I became a regular at the dermatologist's office, but while frequently-applied, weird-smelling prescription products took the edge off my breakouts, it was always only a matter of time before my skin rebelled, working around the lotions and washes. I became really, really good at putting foundation on.
I had always hoped that my acne would clear up after adolescence, but suddenly I found myself entering my sophomore year of college with skin that was worse than ever. It didn't help that I was living in New York City, arguably the dirtiest, most stressful place on this coast. So, I decided to finally do the one thing that had been guaranteed to cure me: Accutane.
Accutane is a serious drug, but I was desperate. The paperwork alone was enough to put fear in my heart. I had to solemnly swear to two different forms of birth control, despite the fact that I was only sleeping with women (according to my dermatologist, that counted as abstinence, but that's a story for a different article). I also had to have blood drawn once a month to prove that I wasn't pregnant, much to the amusement of the girls I was dating.
One of the most well-known side effects of Accutane is how it dries up your skin. This is no joke. I was on it for six months, from August through January. As it got colder, my face became a flaky nightmare. It hurt to even wash it. Interestingly, though, my skin developed a sort of radiance, despite being so chapped. Or, perhaps it was just the first time in nearly a decade that I had seen the surface of my face without pimples and grease.
By the time my treatment ended, I was acne-free. I quickly became more confident and comfortable in my own skin, and all of a sudden had more brain space to devote to worrying about things other than my zits — like, um, my future.
A few months later, I got a stomachache that wouldn't go away. It wasn't just a cramp; it was a deep, gnawing pain. And, at risk of over-sharing, I couldn't stop burping. This went on for a few weeks before I saw a doctor, who gave me a list of foods to avoid — among them my beloved coffee, red wine, chocolate, and anything deep-fried or spicy. Years later, I still have to eat like this to feel okay. I've also learned that stressful situations make it worse, but that's usually unavoidable.
It wasn't until I was contacted by a lawyer from the class-action lawsuit against Accutane that I connected my chronic stomach pain to the treatment that had so dramatically changed my skin. While I didn't have a diagnosis that qualified me to receive reparations, many of my symptoms were the same as those who did. Of course, I can't be sure that the Accutane is what did it — but it feels like too much of a coincidence.
The big question, of course, is whether or not it was worth it. Call me vain, but most days I feel like it was. While my diet is something I can control, my acne wasn't. I'll take a bland meal over a face full of painful ooze any day.
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