Dealing with acne all throughout my teen years and most of my early adulthood was tough. Growing up, I never felt confident in my own skin and that really hurt my self-esteem.
In this post, I will be talking about the extensive list of prescription acne medication that I tried. For many years, I thought this was the only way to cure my acne permanently. Sadly, this wasn’t the case for me and I ended up wasting a lot of money. I will go more into detail about why later on in this post.
How My Quest to Beat Acne Began
First, I’ll just give you a little background of how my acne journey started when I was younger.
As a kid and throughout my teen years, I was always envious of those my age who had clear, luminous skin. My skin began to break out as a pre-teen with minor pustules mostly in my t-zone area but it got exponentially worse by 15 years old.
By then, I started experiencing heavy cystic acne all over my cheeks, forehead, temples, and even my back and chest. In order to feel better about myself, I started to slap on multiple layers of tinted moisturizer in order to hide those angry bumps.
Thinking back now, I really wish I knew what a great concealer was at the time!
My Experience With Prescription Acne Medication
Prescription acne medication is not cheap and costs a pretty penny without a drug plan. Luckily at the time, my parents had an extended drug plan that was able to help cover most of my costs. I had previously tried a whole list of over-the-counter drugstore acne products which didn’t help my skin, so I was desperate for something stronger that would work internally.
I first sought out my family doctor who referred me to see a dermatologist. The dermatologist ended up prescribing me three different antibiotics including doxycycline, erythromycin, and tetracycline. I took these in 3-4 month cycles and prayed that they would be the answer to my problems. They only seemed to aid my skin while I was on the medication though.
I stopped these antibiotics eventually because I didn’t want to have to rely on them to have good skin. I also knew that I couldn’t stay on antibiotics forever. They were just masking the underlying problem and I wasn’t tackling the root cause of it.
After taking a break from antibiotics, I ventured into trying Spironolactone. I had heard many success stories about it so I really hoped that it would work well for me.
Spironolactone is an off-label drug for acne and is usually used by people with high blood pressure. On this drug, I wasn’t allowed to eat foods with high amounts of potassium or salt (including bananas, one of my favorite fruits).
Constantly feeling thirsty and dizzy, I tried drinking a lot of water to mitigate the feeling but the symptoms never really went away.
The drug did help my skin’s condition slightly but I didn’t see spectacular results. I eventually stopped using it because I didn’t know how much longer I could deal with the side effects.
After experiencing a letdown with Spironolactone, I was determined to try Accutane because I had heard many success stories about it. People raved that they didn’t get a single pimple after finishing the 6-month cycle and were left with clear, smooth skin.
My dermatologist gave me a dosage of 40 mg to start off my 6-month cycle. I got all the required blood tests done to check my liver health and was put on birth control for a month prior to starting the pills to ensure I wasn’t going to get pregnant.
Here is approximately the breakdown of my experience with Accutane month by month:
- Month 1: No visible changes to my skin.
- Month 2: Still no visible changes to my skin aside from mildly chapped lips.
- Month 3: My skin started feeling extremely dry, as if all the oil glands in my body had stopped working. All the blackheads on my nose finally disappeared (I was sooo happy about this!) and I no longer had to blot twice a day.
- Month 4: All of my cystic pimples disappeared and I finally had no more active acne on my face. All that was left were red hyperpigmentation marks that I knew would fade over the next few months.
- Month 5: My red hyperpigmentation marks faded drastically and I was ecstatic that I could finally go out without makeup. My pores were clear and I had smooth, baby soft skin.
- Month 6: I finally achieved perfectly clear skin!
Unfortunately, this clear skin phase didn’t last as long because my oily skin and cystic breakouts came back full force within a year and a half after I stopped the medication.
My Overall Opinion About Accutane
My Accutane experience was bearable and I am very thankful that I only experienced mild side effects. Many people experience depression and suicidal thoughts on this drug, which is a terribly scary side effect so that is something that you have to consider if you are thinking about taking this drug.
The only negative things that I had to deal with were:
- Extremely chapped lips and generally very dry skin all over my body
- Taking monthly blood tests to ensure that my liver was healthy
- Taking birth control throughout the 6-month cycle
- No alcohol for 6 months
In hindsight, if I had the chance to make a decision again on whether or not to take this drug, I would probably skip it. It only improved my acne temporarily and wasn’t a permanent fix.
4. Birth Control Pills (BCP)
After discovering that Accutane wasn’t the cure for my acne, I looked at my remaining options. I decided I would try birth control pills because I had heard it not only helped with acne but also reduced cramps and regulated periods.
At this point, I was starting to think that hormonal imbalance was the root cause of my acne and that my body had a hard time regulating my crazy, out-of-whack hormones. Ladies with hormonal acne regularly experience cystic breakouts on their jaw, cheeks, and neck, and those were the areas that I had a lot of trouble with.
Some birth control pills that I tried were:
- Alesse: This was taken during my six-month course of Accutane.
- Diane-35: I didn’t like or dislike this pill. It didn’t totally clear my skin up which is why I stopped using it after six months of use.
- Ortho Tricyclen Lo: I broke out more when I was on this pill than when I wasn’t taking any BCPs so it’s safe to say I won’t be trying this ever again!
- Yasmin: This was my preferred BCP of choice that I used for one and a half years. My periods were much lighter and shorter, I experienced a reduction of cramps, and my breakouts finally felt like they were under control.
- Marvelon: My experience with this was very similar to Yasmin but it didn’t give me as great of a result in terms of controlling my breakouts.
My Horrible Experience After Stopping Birth Control Pills
There came a point in time where I got fed up with having to take pills daily to achieve clear skin. I wanted to be free from depending on a pill to provide me with the right mix of synthetic hormones. I also didn’t know how safe it was to continuously take these long-term.
And so I stopped.
Then came the horrible continuous breakouts after stopping the pills cold turkey. After about a month of stopping, I started experiencing extremely painful cystic breakouts all over my face, temples, and sides of my neck. It became uncontrollable.
I believe that the breakouts were a sign that my body was scrambling to re-balance my hormones. I researched heavily about my symptoms and found that a lot of women went through the same thing once they stopped cold turkey.
How to reduce this breakout?
If you know beforehand that you are going to stop taking birth control pills, one method that may help reduce this breakout would be to not stop cold turkey.
Try to wean yourself off of it by first taking smaller doses of the pill. For example, reduce your intake to half a pill for 2 weeks, followed by reducing it again to 1/4 of a pill for another 2 weeks, and finally stopping entirely.
It took two very long years for my hormones to balance again and for my breakouts to subside after I stopped taking birth control pills and all other prescription acne medication.
It wasn’t until I started treating my acne with natural remedies that my skin condition improved greatly. While my skin still gets quite oily, I do not get many spots anymore.
Sometimes prescription acne medication isn’t the right option for everyone. After trying countless over-the-counter acne products and going from doctor to doctor to get acne medication, these options just weren’t right for me.
Learning from my past experience and mistakes, I would have probably avoided all the prescription acne medication I took. I felt that they were expensive, only yielded temporary results, and my experience with birth control pills was horrible after I stopped using them.
I knew I couldn’t give up hope though and was set on finding other options that were less expensive and more natural. After much experimentation and determination, I am happy to say that I am now acne free! Read my next post to find out how I cured my acne with holistic remedies and how it changed my skin for the better.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of my acne series here:
- How To Effectively Cure Back Acne
- Effective Acne Products That Won’t Break The Bank
- Acne Products You Need To Avoid That Just Don’t Work
- Deep Cleansing Masks For Acne-Prone Skin
- How To Cure Your Acne With Natural Remedies
If you’re interested in learning more about the other types of prescription acne medication that are available, I would recommend that you check out the Acne.org forums.
Do you have any experience with using prescription acne medication and did they work for you? Feel free to share your own experience!