I’m guessing you’re expecting a wonderful post about some miracle, natural home remedy acne solution that I’ve found and has cleared up my acne in no time flat. But that’s not the case. Well, I guess that depends how you see it. About 6 months ago, I made the decision to go on Accutane. I actually talked about it in a post once to get second opinions from people. Most of the opinions were negative but I also saw many positive ones. So once I started taking accutane, I decided to keep that info out of my blog so I wouldn’t have other people’s opinions changing my own.

So let’s go back to the beginning. I’ve always had a little bit of acne. Nothing to get super upset about, but enough that I saw a dermatologist when I was in high school, when I was in college, and after college. But it wasn’t until I started CrossFit and was competing, that my acne got out of control. And when I say out of control, I mean it was incredibly painful to the touch. I had bad cystic acne that hurt when I was just putting on make up. But since the acne was so bad, putting on make up was my only choice. I’m not sure if it was CrossFit that changed my complexion, but I’m almost certain it had to do with it because of the changes in estrogen and other hormones.

Anyways, after trying many different home remedies such as oil pulling and oil cleansing, changes to my eating habits, removing fish oil from my diet, consuming cod liver oil, and different essential oils, I decided to try some prescription strength drugs. After trying spironolactone and other prescription drugs as well as topical medication, I was finally at a loss. It had been almost 3 years of fighting this cystic acne that was going to lead to much worse scarring if I didn’t do something about it. So I decided to try Accutane out and my dermatologist immediately agreed.

Accutane is a high dose of vitamin A, that you take on a daily basis. Most treatments, like mine, are around 6 months. Some people have to do multiple sessions, but not everyone. Accutane is taken very seriously by not only the doctor, but also the state. It is a state regulation that you must be on birth control while taking Accutane because the birth defects are so awful. There are also other side effects such as depression, muscle and joint pain, extremely dry skin and eyes, and a whole hell of a lot of other things, but those are the things I experienced. The process is quite tedious. Here’s the process you go through every month: get your birth control (remember, no babies), get your blood drawn so they can check that your liver is just fine, then go to the doctor a couple days later where you have to do a urine test to make sure you’re not pregnant, then you get your prescription, then you have to take a test online all about practicing safe sex, once you pass that test, you can then drop off your prescription to finally get your month supply. Then do this many more times until you are off the medication. Annoying, but so worth it in my opinion.

You may be asking why the hell I’m even writing about this on a paleo recipe blog. Which is understandable. But I want to share my experience with people who are trying so hard to change their diet to fix their body issues, and those things are just not working. The more I’ve eaten paleo, the more I’ve found out how many things can be cured through diet alone. I rarely get sick, I sleep better, I have more energy, my depression went away. So many things can change through diet, but my acne did not seem to be one of them. And if it was, it would have taken me YEARS and many scars to find out those reasons. I’m sharing all this information with you in hopes that if you are ever thinking about taking this prescription drug, you have another opinion. A positive one.

I had a truly positive experience with the drug. Not to say that I didn’t have some ups and downs, but most of my 6 month experience was a good one. Here were some of my symptoms:

  • The worst symptom by far has been dry lips. You know when you get a sunburn and it peels? Well imagine that happening every single hour, of every single day, for 6 months. It was miserable. By far the worst thing. Not having chapstick on hand truly felt like a meth addict not having his drug. Terrible description, but that’s seriously how it felt. I rarely stop biting or picking at my lips. I have a new habit I need to break.
  • Dry skin and red skin. Mostly my face was the only thing that got dry, but it was also my ears, my nose and my hair. So I exfoliated my face daily with one of those soft bristle face rotating brushes. A cheap one. And moisturized a lot. I didn’t stop wearing make up until my skin settled down after the second month, I was too embarrassed.
  • Dry, breaking hair. My hair thinned out and my hair stylist said it seemed to be breaking easily. After 4 months, that passed and my hair got a lot better. Wish it would have affected my leg hair, that would have been cool.
  • My joints and muscles hurt A LOT about 3-5 months in. Workouts were much more uncomfortable to the point that it hurt to walk. That passed after 5 months.
  • Moody and depressed. I got REALLY depressed about 4 months or so into the accutane. I mean, depressed to the point that I couldn’t get off the couch. I couldn’t figure out why I was sad or what was wrong, but I was so unhappy. I fought some depression when I was growing up, so I was more likely to have some while on the drug. It went away with time.
  • Super red face. I’m pale when I stay away from the sun, so my neck and my face were completely opposite colors. Weird looking.

So I’m going to share some pictures with you. Disclaimer: these pictures may be frightening. And I’m sure some mean people out there will leave mean comments that will bum me out, but I want to share with you what a huge difference the medication made. I no longer have any acne, only red scars remain, which should go away over time. If they don’t all go away, I plan on doing some chemical peels and/or laser treatment to get rid of the scars.

first month of starting accutane – frightening (oh hi Laura!!)
2 months in – acne diminished a ton
5 months in – redness began to get much worse but skin kept smoothing out
6 months in – finished with the medication
finished with medication – redness is starting to clam down (with make up on)

In the end, I am incredibly happy with the results of accutane and extremely happy that I went on the prescription. I’m not sure what will happen in the future and if I will have to get back on it, but I know that my acne will never be as bad or as painful as it was in the past. This prescription has done wonders for me and if anyone ever asked me, I would recommend it to them. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! But remember, this prescription affects everyone differently. Just because I had a good experience doesn’t mean someone else will. Thanks for listening. You’re my favorite. Please feel free to share your experiences, but do not hate on me for sharing my own experience with it. Kthanksbye.

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  1. Nicole says:

    Glad Accutane worked for you! your skin looks wonderful. I”m 40, have 2 kids and thought i’d outgrown my lifelong acne issues. i’d been good all through the two pregnancies! anyway, i’m currently on my EIGHTH course of it!!!!!! usually did a 6 month stint at 80 mg a day; but this time we’re trying 20 mg a day indefinately! i’m still waiting for the 20 mg to kick in and it’s been 3 months. Thankgod it keeps working! good luck to you…….

  2. johanna says:

    Hi, I’m new to your website and Paleo . I haven’t gone full paleo yet but i am slowly getting there. This post caught my attention because I too suffer from acne. At times it has been pretty bad. It is now under control wit Sprionolactone, but I know it is not a cure. And since being on it my oiliness has decreased significantly and my acne is down by 80% i get some minor zits but nothing major. i have gotten a couple of cysts since starting a yr ago . I’m happy with the results. I know that when i stop taking this medication my skin will most likely go back to the way it was before. I had very oily skin with regular acne flareups as well as cystic acne. Most of my acne has been on my jawline and cheek area, none on my forehead. I know my acne is hormonal. I got bloodwork done and was told I have elevated testosterone. I once considered Accutane but was not sure if i would be a good candidate since my acne wasn’t severe. I mean when we look at ourselves in the mirror we are our own worst critics. Anyway I hope to clear my acne by eating healthy and working out regularly . In return I hope to regulate my hormones. I had no acne until i hit my 20’s. I attribute it all to hormones due to bad lifestyle habits. Mostly overeating crap, and heavy drinking. If my acne doesn’t clear on paleo and regular exercise then I will once again consider Accutane. I’ve heard mostly horror stories and some positive. I am glad Accutane worked for you and that your acne is now under control. Thanks for the post. I’m anxious to try your recipes btw, I’ve heard they’re great

  3. Desiree N says:

    First of all, I hope no one left you mean messages about your skin. If they did, they obviously don’t read your blog and know how amazing you are and how much you help other people! That looks so painful, I can’t imagine how awful it was to try and “live with” that. I am so glad you have found some relief!
    Second of all, I had no idea that they would go to such lengths to make sure you are not pregnant when going on a medication for your skin. I wish they would enforce this kind of testing on stupid people because there are way too many stupid people producing! Ok, that’s my rant for the day. Love you Juli!

  4. Elizabeth J says:

    You’re going to think I’m just totally nuts, but I did some research and found that buttermilk is one of the greatest beauty products ever. While my acne wasn’t as severe as yours, I noticed instant improvement in my skin when I started washing with (and/or leaving on) buttermilk. I literally use a paint brush to apply it before bed. Breakouts stopped, skin smoothed, scars lightened… If you ever feel like you need a little something, give it a try! I’m glad the accutane worked for you! I was always too afraid to try it!

  5. Erin Deaton says:

    I did Accutane in high school and despite all the crazy side effects and some hair loss that never really came back (I had enough so that it isn’t a big deal) I have never once regretted it! You don’t realize what a hit your self esteem takes when you are nervous about what people are thinking when they look you in the face. Good for you!!!

  6. Jennifer McReynolds says:

    Juli, I have followed your blog for almost two years now. I discovered it after beginning our paleo lifestyle. I LOVE your recipes and your humor. 🙂 I remember seeing this post about your acne and using accutane. I am so happy that you were able to find relief with a long time problem. I developed acne while pregnant with my fourth child 4 years ago. I stuck to the “natural” side of skin care for the most part, holding my hopes out that eventually something would work. Some things made it even worse! I was ready to recycle grocery bags by using them to cover my head! This last Christmas, I received a line of skin care called Beautycounter. It took all of 5 days for my skin to clear up! The products are 100% SAFE and non-toxic to our bodies, and they feel absolutely wonderful going on. I just thought you MIGHT be interested in checking it out…possibly. I, at least, thought I’d share what I have found. I put my website down for a place you can look at what the company is all about. Have a wonderful day!

  7. Sarah says:

    Hi Juli,

    I just recently stumbled upon your blog after joining a Paleo challenge at my local cross fit gym. First, I want to applaud you for being so brave to post those before and after pictures. I hope you know how gorgeous you are!! I went on accutane when I was a teenager, around the age of 19. It was horrible, I had all of the same symptoms as you. But when it was all over with, it was absolutely life changing. Its been 12 years now and while I will always get the occasional pimple from time to time, I never get those horrible cystic, deep and painful acne that I used to get. A lot of people are shocked to find out I was on accutane, and think it was probably unnecessary – but thats only because they don’t know how bad it was! I’m glad you went with your gut and toughed it out. Good luck with everything!!

  8. Sascha says:

    Julie, you rock. I am so happy that you found something that works for you. I have taken accutane and the 1st 2 times it worked beautifully, remission of acne for two years each time. My acne has come back bad and no amount of paleo, elimination diet, juicing, whatever has stopped it. Reluctantly considering another course (my derm wants me to use topicals but my eczema seems to be worsened by them),

    Thanks for sharing that sometimes holistic is not the only way to go

    Hugs from NY


  9. Kat says:

    Accutane is the only thing that ever really helped me. And I tried it all, non-natural and natural alike. I nearly gave myself an eating disorder trying dietary and holistic fixes. You’re awesome. Power to you for living life your way.

  10. Evan says:

    I was researching carrot extract today and found myself on this site while searching paleo in tangent with accutane(I’m a survivor too(1994)). I just wanted to add a couple notes and opinions in case someone else finds there way here too. I would not reccommend accutane to anyone, but rather teach proper nutrition. I could make this comment enormous(it will be) but am trying to keep it short and to the point.
    When you have acne, you are seeing your bodies presentation of what it’s been consuming(I would say for the last 1 – 2 years). In fact everything you see on the outside is a presentation of whats going on inside. Fragile nails/hair, dry/red/flaky skin, etc…
    My opinion and I’m just a nobody, but if you have acne or said exterior ailments above, your immune system(to begin with) is likely compromised to some degree.
    I don’t know much about paleomg.com, I’m just a passerby taking my time trying to educate the world.
    1. Remove processed sugars/grains(flour/corn/rice/starch).
    2. Use natural oil soaps, almost all mainstream cleansing products contain sodium laurel/laureth sulfate, which is used to aggravate skin dryness for lotion testing.
    3. Check out paleomom.com (auto-immune diet)(I learned/am learning a lot from Sarah)
    I started a quest and haven’t finished it yet(I’m dragging my wife and 3 kids behind :)) When I was a young lad, I was ignorant and chose to use accutane. If I could travel back in time and raise myself as a child, I would have taught myself why you eat healthy foods, and how eating affects and effects you, and changed the world, well, maybe.

    Food affects you,
    Food has an effect on you.
    Heal the inside, Heal the outside. It just takes time. Thanks for your time.