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Gidday Gang,

This is a message I have been meaning to post for years, but never actually have. As always it's just one opinion, but I'm hoping maybe it can offer some help to a few sufferers. It's certainly stuff I wish somebody had told me.

Anyway, from 17-22 I suffered from moderate-to-severe acne. I say "moderate-to-severe" in terms of physical symptoms only - the psychological effect on me was enormous. Apart from a weekly "sneak" to get groceries, I would stay home by myself for all but the most extreme of circumstances. I was obsessed with my skin, and my happiness depended pretty much exclusively on the state of it. "Good skin day" = happy, "bad skin day" = miserable.

Although I didn't post that much, I spent a lot of time lurking around internet newsgroups & forums, and while I got a lot of information that was positive, I think a lot of it had a pretty bad impact upon me as well. Here's my experience:

From obsessively researching acne, I hopped from one cure to another. I started out on benzoyl peroxide (which it took me 6 months to realise I was allergic to) with no effect. From there I moved onto doxycycline & differin gel, later added were clindamycin, then minomycin, erythromycin and finally tetracycline. During (and sometimes between) these clinical treatments I tried various other remedies. Skin-cleansing creams & facials from various beauty salons, plus stints of (pardon the excess of lists here, but I hope you get the point that I tried a lot of stuff!) excess MSM, enormous doses of B5, garlic, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Fish Oil, Vitamin E, salicylic & glycolic acids, god-knows-how-many over the counter solutions & eastern facial therapies, various masks & much more.

For the most part, all of these things lead to minor improvement that lead me into fits of euphora as I predicted that my acne was "finally!" clearing for good, only to come crashing horribly back down again a few weeks later. This went on for years.

From reading a lot of these boards, I'd acquired an absolute paranoia of accutane, fearing that even if it did work it would leave me with a horribly red or pasty appearance. I would have gone on the drug at 17 if not for the horror stories that had left me convinced I'd be left with either worse acne, no hair, immovable joints, terribly increased scarring or skin like a burns victim.

Anyway, I went on accutane 3 years ago. I know some people have terrible experiences with the drug and I guess it's not a drug that anyone should take without severe consideration. I *promised* myself I would come back to my internet forums to post my results, good or bad. I never did, because acne stopped being a part of my life. My skin cleared up unlike any of the "improvements" I'd seen, and instead of being "better" or "worse", acne simply stopped being part of my psychology. My scars healed better than I ever could have imagined, my rosy cheeks came back and I seemed to have the skin I'd craved with a rabid obsession for years.

I've since talked to a lot of post-accutane patients and while there *are* horror stories to be found, I think it's worth pointing out that, when it comes to this disease, people who are afflicted post their complaints, but most who are cured just move on to other things, other interests, and other forums. I think that makes for a terribly skewed view against what, from my experience, is a miracle drug in so many cases. My greatest regret of those hideous five years is in the years I wasted before taking the plunge and getting on this drug.

Admittedly, I haven't read through these forums much before posting this and perhaps there is a less negative sentiment towards the "Big A" than there used to be, but if not, I just thought I'd notch one up for the very, very plus column.

Finally, one more little snippet from my experiences:

When I had acne, I had this view of what life would be like without it. I imagined what sort of people I would date, the confidence I would have and the different way people would treat me. I can't emphasise enough that I consider myself to have had a "dream run" on accutane - it did make a massive difference to my confidence, my appearance and certainly the type and (ashamed grin) number of girls I dated.

It wasn't necessarily a bad feeling, or even a disappointing one, but I spent the first six months with a sly grin on my face, thinking to myself: "I obsessed over wanting THIS?"

You'd be surprised how quickly you start to take things for granted. ...and then you start looking at your hair...and start desiring EVEN MORE inaccessible boyfriends/girlfriends, until I realised that my unreachable utopia of five years, when reached, quickly became a rather neutral status quo. I guess what I mean is, for those who suffered as much psychologically as I had, don't sweat too much - it really isn't *THAT* great on the other side. :D

Anyway, reading over this letter I can't help but feel it sounds more patriarchal and smug than I intended it to be - but nonetheless, I hope it provides at least some helpful stuff for a few of you. For anyone who had a sort of suffering even close to the sort I had, I sincerely wish you all the best. If I can offer any amateur-ish advice, physiological or psychological, feel free :D

Cheers,
- JB





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