with acne, you use some heavy stuff. I usually stick to Mandel Oil (Weleda), Vichy Dermablend foundation, Sebamed Clean Face, Mario Badescu, Babydream (Rossmann) and Lierac Prescription. I study ingredients religiously and I would never think of using Lancome or Touche Eclat. Too much chemistry.

    I deeply recommend Sebamed - they literally changed my life (the series 'Clean Face' works wonders). Also - Lierac Prescription (little bottle for acne) is a life-saver and doesn't ruin your budget.

    Best wishes!

  • Susan

    I took Accutane in the late 80's before all the micro-management. At that time the dose was based on your weight. I didn't have to eat any more or less than usual. The side effects were dry lips, occasional nose bleeds and sometime aching joints. It worked wonders for me. In the years since I have been able to control my, now, very mild acne with topicals.

    My son took Accutane twice even though he is Bipolar. He was monitored carefully for any adverse emotional effects. He had none. He had dry lips and skin and that was about it. The second episode cured his acne.

    My then-husband started Accutane but was never consistent and never took it for the full course. He is in his 50s and still battles acne.

  • circafashion

    Good Luck lauryn. My struggle with adult acne doesnt compare to yours but I totally understand. Thanks for sharing.

  • Liz

    Thank you Lauryn and ITG for posting this. I emailed ITG last week to ask for an article about accutane and I can't believe there was such an immediate response!

  • Alex

    Wow, how refreshing. I was also a acne sufferer during my teenage years. My acne led me to little self esteem and self loathing. I felt horrible about myself, and can remember begging my Mom to let me stay home from school when things were really bad. I tried everything and anything. Finally my dermatologist agreed it was time to try Accutane. It was a miracle for me. Even with all its side effects and warnings with monitoring from physician this drug can be safe and incredibly effective. It changed my life for the better, and I would beg those who differ in opinion to consider the effects that acne can have on its sufferers. Depression, low self esteem, etc - could these be as bad as the side effects Accutane may cause?

  • kls

    accutane is the only thing that worked for me too! products are nice but ultimately they never gave me clear skin, just minor improvements. been off accutane for almost a year and now only get the occasional pimple/white head!

  • In Rod We Trust

    really happy to hear this point of view, but as a former accutane user, i would just like to emphasize that the side effects really can be as extreme as they say. i had to stop my accutane regime early, when i almost drove my car into a tree after having some serious and unprecedented suicidal ideations.

    also, beyond the psychological side effects, there has been some clinical evidence emerging in the past few years that links accutane to digestive disorders like ulcerative colitis. as someone who is now plagued with the most hair-trigger digestive tract of all time, i can't help but wonder if accutane wasn't the cause.

    accutane was the only thing that really and truly gave me real results in my struggle with acne, and my skin has (luckily) remained pretty clear almost 10 years later. that said, in my case the trade offs were substantial, and not ones i'm confident i would have been willing to accept had i known i would experience them.

    • grejo982

      I can relate to this, I took Accutane and although it worked wonders for my skin, I am now battling some digestive disorders, possibly Crohn's disease. It plays on my mind sometimes that Accutane may have been the cause as I was previously very healthy.

      • dani

        were you on a higher dosage? My derm wants me on it but I'm afraid of this happening.

  • Prenouveau

    Thanks for your post, great to read about experiences with adult acne. I also took Accutane in my 20s but since my cystic acne was hormonal it just returned when I was done with the course--just wanted to give a shout out to Spironolactone for anyone who has cystic acne specifically in the chin area. For me it's been like a miracle drug, and I'm now on a very low maintenance dose and will probably stay on it as long as I can!

  • GreyEraVintage

    very brave of you lauryn for sharing your story!

  • Ro

    I too had horrible acne. I looked for every possible alternative to Accutane and basically gave up. The day before I was supposed to start Accutane my friend told me about an eastern medicine doctor who prescribed tea and acupuncture and it had worked wonders on her years before.

    I was skeptical but still wanted to avoid using Accutane so I decided to go to the Eastern medicine doctor. When my friend had mentioned the "tea" she didnt mention that he would literally be making me large bags of twigs and bushes and sticks (and god knows what else) that I had to stew every day into a thick broth and drink twice a day. It literally tasted like i had boiled a dead animal and most of it's habitat. I did this every day for about two months.

    Two years later I am still acne free. Yes I still get pimples occasionally but its nothing like the crazy red cystic I had covering my two face years ago.

    I'm not saying dont try Accutane, because it clearly works WONDERS for lots of people - but if you're still looking for an alternative solution, give eastern medicine a shot. It wasnt something I grew up knowing about but am very happy to have found what felt like a natural solution to my acne problem.

    • Dana

      It bears replying that whatever is in "eastern medicine" that is medically effective is still pharmacological. It's just less purified. Very pleased to hear your treatment was successful, but these sort of approaches are not any more natural - they just haven't been refined or tested through drug development or FDA verification. Therefore, they have as many chances for side effects as a pharmaceutical agent - if not more, for lack of purification of the active ingredient. Finally, lots of Westernized pharmaceutical products are based on Eastern or other traditional herbal medicine that HAVE gone through the refinement process to isolate the active ingredients and remove potentially harmful ones.

    • Elso

      OH My GOSh I laughed so hard at your story. AHAHAHHA Im asian and I have had experience drinking that Awful herbal black stuff when I was younger but I think I might just go back to it for my acne too. Accutane is really last resort for me too.

      • dani

        what's the stuff? accutane scares me.

  • Rachael

    So glad that the issue of acne is being addressed here. I've suffered on an off for over 10 years ..I went on Accutane when I was about 16 and it cleared my skin up beautifully but like you Lauren it didn't last. A few years later I had horrible skin...admittedly not as bad as it had been before but this time round I tried light therapy and a blue light laser therapy, neither of which had any profound effect. After years of suffering it gradually got better for some unknown reason but it's still not as good as I would like.

    Iooking back my skin has fully controlled and taken over my teenage and young adult life and I'm fed up with waking up, dreading looking in the mirror every morning wondering what has reared it's ugly head over night and then spending ages covering it all up. I feel like I've spent too much of my time on my skin and worrying about it.

    Out of interest what foundation were you using before the tarte liquid one?

  • Mademoiselle nature

    Interesting story. Thanks for sharing it :-).

  • Laura

    It's super interesting to read an American's perspective with this drug. I'm from Korea and I've struggled with minor acne throughout my teen years. (I'm 18 now and still have some spurts of acne breakouts). In Korea, obtaining the drug from your deem is easy as 123… Seriously! You go in and tell them you want clear skin and they'll prescribe it right away.

    Accutane has only done positive things to me. It really works and the amazing thing about it is that it's to th point where you feel SO confident with yourself. I even had people coming up to me telling me that my skin is glowing. Seriously, accutane is a wonder drug.

  • Keirele

    I wish I had never taken Accutane. It cleared my skin but triggered an autoimmune disease. I'll be on $400-a-month meds for the rest of my life to manage it. Please, have a serious talk with your family doctor first to determine whether your genetics and health history put you at risk.

  • Kurohana

    my brother had severe acne too and ended up taking accutane i'm glad he did because he is a much happier and more joyful person to be around.

  • vvn

    I feel like I can relate to Lauryn. Though I did not have acne as a teenager, I got it as an adult. And like Lauryn, I felt very self conscious about it as an adult. It's pretty much expected that teenagers will have acne but I think the attitude about adult acne is different. Whether it was true or not, I felt that people thought of me differently because I was an adult with acne. I worried that others wouldn't take me seriously, or were judging me or what they thought my habits were.
    Ultimately, Accutane is what saved my skin too. I took it for about 6 months and dealt with the harsh dryness. The worst for me was joint and lower back pain. I was told that Accutane dries out the fluids in your body, including the joint fluid, which was causing my pain. Before starting, I spoke at length with an acquaintance who had taken it and that was reassuring to me. Also, I was able to discuss all of my concerns about the side effects of the drug with my dermatologist. There is also some unproved speculation that Accutane can cause depression. However, as my dermatologist pointed out to me as well, people with acne usually feel sad to some degree to begin with because of their acne. I know I lacked self esteem when I was struggling with adult acne.
    I don't think my experience with Accutane was terrible and I am very happy with the results. Even though I still get some breakouts, my skin and self confidence are much better off now. Now I am on a basic retinoid regime to control my occasional breakouts.
    I treat the scars and hyperpigmentation that resulted from my acne with Clarins Vital Light serum. It has worked great and faded even the more stubborn spots that did not respond to other products I tried. After taking Accutane, friends and even strangers have remarked how great my skin looks now. And that makes me feel great too :) It can seem very superficial to outsiders that someone would take a drug with possibly some extreme side effects, but acne has such a strong psychological effect that is difficult to understand unless one experiences it too.

  • queen

    Hi! I can really relate to this. I have super nice skin but I suffer from androgenetic alopecia since age 13. The alopecia shaming is almost the same as the one for acne sufferers (put Aloe Vera! stop coloring your hair! hell *no*) and I have to use three different products just to have a head of thin, strangly hair. Congrats for this and wish you the best.

    • murt

      Me too - I also started losing my hair when I was 13... I can definitely relate to that feeling of waking up everyday and being weighed down by worries about one part of my appearance (my hair).

      Great article.

  • Michelle

    I just started it too! It was a big decision, but my skin has never been so smooth and I feel great!

  • Sunday

    I took accutane two years ago and it works great!! I only get an occasional zit now. I would definitely only take it as a last resort though, even though it have been off it for two years I still feel like side effect: dry eyes (vision more blurry), chapped lips, dry hair and Angular cheilitis.

  • cat butt

    Thank you for writing about this. I went through the same thing, and even now, a decade post-Accutane, I still have nightmares that my cystic acne is back. I wake up panicked and immediately run my fingertips over my cheeks. (Scarred, yes, but otherwise smooth as silk:) I've found that people who've never experienced severe acne really and truly cannot understand how painful it can be, and how damaging to our self esteem, even years later. Anyway, I am still in love with touching my face and feeling nothing but soft skin. If the acne ever came back, or if my future children should show signs of it, I would immediately go to my dermatologist and ask for Accutane/Absorica. It saved my face.

  • A Karina Zatarain

    All through my teen years, I had perfect skin. I remember looking at my friends and little sister who suffered from mild to serious acne and thinking it just wasn't a card I'd been dealt- something I'd never have to battle with. Foundation didn't exist for me back then, and concealer was only for my very dark undereye circles (a card I was definitely dealt). It wasn't until I turned 20 that I got one zit on my right cheek. I didn't think much of it, and when it faded, a new one popped up right next to it. After that one was gone, a new one surfaced next to it as well, and another after that. It got to a point where I had the remaining red spots and one fresh zit at any given time, all on my right cheek while the rest of my skin remained smooth.

    Frustrated, I went to a dermatologist who after 5 minutes of listening to me whine, looked at my cheek with a magnifying glass for maybe 4 seconds, and gave me a bag with about 8 different (extremely harsh and expensive) products to pay at reception. Along with an acid peeling cream that made me literally cry from the pain a month later, he gave me Trevissage, the mexican equivalent of Accutane. This was for one zit and 5 red spots. He advised that I not have unprotected sex or alcoholic beverages while on the drug, and sent me off. Needless to say, a month later, my lips were so chapped I couldn't smile without them bleeding spontaneously, and my skin was much worse. I started breaking out more, on both cheeks, chin and forehead. It wasn't anything too serious but I couldn't even look in the mirror for too long without having an anxiety attack. I quit using all of the products he gave me and bought Dr. Murad's Blemish Control cleanser, and in literally 3 days all the pimples on my face were dry. 2 weeks later my skin was smooth and all I was left with were the red spots of former blemishes. After about 4 months of using Kiehl's Blemish Control Daily Skin Clearing Treatment they were practically unnoticeable.

    When I finished my Dr. Murad cleanser, I bought Philosophy's Purity, and my blemishes came back within 2 months, all on my right cheek once again. I insisted on the new cleanser mostly because the packaging looked better on my counter, but after the acne came back worse and worse I bought the Murad cleanser once again, and in 3 days, same result. I guess you just have to find something that works for you and stick to it as long as you're getting results. Obsessing over my skin is a newfound hobby of mine and probably the reason I now read Into The Gloss religiously. It's so tempting to go out and buy everything you read about, but I've learned to control this very expensive habit because really, the more you tamper with your routine, the more sensitive your skin becomes. After a year of experimenting I'm back to what saved my skin in the first place- the Murad cleanser, La Roche Posay thermal water, Kiehl's Ultra Facial Toner, Daily Skin Clearing Treatment and Ultra Facial Moisturizer and a whole bunch of sunblock. Once a week I do Fresh's exfoliating mask mostly because it smells like heaven.

    Oh! And I tried the Clarisonic and nothing has made me break out more in my entire life. Goes to show you everyone's face is different.

  • grejo982

    I was prescribed Accutane about three years ago and I researched it heavily before giving it a go. It certainly gets a lot of negative press and the documented side effects are certainly troubling, particularly the cases of depression and suicidal ideation (interestingly, my GP is a big fan of Accutane and is of the opinion that people who need Accutane often have low self-esteem and depressive tendencies anyway, hence the higher prevalence of these illnesses in patients). After much internal (and external - everyone had an opinion!) debate, I tried it. I can honestly say it changed my life. Previously I was stressed and embarrassed about my skin, and Accutane cleared it, and had kept it clear since. I suppose if you are considering it, the real issue is how detrimental having bad skin is to your emotional health and general wellbeing. For me, the benefits outweighed the (potential) negatives. After only two months, my confidence soared and I am, to this day much happier waking up in the morning, not frightened to look in the mirror anymore. I am lucky because I suffered no negative side effects, apart from slightly dry lips and nose. However, I am now battling with late-onset bowel disease (glamorous) and I can't help but wonder if Accutane was the cause. That being said, if I had the chance, I wouldn't change my decision to take it.

  • beeswaxnoneofyour

    I opted not to use Accutane because in the past with things like bc pills I've been prone to side effects, in spite of suffering from adult acne for years (painful, temporarily feature deforming cysts). After a long discussion with my dermatologist, I opted for the topical version of Accutane (Isotrex in the UK, as it is topical does not have the side effects associated with taking it internally) which actually fixed things 90% and took down the oiliness to a 'human' level (manageable!). While I still get the odd hormonal spots, I can live with this level of management and have not had cysts since. Interesting note, my dermatologist said that the problem he saw most with Accutane (bar obviously monitoring the patient for side effects), was addiction. Not in the conventional sense, but people who had excellent results on a first round, but had the acne come back and were so - well, devastated at not having that skin that they would do anything for a second course (which he said he was not in favour of considering how powerful it was taken internally). So I echo (still as someone with acne flareups and some scarring) the writer's father's sentiments - you don't have to fix every single thing. Sometimes realistic manageability is a really healthy place to be! Great article.

  • Cassie

    I used Accutane back in 2007,after trying EVERYTHING to make my acne go away.And by everything i mean everything!from homeopathy,to taking antibiotics for a year, to chemical peels and thats just the tip of the iceberg! I was scared of taking Accutane cause of the side effects, but during a particularly bad breakout a random girl came up to me and told me to just do it.I did it, and honestly it was the best decision of my life.& years later i do get a pimple here and there but i can treat them with drugstore acne creams and they dissapear overnight.I wish hadnt spent my 20's feeling ugly and constantly terrified of when i'd get the next break out! I so feel for you!

  • EmmaP

    Lauryn, I also took Accutane when I was a teenager. People usually talk about Accutane without knowing anything about it. Everyone says it's terrible, everyone advice you to not take it. But the truth is that none of those people has even tried it. My personal experience with Accutane was amazing. I had terrible acne when I was 16 to 19. I kept going to the dermatologist, buying useless medication and products that were only doing worse to my skin. After trying all the treatments, my dermatologist suggested to try Accutane. I didn't want to try it because everyone was always saying scary things about it. But I am glad I did. It changed my life completely. For sure the process is a pain in the ass. And it can be pretty hard sometimes. In my case, I had to take Accutane for 10 MONTHS. I was always tired, my lips always cracking (I had lip balm on 24 hours a day). My body skin was extremely dry and I had eczema all over my body. My eyes were also dry and sometimes I couldn't breath well if I was doing a bit of exercise (going upstairs in the metro). But after all, I couldn't be happier with the results. Now I am 23 and my skin is always clear. The truth is that after a year of taking Accutane, my acne came back. Apparently this is common in girls (in guys Accutane is always 100% effective). I considered taking it again but I decided to look for other treatments this time because it can be pretty hard on your liver. Anyways, after finding a good dermatologist, I decided to have chemical peels. I had 3 of them, and they not only helped me with the remaining acne, but also with the scars. Now my skin is way better. I still have maybe 5 or 6 pimples a year, but nothing compared to what it used to be. My only problem now is that I have a lot of scars and they won't go away unless I have resurfacing laser, which is pretty expensive and scary. Has someone here tried it?

  • Natalia Zurowski

    Congratulations on your journey with Accutane Lauryn. I also suffered with mild acne for about 8 years and finally bit the bullet and went on Accutane. I even went on a second course! But like you said, it's the only thing that worked. I hated my skin so much before that I wouldn't even wish acne on my worse enemy. But now with Accutane, it's completely transformed. Your skin is glowing and you look beautiful! Every bit of flakiness was worth it :) From one acne sufferer to another, thank you for sharing your story.

  • MissDoll

    Thank you Lauryn for sharing your story. Often we hear women telling us that they don't use much products or even go out without make-up. For me this is unimaginable because I also suffer from acne and I'm just not brave enough to face the world without a mask of foundation. i find your story very inspirational and beautiful so thank you for sharing.
    P.S. You look absolutely amazing on first photo

  • Katie

    Love this article (and you're a great writer by the way)! I had a similar experience with severe acne through my teens and 20s. I finally went on Accutane about 6 years ago and it did wonders for my skin (and my hair which was always super oily). I feel like I should do an "It Gets Better" video for acne because after having a severe episode after moving from NYC to LA, at 30 years old I started I stopped the medication and started to get facials every 6 months and my aesthetician finally recommended a Dermalogica combination that has been the magic formula. I don't even remember the last time I had cystic acne and I go without foundation most days. I'm all for being natural, but sometimes it's beneficial to just give it up for modern medicine! One shocker for me about the medicine was when I went for my final dermatologist visit and she asked if I was excited to start drinking again.. I thought I'd researched and read all of the materials they give you, but somehow I didn't know I wasn't supposed to be drinking while on the drug. Without knowing why, I had gotten really worried because I didn't have the tolerance that I was used to. Little did I know, it was because my body wasn't able to digest the alcohol due to the drug. Just be warned and make sure you read everything!

  • DY

    Thanks for sharing! I dealt with severe acne for four years and was terrified to try Accutane, but eventually it was the right decision for me too. There are so many horror stories out there, I'm glad to see this one with a happy ending (mine ended happily too).

    And thanks to Into the Gloss -- This is a real beauty story that will no doubt resonate for thousands of readers!

    Also, in case it's helpful to anyone, I want to share my skincare regimen when I was on Accutane because it took so long to find the right thing - sufficiently moisturising, gentle on my skin, and as natural as possible. Hope this helps!

    Cleanser: Bioderma Crealine + Yonka Gel Nettoyant Cleansing Gel
    Moisturiser: Between You and the Moon Nourish & Replenish Oil
    Sunscreen: Vanicream SPF 60
    Foundation that didn't make me break out: Nars Sheer Glow Foundation

    After Accutane, for healing scars: Yuli Cell Perfecto PM (pricey but it really helped!)


  • Lady Blue

    After 10 years of all-inclusive acne (I'm talking the works: whiteheads, blackheads, cysts and red spots - day in and day out) I resorted to Accutane too. Unfortunately for me (and it seems like for many of you as well) the acne returned. It was then that I realized I needed to address the root issue that Accutane and topical products weren't able to.

    Not only was I suffering from incessant hormonal acne but my skin was having allergic reactions to ingredients included in practically every popular and oft touted product. After six months of trial and error, as well as cutting most artificial crap out of my diet, I discovered an internal and external (mostly "natural") routine that has cleared my acne 95%. I'd be glad to write an article for ITG about it as I think it would help tons of people, including every single girl in this comment section!

  • Xtina

    Thank you so much for writing this. I am going through the same exact experience. I have had terrible acne since 6th grade and went through a round of accutane my sophomore year of high school. My dermatologist says there's anout a 50% chance it works and you will never have acne again. Unfortunately, I was not part of that 50%. I'm 22 now and struggling with the idea of going on it again. I really hated it the first time and it literally pains me to think of going on it again. I'm trying everything to avoid it. Currently, I'm on spironalactone which seams to be helping a lot. I know that a second round of accutane or absorica is a strong possibility but I would love to avoid it. I've never really heard any other stories about the drug but I was glad to read your experience. You really are very brave to go on it again. Thank you for the inspiration though. It's easy to forget that others aren't constantly focusing on our flaws, even though we may be.

  • Purduenurse

    I've take accutane twice in my life. Once when I was 17, then again when I was 30. My acne was much less severe the time I took it at 30, it's just that NOTHING else was working. I took a less potent strength and for a shorter period of time the second time around. While the dryness sucked bad, both times I couldn't have been more glad that I took it. For me it was very worth it. Also, I was told by my doc that accutane lasts about 5ish years and that if you are very young when you take it, you might very well get acne again on down the road. I actually know several people who have taken it twice.

  • Arielle

    Wanted to share my experience as well since I know accutane gets a bad rap. I struggled with acne since I was a teen. I never had very severe acne in terms of how it looked, but my problem was that it was never responsive to any treatments -- topical creams, antibiotics, washes, etc. Everything would work for a few months, then my skin would build up a resistance and I'd be back at square one. My amazing dermatologist (at Tri Park Derm in Manhattan, so highly recommended!) realized that after having tried almost everything else out there, we had kind of winded up with accutane being one of the last remaining options. At this point I was in my early 20s and the fact that my acne wasn't improving was a sign that it was more than just a hormonal teen problem. She explained that accutane was very different now than it had been decades earlier, that she was not concerned about it being unsafe or she wouldn't be prescribing it to her patients, that although there were side effects they would be minimal/tolerable, and that I would be on a small dose for a short period of time. I went on it for 6 months, and it transformed my skin. The only side effect I experienced was dry skin, which wasn't so bad, other than my chapped lips, which really nothing could make better (I tried every product out there). But that wasn't the end of the world and was only bad for part of the 6 months I was on it. My skin was radiant, not a single pimple in sight. I would get compliments from both people I knew who noticed the change as well as total strangers who would tell me what great skin I had.

    A few years later, my acne came back -- not as bad as before, but some of the same cystic acne that I had been experiencing before the accutane. My dermatologist explained that some people do two full courses of it, that it's not uncommon to need that level of intervention if you want to permanently eradicate your acne, which is the goal of accutane (as opposed to a lot of topical creams which just treat outbreaks rather than treating the root cause of the problem). At this time I was also getting ready for my wedding and was getting a lot of anxiety about how my skin would look then, so I decided to go for it and do another course. It was the same as the first time -- only bad effects were dry skin, and mostly on my lips. My face and body were pretty much fine. No other side effects that I noticed, whatsoever. Now, two years later, my skin is still pretty much amazing. I still get blackouts and hormonal breakouts around my period, but it's usually pretty minor. And I also still get compliments from random people -- the other day someone at work told me, "You have a beautiful complexion."

    So, in short, while Accutane is definitely not for everyone and I agree it should be a "last resort" of sorts, as it was for me after having exhausting many other tries, I also think its important to know that not everyone who tries it has a horrid experience with awful side effects. And for many of us who struggled with acne for years, it is truly a godsend!!

  • Erica Wahlig

    I also have battled acne and have taken accurate twice. I recently went to the dermatologist because it seemed to be flaring up again. I am 39 and frustrated that I had to deal with this again. she had me quit dairy and limit gluten instead of any medicine and I cleared up in 2 weeks. it was really interesting. worth a try also :)

  • Kristen

    "You know, you don't have to remove every small spot on your body." That is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story Lauryn, you look gorgeous!

  • Ally

    Lauryn - you are beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

    I struggled with acne most of my teens to early 20s. Not cystic, but bad enough that I was considering Accutane. My dermatologist deemed me a candidate and gave me info to take home and consider. But it was my regular doctor who had commented on my skin and referred me to the dermatologist. When she did so, she also took blood for testing. My Vitamin D came back SUPER low, so she prescribed 2000 units a day until the levels rose. Guess what? The higher my Vitamin D levels got, the clearer my skin became! I know this won't be the case for everyone, but it might help for some people. It makes sense that the solution for bad acne would come from internally and not externally, since it's truly not a few makeup clogged pores causing all those breakouts. It's oils, hormones, deficiencies - whatever is going on INSIDE the body. Good luck to everyone fighting this battle!

  • Evelyn Beagle

    Way to go, thanks for sharing your story!!! I loved Accutane when I was on it a couple of years ago, my face never looked better; wish I could stay on a low dose but I'm 35 now and can't risk any further negative impacts to my ability to procreate (other than my age!) should I choose that path. Good luck with it all!!

  • Katherine

    I finished 8 months of Accutane in October and it really makes me happy to see an article like this on Into The Gloss. I can't tell you how many times I reread Harry Brant's Top Shelf during my course. I think this website is amazing in showing us a behind the scenes look of the elite, but I feel like the real gems are often the more accessible pieces.

  • Cat

    "I came to understand that when you have adult acne, people look at your skin and assume that you have skin problems because you're 'doing something wrong.' " THIS, A MILLION TIMES.

    I also took Accutane in my teens but not for very long, and my skin was beautifully clear for over 10 years.
    My skin went berserk again last year. It was bad, quite severe, and it started after I interrupted my pill for a short period of time. The amount of comments I have read online of people judging adults who decide to take accutane because we "resort to pumping our body with chemicals instead of having the discipline to change our diet, our lifestyle, etc..." is unbelievable. I have a hormonal disorder (PCOS). Some years I even forget it is there, and when I least expect it it comes back to torture me, and no amount of maintaining a healthy lifestyle will EVER make it go away. I have done everything I was supposed to do, and severe adult acne still happened. I am on Accutane right now, and while I am relieved to see my skin slowly clearing up, I am crushed by what I start to see left behind... I hope my skin will not remain as permanently scarred as it appears right now. I don't mind if I am left with a few tiny things, I just want to be able to wear lipstick again.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Lauryn, and thank you ITG for running it. <3

  • Ann

    I took a single course of Accutane in the mid-90s, and had literally no side effects, not even chapped lips. It shut down my overactive oil glands, and cleared the skin on my face, chest and back. All the cysts went away. It was like magic.

    The trouble started shortly after I finished my course. I developed urticaria - if I scratched my arm, I developed a red, raised welt. I remember carrying some boxes and then looking at my arms - it looked like I'd been whipped. I ended up on antihistamines for a couple years, and even now I'm prone to urticaria, although not as bad.

    I also suspect Accutane may have done something to my bone marrow. I've had low platelets (in the 120-140K range) since at least 1999. As this was never mentioned during all the blood tests I had while on Accutane, I suspect this did not start until after that time.

    Neither of these side effects, which appear permanent to some degree, are life-threatening, but they are something you should think about if you're considering this drug. All that said, Accutane made a significant difference in my quality of life, and it changed my skin for the better. I'm glad I took it, but would never have taken a second course.

  • Jacquelyn

    Did you try dietary considerations before resorting to Accutane? I'm sure you did, just wondering what your experience was with diet and exericise!

  • Amelia Molly

    Thank you so much for this. I got my first pimple when I was nine, and for the last eleven years I've been struggling with acne. When I was young my mother and magazines put the fear of God into me when it came to drugs like Accutane, but I feel like I'm running out of options - better skincare and tools like the Clarisonic have helped significantly, but I'm still getting those painful breakouts that can ruin everything. Hopefully by going to a real dermatologist I'll finally be able to conquer this beast. Again, thank you for sharing your experience - this was incredibly informative and wonderfully written.

  • Lucy

    Thank you for telling your story! I too have struggled with acne for a long time, and this year at 24 finally had to go back to the dermatologist to do something about it as I was getting married in a year and didn't want to have acne at my wedding. I so often hear of people saying it would be better if I used more "natural" products or didn't wear so much makeup-but it's exactly as you said-its genetic and not about my cleanser not being organic. Your skin looks great. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Christine

    Hi Lauryn- How did you style your hair to look like the picture of you above?

  • Lisa Walton

    I am just starting to take Absorica and I've noticed a sore throat and mucus. I want to know did you take it at night or in the morning??

  • Jeanne S.

    I so understand the struggle of having acne as I struggled with it for over 15 years. What I do want to share with you is that I found an alternative to products that contain harsh chemicals and toxins. I've tried everything under the sun and this completely cleared up my acne, diminished fine lines and my skin has NEVER look better - and I have hundreds of testimonials stating the same. If you are interested in learning more about the Arbonne difference - products that are pure, safe and beneficial - e-mail for information and a 5 day sample. I am passionate on helping empower and educate others on making healthier choices for themselves and their families. Many blessings!

  • AES Acne Treatment Center SF

    Beautifully written story Lauryn. For being such a common condition that affects most of us at one time or another, acne is something most sufferers are too ashamed or embarrassed to talk about (I was one of those people at one point!). I think that every time a beautiful, intelligent person like yourself shares their story, the acne stigma loses a little power and other acne sufferers get to see that there is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Thank you for sharing!

  • Hannah

    Can anyone recommend a skincare routine for someone who is about to start Accutane? What would be a good, gentle cleanser and moisturizer that won't irritate v. dry skin?

  • Dylan

    You just convinced me to go on accutane/absorica. The nervous look into the mirror every morning comment was so incredibly relatable. You look stunning in your photo and your skin is flawless. Your story was wonderful, thank you for sharing it!

  • Rosa

    I am 41 and have struggled with acne my whole life. My 14 year old daughter started breaking out and she recently started accutane. I followed suite shortly after! We are doing this together and I can't wait for our results! So far we both have dry lips. I'm peeling more than she is.
    Thank you for sharing. I can't wait to finally have clear skin!

  • bonney

    ur stroy is truly inspiring ... nver take anything for granted !!

  • Eli

    hey, i'd like to chip in as a non acne but eczema victim (acnes dry itchy cousin) i have had eczema all my life, its pretty manageably, but this summer i had it all over my face, red swollen eyes itchy swollen lips and mouth and hands as well.

    i feel sometimes the people that say " you shouldn't take drug xyz because its really bad for your system, and after all its just skin, don't be so vain!" must have never had a reed throbbing face that keeps your mind constantly occupied day and night. it hurts, every morning you wake up fearing that its got worse overnight.

    over the sumer i tried evey alternative treatment/skin cream under the sun and spent a big deal of money on all that stuff.
    when salvation was eventually found in a 8 euro tube of cortisone.
    yes its bad, it makes you skin thin etc. but my face and hands were back to normal within a week and staying that way. i feel good in my own skin and that is the most important thing for any skin disease sufferer. just because those things are on the outside doesn't mean they shouldn't be taken seriously. even more so because the constant stares and questions i have had to endure all my life (no, not just in childhood) like "whats that, is that contagious etc etc" grate away at your psyche. a fact that shouldn't be underestimated, but i feel it is.

    what im trying to say i guess is, if you're ill and you want it to get better take the medication for it. inside or out. nothing to do with vanity.

  • Evie

    My daughter is almost 17 and has had severe cystic acne since she was 12. There are days I cant get her to go out of the house because shes so embarrassed. I am considering Accutane. But our insurance is Medicaid which doesnt cover it. And its very expensive.Im at a loss of what to do.

  • Nate

    I'm in high school with chronic cystic acne. I run track and cross country and I don't know what I would do if I couldn't run. Accutane can make you achey and make your joints hurt. This happened to a friend of mine and ruined his entire season. After reading about the short and long term effects the drug can have(horror stories), I've decided, f*ck it, I'll just deal with it for the rest of my life(both parents have acne still prevalent in adult age) It sucks, but I don't want to play Russian Roulette with my health just so I can boost my self esteem and not look horrible for prom. AHHHH

  • Ellision

    Accutane may work as wonderful drug for treating acne. Still it has got few severe side effects which needs to concerned.

  • dm

    I've been fighting acne since I was 12 and am now in my forties. My cystic acne has been getting worse and I'm hoping to take Accutane again. It's been 20 years since I last took it. I've been on aldactone in the past and I wish I could take it now, but it gives me bad heart palpitations. Many articles mention aldactone as THE treatment for adult acne, but what if you can't take it?? Very frustrating. I do not want to have wrinkles, sagging skin and cysts!

  • Joseph Fanning


    I had a wonderful time reading your blog post.
    You stated that you've had acme for twelve years and that you're an expert in the area. I'm so glad that you're happy with the Accutane treatment results, and that you said that you were able to offset the dry skin side effects of the drug with night cream and Vaseline.

  • Averagejt

    Check out an experience just like this one... Love your story by the way!


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