Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 26

Week 4

Yesterday I had my blood drawn done and I'll go to the dermatologist on Friday morning.  Fingers crossed that my bloodwork will be good and that I'll be able to continue on my dermatologist's dosage plan.  I'm also going to visit my regular doctor just to follow up and also do an iron test if that wasn't already included yesterday's bloodwork. 

I've been experiencing quite a bit of hair loss, which is why I want to get my iron levels checked.  I've had problems in the past with low iron causing me to lose a lot of strands so I'm hoping that's all that's going on here and that it's not a scary side effect (I've heard about major hair loss on accutane! yikes).  My hair is super dry and my scalp is still itchy though it does seem more manageable now that I'm washing it every other day instead of daily. 

My face is still breaking out but overall it feels much less inflamed.  I think it's still just purging so I'll let it do it's thing.  It's very dry and flaky, but that's the point, right?  I hope month 2 will bring on lots of healing! :)

Still working on choosing some healthy makeups.  I miss the coverage of my old makeup, but I love that my face can breathe now without it!  And I'm finding that usually, for the most part, I don't really care that it's not covering....because I know I'm healing!

I'm having a hard time curbing my caffeine intake....I need to slow that down.  I thought giving up wine and beer would be hard but it's the coffee that I don't want to do without! :P

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 23

Week 4

Well my skin is definitely purging. It is breaking out quite a bit more. The cluster of bumps on my right cheek has finally started to heal but now the other cheek is breaking out. I have lots of little blackheads and clogged pores trying to push that junk out. Gross. So....I guess this stuff is working....

My face is very dry. I need to look into something to very gently exfoliate the flakiness. I'm keeping lanolin slathered on my lips as they continue to dry out so I can hopefully prevent any cracking.

Two days ago I had a horrendous headache with severe fatigue. I ended up taking a nap and getting rid of the headache but this fatigue has been hanging around. I'm sure the heat and humidity aren't helping.

Still opting for mineral powder only for makeup...I really think it's going to help speed the healing process to stop using the heavy liquid stuff. But it just doesn't cover as well...but I can't worry about that.

Some days I feel like I need an IV to get enough fluids... Monday morning I have bloodwork followed by my dermatologist appt on Friday. Can't believe I'm almost at 1 month.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 21

Week 3

I took pictures this morning and compared them to Day 1. I am quite disappointed! I felt like I was seeing more improvement than what it really looks like. I do have that big cluster of breakouts on my right cheek, but otherwise things were feeling better, including healing of some of the cystic stuff on my jawline. The pictures don't say that though.

I guess overall, my skin is smoother and some longterm cystic acne has healed.  My face is red, which it always has been, but that's also a side effect of accutane.  I haven't experienced a massive initial breakout so that's a really positive thing to keep in mind. 

I am starting to wear mineral foundation only instead of the longwear liquid stuff.  It doesn't cover nearly as well but my face feels much happier being able to breathe... and it doesn't slide off now that I have zero oil.  Waiting on some samples of new natural-ingredient stuff that I hope will cover a little better but is still quite light. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 19

Week 3

Healing has slowed the last couple of days and I've had some new bumps pop up above my lip and on my jawline (which was starting to heal so nicely). 

I've had several bumps on my cheek that have been taking a long time to heal and they finally started scabbing over.  After washing my face last night, several bumps started bleeding and were very raw.  My makeup is so much harder to take off now that my skin is dry and everything is just sticking to those dead skin cells.  So using a wash cloth is necessary but makes it hard to avoid rubbing off scabs.  I dabbed a little neosporin on these spots last night.  They still look pretty rough this morning.

So it looks like finding a gentler makeup is really important now.  I can't scrub every night without doing damage.  I'm used to needing something for oily skin and usually those makeups are already formulated for acne prone skin.  Now I need something for dry skin, but I have to be careful that they won't cause breakouts!

Scalp is itchy again today.  My elbows are a peely mess. 

I know that this is all just part of the process so I'm not going to dwell on a little back pedaling.  Still kinda sucks though!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thanks, Mom

I got a cool card in the mail from my sweet mom the other day: 

"There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow"
-Orison Swett Marden

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 16

Entering in to week 3!

I spoke too soon again...it really is shocking how quickly things can change.  My lips are now super dry and my face is starting to get flaky!  Nothing outrageous yet, but it does make me a little apprehensive about bumping up to 60mg in a couple of weeks. 

I made my trek to Whole Foods and got some more goodies.  That place is so overwhelming.  The cool thing is that I can return anything (with or without a receipt) if I don't like it, even if it's been used.  I purchased Avalon Organics Tea Tree Mint Scalp Normalizing Shampoo and Conditioner.  I used that last night after I did a coconut oil/tea tree oil scalp treatment.  I just slathered on a bunch of coconut oil on my scalp, mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil...kept it on for about an hour before washing it out.  The coconut smells divine!  It did help, but nothing seems to last more than a day. I'm trying to not wash my hair more than every other day, thinking that will keep me from drying out as much, but it seems to really help to scrub and condition! 

Looking for new makeup, trying to go the natural route there too. How I long for the day when I need zero makeup! :)  I love mineral foundations (I've used Bare Minerals in matte w/o bismuth, and I love Everyday Minerals too), but they just haven't given me enough coverage and my oiliness just erases it in no time.  Now that I'm not oily, I hope I can find some more natural makeups that will work for me.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 14

Two weeks!  Wow, time seems to be flying, but I have a looong way to go. 

My biggest side effect right now is my itchy scalp.  I've used that shea butter masque a couple of times and it does help but only for about a day.  I'll be making (another) trip to Whole Foods this evening to look for a good moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.  Would prefer not to use a medicated dandruff shampoo if I can help it.  I'm hoping intense moisturizing will take care of this if I can find some good products. 

My body is itchy too, although no more rashes.  I purchased this Aveeno Bath Treatment and that really helped relieve and calm my skin. 

I've had some spells of being very fatigued but it doesn't last all that long. My thirst is never quenched and I'm loooving this new Hydroflask insulated 40oz water bottle...one of the best investments I've made for this journey!

The lanolin is really doing the trick on my lips so far.  They are dry but manageable. 

My face is drying out and some of the bumps are flaky, but my moisturizers seem to be doing their job because there's no extreme dryness yet.  On Day 12 my face looked red and rough and even more bumpy but the very next day it was looking better again.  Overall, it's improved and healing and my new breakouts are decreasing in frequency. 

I've been slacking on my healthy eating and I need to re-motivate myself.  I have to remind myself that a healthy diet is a part of this healing process, just like taking the pills. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 11

It's amazing how big of a difference one day can make on this medicine.  Side effects can pop or or change in no time!

My scalp has become dry, itchy and flaky!  Last night, I purchased Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Masque and left it in for a couple of hours.  Felt great and it does seem to have helped as I'm not as itchy/flaky today.  Finding the right stuff to combat this side effect may be trial and error. It may need to be a combo of less hair washing, more moisturizing conditioners, deep conditioners a couple of times/week, anti-dandruff shampoo.  Earlier today at Target, I saw THIS: Shea Moisture Purification Masque (African Black Soap and specific for dry itchy scalp!) and I sort of wish I had seen it first, but I'll try it after I finish up what I bought. 

My whole body feels itchy but moisturizing is helping keep the eczema rashes at bay.  Trying to make it a relaxing ritual twice a day so it doesn't start feeling like a pain to do...

Lips are peeling some but are not uncomfortable at this point.  And still able to wear my contacts!

I saw some more healing of the cystic jawline acne overnight!  Still breaking out but those breakouts seem to heal more quickly and aren't as painful as normal. 

Still feeling good about the overall success thus far :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 8

I spoke too soon yesterday when I said my lips hadn't started drying out...definitely started feeling/seeing that last night.  But the lanolin is really nice. 

Face is still much much less oily.  So is my hair!  Not seeing any flakiness on my face but my scalp is a bit itchy.

My throat is constantly very slightly sore.  I think it's just the dryness. 

The eczema rashes are much better now that I'm moisturizing frequently.  I got this more natural cream at Whole Foods and it's helped more than the hydrocortisone I was using on my hand: Florasone

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 7

A few things to report as I approach the one week mark! 

On Day 3, I developed a rash on one hand that was very tiny little blisters.  I thought at first it was poison ivy, but then began to see other itchy spots arise on other areas of my body, though my hand and elbows are the only spot that there are actual raised bumps.  Yesterday, a red rash was showing up in more places, with a very large portion of my lower back/hip area and on the backs of my legs.  My arms are a bit splotchy as well and the same rash that is on my hands is popping up on my elbows.  Sometimes it itches and other times it doesn't bother me.  After reading about other's side effects on this medicine and talking to the dermatologist this morning on the phone, it seems that this is a very common ezcema reaction to Accutane.  Even though my skin doesn't feel very dry yet, the dermatologist believes that intense moisturizing will help.  If it gets worse, I can go in and get a steroid cream, though I'd like to avoid that if possible.  I was very surprised to see such a quick reaction to this medicine, especially because my skin did not yet feel dry.  But this is nothing I can't handle!

This morning was the first morning I woke up and my face did not feel oily!  That was a good feeling.  My face also seems to feel smoother and I am still seeing some of the cystic acne along my jawline (which has been there for months!) reducing in size and clearing up.  Feeling very positive so far about this working well on my acne. 

I'm still working on my skin care routine and I'll be happy once I get settled in to something that works well.  I really like using the lanolin on my lips and I really haven't experienced dry lips yet. 

My eyes are starting to dry but I hope I can squeeze in a little more time with my contacts!  I did receive my Maui Jim prescription sunglasses in the mail, so I'll be all ready to switch over to my glasses when it's time!

I stay EXTREMELY thirsty all the time and I've greatly increased my water intake.  My appetite has decreased but that could be due to drinking more water and feeling fuller, although I've heard of this side effect from others too. 

Overall, feeling pretty good about it all, especially now that I have a more clear answer about this rash. 

One week DOWN! :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 4

I'll take my fourth dose this evening.  I've had a couple of headaches that I'm not sure I can attribute to the drug - it could be the excessive heat we've been experiencing lately. No other side effects at this time, other than being extremely thirsty!  However, this morning I woke up to see that some of the cystic acne along my jawline (which has been there for months) was Greatly reduced in size - some of it even gone!  Wow!  I am still seeing new breakouts, but I was really excited to see that improvement. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

It's DAY 1!!!

Friday, July 6, 2012 is DAY 1 in my Isotretinoin journey!  The process of getting my prescription was relatively painless and I'm relieved to finally be able to get started.  I'm all stocked up on lotions, lip balms, eye drops, face wash, supplements, etc etc etc.  Ready to go! 

The generic I was prescribed is Claravis.  This month, I'll be taking 40mg/day.  I will likely move up to 60mg after that for the following 4-5 months.

I did take photos of my skin this morning, pre-Claravis. But I don't think I'm quite prepared to share those publicly! :)

Here's hoping for quick healing and minimal side effects!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Plan of Attack!

I went to the Dermatologist almost a month ago (first time I had been in quite a while - had been visiting my regular Dr only).  After taking my history and seeing that I had literally tried everything, she quickly recommended Accutane.  I told her how hesitant I was but that I also knew I couldn't be on antibiotics/etc forever.  She felt the drug was very safe, even stating she would give it to her own children if necessary.  She noted that many of the reported side effects are "unfounded", but did warn about elevated cholesterol/triglycerides, dry skin, mild joint pain, and possible/unlikely depression.  However, I'm much more skeptical than she, since it's MY body!

I went ahead and signed up for the IPledge program and took the required pregnancy test that day.  I'd have to wait a month before starting anyway (after a second required negative pregnany test) - so this gave me a whole month to research and think on it.  I received samples of Ziana and Aczone topicals along with a prescription for Bactrim. 

After almost a whole month of research, a bad sunburn and allergic reaction due to the antibiotic, and general frustration without skin improvement.....I decided I would use Accutane as my last resort.  I feel confident in my decision but have vowed to myself that I will take good care of myself to minimize side effects.  Here's my plan of attack:

  • Drink plenty of water! Minimum 64oz/day
  • Eat as CLEAN as possible, eliminating sugar, alcohol and caffeine and processed foods and minimizing dairy and flour products in particular.  I'll opt for organic meats, eggs, nuts & seeds, beans (sans soy), vegetables (sans corn) and fruits whenever possible.  This won't be too hard for me since I mainly eat this way anyway...just getting back in the straight and narrow a bit!
  • Plenty of FIBER!  I think this will be important in preventing potential IBS symptoms
  • Probiotics:  Will take a high quality supplement since I'll be avoiding dairy (yogurt, kefir)  Also important for gut health!
  • Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega fish oil: ~3 grams/day.  Great for inflammation and combating elevation of my cholesterol/triglyceride levels
  • Vitamin D3: 1000IU/day or every other day
  • Vitamin E: 400IU/day
  • Milk Thistle or another liver support?  To help combat liver stress.
Facial care:
Here's what I've purchased, and I'll be experimenting with the regimen I'm sure as I find out what works and what doesn't.  I am going for GENTLE and MOISTURIZING to combat the dryness I know I'll experience.  Not to mention as NATURAL as possible.
Body care:
Keeping in mind that my whole body will need moisture, here are some other things I've purchased to combat that dryness. 
  • Pure Lanolin for my lips, inside of my nose, and possibly for my hands and feet if I experience cracking.  I think this will be a good alternative to petroleum based products like vaseline and aquaphor. 
  • Lip balms including Burt's Bees and Dr. Bronners
  • Nubian Heritage Raw Shea Hand Cream
  • Aura Cacia Sweet Almond Oil - used all over after showering, before toweling off
  • Body Moisturizer with argan oil (will have to look at the brand name again)
Mental care:
  • Zoloft: 50mg/day (Because I'm already prone to some anxiety, I decided to start this in hopes that I would eliminate the potential depression side effect)
  • Meditation!  I want to set time aside each day to reflect and "encourage" my body to heal.  I want to stay positive through this process, even if/when the side effects are difficult. 

I'm trying to prepare myself mentally for the good chance that I'll experience an initial breakout.  But here's hoping I have a good plan of attack and I'll experience success right off the bat! 


Monday, July 2, 2012

The Beginning of my Journey!

About this Blog!
I plan to document my experience on Isotretinoin (aka Accutane) as a way to monitor my progress and hopefully help others who are experiencing their own struggle with acne and considering this drug.  Deciding to try this drug was a long and arduous process.  After much research and debate, I do feel that I'm the type of person this drug is intended for - I've tried all other routes (traditional and natural) and my acne is chronic.  Now that I've committed to this treatment, my goal is to stay positive during the process and take the best care of myself that I can in order to minimize any potential side effects. 

What led me to Isotretinoin...

At 30 years old, I've been suffering with acne for 12 years. Unlike many young women, I had no significant break outs during puberty/high school era. During my first year in college, the breakouts started and it's been a battle ever since. While I have seen progress and improvement at times, I've never been able to establish a connection and therefore manage this problem.

My acne is confined to my face and is more concentrate around my jaw line and chin. It is cystic in nature and I would classify it as moderate-severe, though I know "severe" can mean different things to different people. My skin is also quite oily.

I'd like to start with a list of what I have tried and thus what has ultimately led me to the very difficult decision to start Isotretinoin...

OTC Washes/Topicals - Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid (a variety of brands, Proactive)
Oral Antibiotics - Erythromycin, Minocycline, Tetracycline, Bactrim
Prescription Topicals - Retinols, Tazorac, Differin, Clindamycin, Benzoyl Peroxide
Natural Topicals - Tea Tree Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar, Witch Hazel, Clay masks, a Variety of natural/organic brand washes/treatments, Oil Cleansing Method for washing and moisturizing
Professional Treatments - Salicylic acid/lactic acid skin peels, Extractions
Diet - Elimination of sugar and flour products, Elimination of dairy, wheat and gluten, soy, corn, eggs, Liver detoxifications
Supplements - Fish oil, Probiotics, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Zinc, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin D3, Milk Thistle, Undecylenic Acid
Hormone Therapy - Several brands of birth control, Bioidentical hormone therapy after testing low in progesterone, (Mild) hypothyroid treatment

Without getting into major detail of everything I've tried, suffice it to say that I gave all of these things listed a very honest attempt, especially with my drastic change in diet. While I did see improvements sometimes, I have never been able to pinpoint a connection, leaving my unable to manage my acne.  I've seen MD's, Dermatologists, Naturopaths, and Applied Kinesiologists.

If I could manage it naturally, I most certainly would. However, I do know that I cannot continue to live with my acne as my prison. I do not feel that longterm antibiotic and harsh topical treatments have the potential for side effects worse than that of a short course of Isotretinoin. And, again, the natural route has yielded no signficiant results either.

I will also add that I have done significant research and spoke to several individuals who used Isotretinoin. I do not take this decision lightly and I am accepting that I will have to deal with potential side effects. This is an educated decision from a competent adult and I'm looking forward to achieving clear skin.

More to come before I start (which will likely be at the end of this week!)