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. Suzanne says:

    Wow, just wow! Very happy for you. As a lifelong intermitant acne sufferer (I am 51–cystic acne started when I was 18) I understand your pain, emotional and physical, and frustrations. I am fortunate (?) that I respond well to antibiotics and never had to go the accutane way though have had several discussion with dermatologist over the years about whether it was “time.” I generally have a few good years between bouts and thought when I went paleo that I would be done for good. Boy was I wrong when my ok skin went f-ing crazy last fall!! I am in menopause and was told it was a last hurrah from my ovaries-yay. I tried and tried to get it under control on my own. I am also an IBS sufferer (due to all the antibiotics perhaps??!!) so I didn’t want to start the antibiotics up again. I ate super clean, no sugar, pure cleansing products, etc etc etc……..! Nothing worked and it got worse and worse. Sometimes you have to get out the big bad guns and do what you have to do. Hopefully by being careful you can protect your gut along the way. I did not know how to do that when I was younger so hence the damage.
    Anyway, I love your posts and you are so very very kind to share this experience with everyone. I am sure because of you there will be many happy shiny faces out there.

  2. Sam says:

    Hey Juli,

    I’m sure you get a million comments a day, but I figured I would comment anyway in case you have time to respond. I’m at a complete and total loss with my skin and my story seems almost identical to yours. I should be enjoying thanksgiving and instead I’m sitting here bummed out and wondering why the fermented cod liver oil hasn’t kicked in yet and I have three new spots today. Are you still happy that you went on Accutane? Has your acne come back at all? Would you still recommend it? Thanks so much.


    1. juli says:

      extremely happy i went on it. i had a bit of acne come back and i’ve been taking spironolactone and that’s gotten rid of the little i have. i still get one or two zits around my period but nothing like i had before. i highly recommend accutane. i wish i would have done it earlier instead of just being miserable

  3. Amanda says:

    Accutane works, as long as you take it….for me, I took 3 courses. I am almost 40 and have horrible acne, that began as soon as I stopped taking the Accutane, which I took in my early 20’s. I will be cutting wheat, gluten, dairy, and sugar from my diet.

  4. Briana says:

    Hi Juli,

    This post is what finally gave me the courage to try Accutane. Like you it’s been working wonderfully, but I’m also suffering form a very red face. How long did it take for the redness to go away for you? And (if you don’t mind me asking) which birth control did you use?

    1. juli says:

      you’ll have redness probably the entire time. my redness went away about a month after i finished accutane. i use beyaz! good luck with it all, the redness is such a pain!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Hi, I was also on accutane in my late 20s (I’m now 39) and it was definitely successful. I really admire you (and love your recipes!) and think you’re so brave for posting your story! I was so unhappy and embarrassed when my acne was bad. There were times I wouldn’t even leave the house! It was such a terrible time and after trying many remedies, as you did, accutane was the only answer. I’d like to say I kept the photos from before so I could know how far I’ve come, but I didn’t. Shredding them was almost therapeutic in a way and helped me get out of a yucky depression. Now I use hand-made products that I love and keep my skin happy (www.nahlabeauty.com). Thanks for sharing!

  6. Emily says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I went on Accutane in my mid teens (I am now 34). It did wonders for me back then. I had bouts of acne off and on since then, was on birth control from the time I started Accutane until I was about 31. Still continued to have breakouts, but never as severe as during my teens. About a year ago, I decided to see a Naturopath Dr. She tested me for things my “regular” Drs never tested me for. Turns out I had a HUGE hormone imbalance (and probably have had one since puberty). I have been taking various (natural) supplements targeted at balancing hormones (in my case, lowering estrogen and raising progesterone). That, along with eating a mainly paleo-focused diet, I believe has attributed to not having ANY outbreaks in the last year. I am curious- have you ever been to see a Naturopath Dr?

  7. Sara says:

    Hi Juli! Thank you for this post; I’m a regular follower of yours and I came across this particular rant because I’m in a similar situation that you were and I’ll be starting my first (and hopefully only) course of isotretinoin soon. I’ll be following my usual paleo-based diet but I was wondering if you made any other special considerations regarding diet while you were taking it? I saw you mentioned above that you tried to limit vitamin A foods, but anything else? What about adding fermented foods to combat some of the gut-related side effects? Thanks again 🙂

    1. juli says:

      no, no other changes!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for sharing all of your posts on skin care epecially your personal experience with accutane. I went on accutane in my late twenties after trying pretty much everything. The accutane helped me in my skin care struggle. I started crossfit style workouts about two years ago, but now I am considering yoga and other less intense workouts. I feel these intense workout are impacting my overall heath. I love your blog and all of your posts! Keep up the great work!

  9. simone berstein says:

    I have been struggling with acne for almost 2 years now and after cleaning up my diet by eliminating dairy and all animal products my skin did clear up a ton!

    However, I would still get really bad small flare ups after having such bad cystic breakouts. I started using Made from Earth’s Acne Control Products (Face Wash & Moisturizer). I can not stress enough how much all of these products have changed my skin but especially the Made from Earth Control Acne Wash.

    I have tried numerous skin products soaps, masks, EVERYTHING but this one is really the most amazing and has by far the fastest results.

  10. Hannah says:

    If you could go back would you do accutane again? My doctor wants me to go on it next week but I am nervous about my gut and the other health risks. If you could go back would you have chosen a different path? Or are you happy with it?

    1. juli says:

      100% yes. i’m so happy i did it and i would do it all over again. it was incredibly life changing for me.