Acne. Who would have thought a four letter word could have such a big impact on my life. I’ve dealt* with (*wasted hundreds of pounds on products that didn’t work) acne for what feels like since I came out of the womb. It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly it got worse because over the years it’s cleared up then returned with a vengeance. I’m now 23 so I’ve endured both teenage and adult acne, which both target different areas of the face.
This is my skin on a really good day. As you can see, I mainly suffer with red marks.
When I was 15, I went to my GP about my skin and my doctor quickly prescribed me lymecycline. I can confidently say it did nothing to clear my skin, so I gave up, naiively wishing my acne would naturally clear. I then went on the pill around 17 and stayed on this for 2 years. It’s hard to know whether this really cleared my skin up as when you have acne you tend to avoid mirrors unless you’re poking and prodding your spots and the only photos I have I tend to be wearing makeup. The pill also made me one moody little b*tch at times so I decided it was doing more harm than good. I went back to the doctor and this time I was prescribed skinoren, a cream which makes your skin feel as dry as the Sahara desert. Again, this didn’t clear my skin up. Looking back now I feel frustrated my doctor didn’t suggest roaccutane to me sooner as this could have prevented some of my scarring.
It wasn’t until I relocated to Vietnam to teach English and discussed roaccutane with a fellow teacher who had used it that I decided I needed this drug.
My acne severely flared up whilst in Vietnam thanks to the pollution and poor diet, and the strong sunlight was only a temporary solution to a constant problem. My self-esteem hit at a rock bottom, especially being surrounded by people with flawless skin. I remember FaceTiming home upset on numerous occasions and cancelling plans with friends so I could hide away in my room. Whenever I did go out, my skin was always in the back of my mind “Are they staring at my skin? I wonder what they’re thinking“. A part of me knew I was being ridiculous because I knew I was lucky and could suffer with a far worse skin condition, but my acne controlled my thinking. I remember spending days on the beach whilst in Vietnam with moderately suncleared skin and feeling happy and confident, wishing I could always feel like this and glumly knowing that this feeling would disappear overnight when my acne crept back.
The first thing I did when I arrived back in Britain was book an appointment with my GP. I came prepared with facts and figures expecting to put up a fight to be considered suitable for roaccutane. But to my surprise (and slight offence because no one had really mentioned my scarring before and I guess I didnt think it was obvious), he agreed without any persuasion that I was suitable due to my scars and the fact that I had exhausted all other routes to a cure.
I joined the waiting list to see a dermatologist. A waiting list that was months long.
I was pretty desperate to start treatment so I decided to go private (see bottom for costs). I don’t regret this as I had an appointment within a week of enquiring and the consultant took time to explain the side effects and what type of acne I had, something I’ve been guessing for ages as there are different types of acne and I’ve usually just guessed.
He agreed I could start so long as my blood tests came back clear. My blood test results actually came back that I was anaemic and B12 deficient, which explains why I always get told I look tired, but I was allowed to start the treatment anyway.
So here I am today on week one of my treatment. One thing I want to say is, if like me you’ve been waiting and waiting for your skin to magically clear up and it isn’t, it really is worth weighing up the pros and cons of roaccutane. It also means I could have cut short years of unwelcomed lectures from people who thought they could cure my skin by telling me to drink water – as if I hadn’t had already tried that, sliced lemons and all. It is also important to remember that everyone’s skin is different and that we don’t all react the same way to the same treatments. You also absolutely cannot get pregnant during treatment. I’m hoping roaccutane is my miracle drug, but it doesn’t come at an easy price. I will go into the side effects in a later blog post.
Costs: A private consultation cost me £160, I’ll need to pay this again when I go for a check up to see if I need to up my dose. A one month private prescription then costs around £26. It’s best to shop around as different pharmacies have different prices. Obviously these prices don’t apply if you’re going down the NHS route.