Why do brilliant ideas come about during the oddest hours? It struck me that I should do this series in, of all places, the car on the way to work. So I have no photos without makeup – will go home and take them.

I started developing acne around 3 weeks ago, but there were no more than 4 spots and still manageable. It became a cluster around my mouth, with 4 large cystic acne near my chin 2 weeks ago. I joked with my friend that I almost didn’t want to come to her wedding because those spots were so painful and unsightly.

20120718-085904.jpgThis week, my acne graduated and slowly appeared on my forehead and cheeks. Bloody brilliant. I had gone for a facial just the past weekend but this was no post-facial pop-up. The mouth acne was still proudly present, mocking me and hurting every time I took a big bite out of my food.

So yesterday I ran to the dermatologist that I’ve been with since I was 11. I almost shed tears due to the pain, worry, and sheer vanity I possess in abundant quantities. I had spent a good half of the day unconsciously prodding at my acne and bemoaning my fate
to Bee and Ksuan.

Dom’s Acne History
Puberty hit me like I was the last human female on earth – my period started when I was 9 and I became almost immediately pizza-faced with extra pepperoni grease. I had to use topical antibiotic liquid and Retin-A cream, and apparently I took antibiotic tablets too. The topical stuff I remember, not the oral stuff.

Not exactly the pizza face I was thinking of. Credit: Kaysville Gym Rat Blog

I started Roaccutane in 2003 and stopped in 2004. I had a mega strong dose with 2 20mg tablets per day for a month before reducing it to 1 per day and eventually 1 every other day. 8 months of treatment. Back then the only side effects I suffered were extreme dryness on my lips and heightened tendency to nose bleeds when I picked my nose (Just being honest here).

It worked like a dream though. Thanks to my dermatologist, parents, and Roaccutane, I have no textural scarring and my acne had disappeared. It was bloody brilliant, on the positive side. It did cost a pretty penny – back then it was RM10 per tablet and there were no generic tablets. (Since then there are now generic isotretinoin tablets made by other companies, so it’s about RM7 per generic brand tablet).

So, what is this Roaccutane I speak of? In layman language, it’s pure Vitamin A (isotretinoin) and a retinoid, which is found naturally in small quantities in our body. It’s usually the last-resort treatment dermatologists give for severe cystic acne or acne that doesn’t respond to other treatments. It doesn’t create any scarring as it reacts internally.


What Roaccutane Does

  • It reduces sebum production internally and can stop blockages from occurring.
  • It will cause excessive drying – that’s why you need copious amounts of water, lotion, lip balms, and so on. Contact lens wearers should also refrain from lenses.
  • It has several side effects, as do most drugs. Due to the high concentration of Vitamin A, there have been concerns about how much this can affect you. You can visit the Wikipedia page here and have a read. Most importantly however, it can cause birth defects if you are pregnant. I had to sign a disclosure agreeing not to get pregnant when I first took it. You will find a lot of ‘horror’ side effects on the Internet, but I personally wouldn’t say it’s a cause for alarm. I only experienced the dryness – eyes, lips, and skin.

What Roaccutane Does NOT Do:

  • It does not cause fertility problems. I voiced that concern with my dermatologist and the answer is a simple no. It is recommended to wait 1-3 months after Roaccutane before attempting to get pregnant, just so to let the drug flush out of the system.
  • It’s not a permanent solution in all cases. Evidently I thought it was, seeing as I never had to take it since 2004.

Dom’s Prescribed Treatment (From the Derma)
1 20mg Roaccutane tablet every alternate day, Rectanyl (tretinoin) cream a.k.a. Retin-A every night on acne spots, Rectanyl cream on the whole face at night once or twice a week. This is a one-month course first, just to see how it goes.

I’ll be keeping a diary of the things I eat, exercise, cleansing routine … just so that we can track my journey. Hopefully it’ll be a short one, and an informative one at that!

Wish me luck 🙂


16 thoughts on “The Adult Acne Diaries: Diagnosis and What is Roaccutane?

  1. ouch!!!!! i have not seen any dermatologist before, each time when i decided to go visit, my acne started to clear…i know how frustrating is having to deal with this too 😦

    good luck to u my dear!

  2. I have to give props to both of you girls, for being so brave and open about the topic! I dont suffer from acne, I rarely get a pimple but my skin get clogged like crazy 😦 and I get scars from them afterwards, which I hate

    • Thanks Helz. I’m completely in awe of dom myself. Also, we reckon it makes sense to chronicle events like this on belle, because surely there are other women who are going through similar situations and open to hearing about others’ experiences. It’s also strangely cathartic to learn that we’re not alone in our difficult times 🙂

    • Hi there 🙂 Thank you very much. Good reminder – will stock up on fruits and veggies. Hoping that I don’t have to go all Hollywood and organicky on this one.

  3. ouch! i hope it clears soon! i have a few bits of pimples every now and then and it’s problematic, especially when it grows near the hairline. i ter-scratch them EVERY SINGLE TIME with my comb. >.<

    good luck darling!

  4. My skin has be mucho cranky of late too have been debating going to a derm. All the best dear I know personally how painful this all is. =(

    • Thanks Kahani 🙂 maybe go to a derm just to solve it if it’s really bad. I’m very vain so that’s why I ran off immediately lol.

  5. Hi Dom, What did your dermatologist say on your recent visit? I took Roaccutane in the early nineties. I was virtually spot free for about ten years but now I’m in my forties and approaching the menopause I guess and the skin on my chin is flaring up more and more. I recently read somewhere that adult acne hits the lower parts of your face and teenage acne the higher parts which is certainly true for me. I don’t want more antibiotics/Roaccutane or to visit a Dermatologist again so at the moment I am just coping with the flare ups.

    • Hi Kat, thanks for dropping by. He wasn’t able to give me the cause for acne – he believes that different people have their own body chemistry and that it could be a myriad of reasons. I told him that my skincare was similar throughout and so was my makeup, but most likely my recent lifestyle changes might have crept up on me (I was taking thermogenics for exercise, running 4 times a week, etc). Traditional Chinese medicine advises that breakouts in the chin/mouth area indicate hormonal imbalance, which could be probable. The only reason I ran off to the dermatologist was because I didn’t want to let my flare up worsen (and probably the secondary reason is vanity haha). May I suggest using Retin-A? Since it is Vitamin A in a topical cream format, it might help. Please do keep me posted 🙂

  6. Pingback: Back to the Isotretinoin: Diagnosis « belle demoiselle

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