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Adult Acne - My Experience with Accutane, Proactiv and More

Updated on July 13, 2014

I tried several things

Pimples, zits, break outs, blemishes -- whatever you want to call it, I hate acne. I used to hate it as a teenager but I hated it more once I turned 20. Why? Because I'd always been told that my acne would go away once I wasn't a teenager. Instead I was having some of the worst break outs ever.

Over the Counter

I tried the usual things as a teenager, Oxy, different spot treatments, a face wash or two. I even tried Noxema but I hated the greasy feeling of it. I felt my skin was too oily and it just made it feel worse. Spot treatments did seem to work but I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. Once one blemish was zapped, another would take its place. Also, they seemed to leave a dark spot even when they left. This is a problem with some folks with Asian skin or dark skin. It's called hyperpigmentation.


Finally I gave up and asked my doctor what to do. First I tried Erythromycin, an antibiotic which I took in pill form. It seemed to work a little bit, but I still got break outs.

I lost health insurance and didn't try anything for awhile. Then when I got on health insurance again and was still having bad breakouts I went to the doctor again. This time I was put on Accutane (isotretinoin).

Accutane (or Roccutane or isotretinoin since Accutane lost its patent and is no longer produced) is currently the closest thing to an "Acne cure" that there is. It comes with certain risks though. You are made aware of these risks before they let you fill your prescription. They even gave me a folder with information to take home and sign.

The main things that stood out in my mind at the time is that it might give you a raised blood glucose level and it can cause birth defects if (as a female) you were to get pregnant while taking Accutane (needless to say you should not nurse while on it either). As part of my regiment I had to get monthly blood checks, which included a pregnancy check. Each pill was wrapped in foil and had a little "No pregnant women" symbol on the foil you had to break to get to it. You took one pill a day with food.

Other, more common side effects to watch out for was a sensitivity to sun and dry skin and eyes.

I was on Accutane for around six months. I'll have to admit that I wasn't particularly careful about staying out of the sun but I have genetics working for me in that getting a sunburn is a very rare thing for me. I did get extremely dry lips though. I had to use chapstick often (at the time I normally didn't use chapstick at all). My skin also seemed drier in general and I had to use eye drops occasionally (I wear contact lenses).

The good news is that Accutane worked. My skin got much better and though a stray pimple or two would still pop up during a certain time of the month, it was nowhere near what I had been having before. My skin actually had time to heal for the first time in a long time.

By the end of the 6 month period I was very happy with the results. My doctor said that I could go off of Accutane and see how it went, he said sometimes people came back for another 6 month go but sometimes one 6 month period was all that was needed. I didn't enjoy the chapped lips and worrying about sun exposure (plus it was summer when I ended my first batch) so I didn't go back to the treatment.


Things were fine for awhile. But eventually my old nemesis came back. Around this time I started researching acne treatments for adults and came upon some folks talking about Proactiv in a discussion forum. I decided to give it a shot. I hadn't realized they had been doing "infomercials" - this was probably a good thing because I tend not to believe those things and in fact it probably would've made me not try it.

I got the kit, a cleanser, toner and "repair lotion" and followed the instructions and washed my face twice a day. By day 7 I saw a marked improvement. The acne I had had disappeared or was on it's way out. By day 14 I noticed something else... my skin actually looked healthier. Frankly I had thought that maybe because of all my skin had gone through it would never look "fresh" again. But while I wasn't looking like a 17 year old with perfect skin (I never had perfect skin at 17 anyway) I did see that my skin looked rosier, not "dull" as I would've called it before.

Needless to say I kept up with Proactiv. Soon I wasn't getting break outs save for the odd one that would go away quickly (using the Refining Mask I got as a gift at sign up as a type of spot treatment seemed to help that process). By the time I visited my (then) boyfriend's family during one of the holidays, I had my own infomercial scene. I saw a Proactiv bottle on the shared bathroom counter. It had to belong to one of his sisters and they have great skin, so I would never have guessed they had to use anything. I asked whose it was and then the next thing that happens is that 3 girls are in the bathroom talking about how great the product is. And the other women were saying how they had noticed my skin was looking great (they hadn't seen me since before I had started on Proactiv).

My Solution

So there you have it. I noticed the Proactiv system works for me, I had a brief fling with the Murad system but I didn't like the salicylic acid cleanser. Money got tight and I stopped my Proactiv deliveries, the acne came back a bit. I then decided it was worth the room in the budget and my skin is looking clearer and rosier once more.

My recommendations are if you have very bad acne, fit the health requirements and if your insurance can cover it, go on Accutane for one session. If you don't qualify for Accutane or if your acne isn't that bad and/or if you are looking for a facial pick me up for adult skin, give Proactiv a try. But don't do it haphazardly, really do their twice a day regiment. It's not hard and it's the only way to see if it really works for you.

Lastly though, just because your skin clears and is looking perhaps the best it ever has since elementary school, keep at it. There really isn't a "cure" for acne, but you can keep it at bay.


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