StyckyWycket Recommends: Products During Accutane

During both courses of my Accutane treatments, they crossed through the harsh Cleveland winters.  The main focus and drive of getting through Accutane is: how do I keep my hair/skin from being so damn dry?

My first round with Accutane, I had to spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out which products were going to provide the moisture I desperately needed. It would have been great to have information collected here; and I’ve checked the stats on my blog, and have seen that I’ve been getting a lot of traffic from people who have been looking for information about Accutane.

In this entry, I’ll cover the products that I’ve used that I think have helped me greatly.

1. Basic Skin Cleansing and Moisturizing

During my first round of treatment, I was using Clinique’s Comforting Cream Cleanser, but it’s a little pricey and doesn’t last terribly long ($18.50/5oz). This time around, I am using Cetaphil’s Gentle Cleanser ($11.49/16oz), which I think works great: it breaks up my makeup, cleans without stripping, and a single bottle will last you through a standard six-month treatment (really! I am the queen of using way too much product).

I used to moisturize with Clinique’s Moisture Surge, but again, it’s pricey ($46.50/2.5oz) and I was re-applying a lot. On the upside, Moisture Surge can be applied over makeup without having to worry about it smudging.

This course of treatment, I switched over to Cetaphil’s DailyAdvance Ultra Hydrating Lotion For Dry, Sensitive Skin ($10.79/8oz), which I think is actually body lotion, but all of Cetaphil’s products are non-comedogenic, so there is are no worries that this ultra-moisturizing cream will cause any pore-blockage. Using the moisturizer means that I only have to moisturize once a day, instead of re-applying several times a day to cover flakes of dry skin. No tightness, no flakes. It gets an A in my book.

The only awkward side effect? My nose sweats. Just my nose. I don’t know if this is standard for this moisturizer, or just me. It’s not uncontrollable, but I do have to wipe my nose before meetings.

2. Body Wash

Very simply, I use Classic Ivory soap. It’s inexpensive ($1.99/3 bars) and there are no detergents or fragrances in it. The only other thing that I would steer people towards is maybe vegetable glycerin soap, which also has no fragrance or detergents.

3. Shampoo/Conditioner

I’m fairly lucky because I have a water softener, so that really helps to keep my hair from getting fried. But, in my first course, I used Aveda’s hair products. I still recommend Aveda’s Dry Remedy Moisturizing line. They aren’t inexpensive, but I honestly believe that when your hair is falling out because of the Accutane treatment, you need products that are as natural as you can possibly get. Aveda does that.

The Ritual Kit has the shampoo, the conditioner, and the moisture mask all-included for $74.00, which is $10 off what it would cost to buy each of the products separately. Of course, though, you can buy them separately and not even get the hair mask and be just as well off.

And, as is true for all of Aveda’s products, a little goes a long way.

4. Body Lotion

I only really need lotion when I shave my legs, but my go-to product that delivers a lot of moisture and soaks in really well is Vaseline Intensive Care Total Moisture, Dry Skin Lotion. It’s very good for hands, too, and a huge bottle is relatively inexpensive ($7.00/24,5oz). I have a feeling that you’ll carry this from your Accutane treatment through to all of your body/hand moisturizing needs through the year.

5. Lip Treatment

If any of you are having the same experience that I’ve had, the first thing that dries out and the last thing to get moisture back is your lips. I would honestly say that I would take all of the other symptoms twofold if only I could have the lip dryness not happen.

During my first treatment, I used Carmex for chapped lips ($2.49/.5 oz,) but I know that it’s cheaper at Wal-Mart, Drug Mart and CVS). I really liked it’s staying power.

This time around, I’m using Blistex Lip Medex ($2.19/.38 oz). I think it has the same softening, moisturizing, and staying power, but I feel like it warms up better with your body heat and doesn’t feel quite as thick and sticky.

You’ll notice that I took a lot of time to find products that you can get in your local drugstore. And I think even in some cases, you can use HSA dollars to pay for these items.  I’m pretty lucky in that my prescription coverage is very extensive and my prescription for the generic brand is only $10. However, my first course of treatment cost $100 month, and that didn’t count the co-pays or the blood tests. The point is that you don’t need really, really expensive products to provide the moisture you need to have a comfortable experience while on Accutane.

I really hope that this helps: please feel free to leave a comment letting me know how these recommendations worked for you.

NaBloPoMo’08, Day 10: Status Report

I’ve been on the Accutane for a little over a week now.  It’s been an adjustment period.  The side affects are nothing that I haven’t dealt with before, but after two years, re-learning some of the affects have made for an awkward adjustment.

I knew that my skin was going to dry out, but I’d forgotten what a fight it was to stay moisturized throughout the day.  I’d also forgotten about the hair thinning.  I’m not going bald or anything, but running my hands through my hair in the shower I’m pulling angel-hair-pasta-thick strands of hair out.  But the worst is how dry my lips are.  I could deal with everything else without complaint if it weren’t for the fact that I could pull sheets of skin off of my lips. The last time I was on Accutane, it was the one thing I was looking forward to at the end of the six months of treatment.

I know that I made the right decision going back on Accutane.  I know that no matter how many different treatments I tried, the cysts were never going to go away.  But at the same time, in the darkest hour, when my face is raw, red, peeling, and I am paying $40 for the only moisturizer that even comes close to not making my skin feel like I’m being flayed, I wonder why the hell I did this to myself again.  The only comfort is that after this month, my dosage will go down, and hopefully this is the last time I’ll have to do this.

The end goal is the only thing that makes all this bullshit worth going through.

Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In)

I wrote in a previous post about a medication I was taken for a condition that I’d been suffering through for half of my life.  I have acne (not just your basic black- or white-heads; I’m talking your full-blown, under-the-muscle, swollen-for-days cysts).    Every day with acne was a nightmare for me, because it wasn’t just a breakout here or there: my face would be swollen, red and painful to the touch from cysts.  And it only got worse as an adult.

So, when I write that I have a “condition”, I can’t promise you that it will kill me, but I can promise you I’ve been through hell treating it.

I have been through every single topical medication and every antibiotic prescribeable for acne.  In addition, I’ve also adjusted my diet, washed my face three times a day, and got acne-clearing facials in an effort to try to clear my skin.  But the problem with cystic acne is that no amount of topical creams, antibiotics or facials will get rid of them.

It’s not just about looking like a model, or feeling like I had to live up to a standard of beauty.  Every day through my teenage years, I had to deal with groupings of breakouts on my face, or a cyst deep in the dermis that would take two weeks to fully disappear.  No matter how much or what kind of makeup I used, I couldn’t cover up my breakouts.  Because I have very fair and very delicate skin, every single cyst, and nearly every breakout has left a scar.  Without full-coverage makeup, I have purple marks all over my cheeks and my chin in a color-coded map of the history of my breakouts.  I have cysts in my scalp that cause me to cry out in pain if I’m not careful when running a brush through my hair.

I believe in loving the skin that you’re in; but when you can’t look co-workers and bosses in the face because you are embarrassed and convinced that all they can see is a cyst, there is no amount of self-love that can take that humiliation away.  Employers and clients don’t take you seriously if you are covered in acne.  And when it comes to getting jobs, I certainly would not have gotten a second interview if I had a serious breakout that I couldn’t cover up.

I was 21 when I started my first course of Accutane.  It was the first time in ten years that I had clear skin.  It was tough trying to find a lip balm that would actually help with my perpetually-chapped lips, and the moisturizer that I had to use on my skin was very expensive, but it was worth it to have clear skin for the first time in years.  And it was worth it to go through that time so that I could not have to worry about another acne-medicated face wash again.

Everything changed when I got a Mirena IUD.  Suddenly, I had an influx of hormones that I didn’t have before.  I was able to wax some of the excess hair, but the acne came back.  It wasn’t as bad as before, but about as painful, and particularly embarrassing for work in a field where I see people every day.  All of the original feelings of humiliation and self-loathing came back, as acute and as tear-inducing as when I was a teenager and in college.  (In the back of my head, when I finished my first course of treatment with Accutane, I always sort of knew that I would have to go on it again.  There are a lot of patients who take multiple courses of Accutane therapy.)

Millions of people are just like me, who suffer through painful breakouts, who are so embarrassed by their skin, they can’t bear to show it in public.  We have online support groups; we have people who love us and hate to see us suffer in our own private hell, fighting so hard against our own skin; we have doctors who are willing to listen and give us options.  For some of us, it’s not “something we’ll grow out of” or “not that bad” or about “loving the skin you’re in”.  For some of us, it’s a public hell that we have to fight in private every day.  But we won’t have a magnetic support ribbon to stick on the back of our cars, and we won’t have anyone racing for our cure, and we won’t have have foundations set up to help with our medical bills.  I’m okay with that: I certainly don’t need a magnetic ribbon, a race, or a bowl-a-thon to feel like I’m being helped in some remarkable way.  I think what I’m really asking for is that for people who have never had to deal with painful, scarring acne be kind and understanding to those of us who do.

Accutane was a godsend for me.  It is a godsend for hundreds of thousands of other people who have suffered with me.  I am happy to stand with those people and say, honestly and truly, that this medication saved my life by treating what had previously been an untreatable, chronic condition.

My message is clear: if you have acne, if you have cysts, if you have spent years and thousands of dollars on medications, creams and washes to treat your skin and nothing has helped, be your own best advocate.  Go to a dermatologist, keep records of your condition, make sure that you are seen an evaluated, cry if you must, but be strong, and be firm.  And if you are a parent, please listen to your son or daughter, and be their best advocate if they can’t be their own – I was so lucky that my mother listened to and understood my pain and humiliation with my acne.  My biggest regret was that I didn’t go on Accutane sooner when I had the chance.  Our skin is the only organ that other people get to see; the reality is that we are judged our skin.  So when there a problem with our skin that is treatable, non-permanent, and has no effect on the content of our character, why wouldn’t you do everything you could to help?