When I was in high school I had good skin. Not perfect – I’d get the occasional painful pimple that I’d pick at – but all in all, I was blessed with a relatively clear complexion.

Fast forward to my sophomore year of college: I’d just completed a study abroad program in the Netherlands and had started to break out regularly. At first, my breakouts were somewhat mild, but my skin worsened rapidly, quickly blooming into a full-blown case of moderate acne.

At the time, I thought this was all just a phase I was going through. After all, I’d just spent 5 months traveling, snacking at all hours, and consuming massive amounts of dairy and potato-based foods. Clearly all I needed was a bit of rest and some decent nutrition, right? Eventually my circadian rhythm would reset and my skin would be back on track.

But 6 months passed, and my acne didn’t get any better.

It’s been two years now. I’ve seen different dermatologists and tried everything to clear my skin: oral antibiotics, creams, gels, facials, serums; I’ve even tried traditional Chinese herbal medicine –– nothing’s helped. Well, nothing’s helped until now.

Enter: Oral Isotretinoin, A.K.A. Accutane.

The first time my doctor suggested I try it, I said no. I didn’t think my acne was severe enough for the intensity of the medication. However, after a bit more experimentation with various topicals and herbs, my so-called “moderate” acne seemed undeniably resistant to treatment. So, with a ton of trepidation, a lot of research, and more careful consideration, I finally said yes to the drug despite the terrifying potential side effects (frequent nosebleeds, IBS, liver damage, severe birth defects if consumed during pregnancy, depression, and suicidal ideations – just to name a few!).

I’m now 42 days into my 6 month treatment and my skin has cleared significantly. The blackheads on my nose are disappearing, I’m getting far less breakouts, and the pimples I do get aren’t nearly as painful as the ones that once plagued my face. As for those hardcore side effects? I haven’t experienced anything remotely scary – excessive dryness has been the worst of it. So I bring my mini vaseline with me everywhere I go, and I try to stay hydrated.

I now enjoy my nightly skincare regimen, something I used to dread while in the thick of my experimental treatment phase. I’m also wearing far less makeup, avoiding foundation and concealer altogether, and just sticking with a bit of eye makeup and lipstick.

Don’t get me wrong, making the decision to start medication wasn’t easy. I had a plethora of health related fears and checked with multiple dermatologists to make sure I was choosing a smart, safe course of treatment. (And I recommend anyone else seriously considering Accutane do the same. Get proactive about your skin, ask questions, and prioritize your mental and physical health. Always!)

Someone once told me that “your mood affects your skin.” But actually I think that my skin affects my mood. When my acne was at its worst, it impacted me deeply; it was so hard to feel beautiful and I found myself focusing exclusively on my blemishes.

Now that my skin is improving, I still notice my blemishes, but honestly, I just don’t care as much. It’s a liberating feeling.

I’ve gotten my confidence back.

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