Accutane for Mild But Persistent Acne

Typical readers of The Modern Austen may (or may not if you know me in real life) be surprised to hear that I’ve struggled with acne ever since puberty. Still. To. This. Day. Though I do not have severe acne, I do have what’s classified as mild, but persistent acne. This means that while it’s never all that bad, it almost never goes away. Thanks to the magical powers of photo editing, I’ve maintained this secret without too much trouble. (Note: I am not ashamed to edit out my blemishes. I’d prefer that people focus on my other features and the outfit I’m showcasing rather than centering in on that cyst on my chin. So sue me! I do, however, believe in not altering anything major like weight.) But at almost 24 years old, I no longer want to keep hiding my acne with Photoshop or makeup; I am more than ready to get rid of it for good.

Mild but persistent acne hidden by photo editingThe picture on the left is me, with makeup, on a “pretty good acne” day.

Unfortunately, I’ve tried everything already. I’ve been on every acne treatment possible and tried every antibiotic combination, regime, and ProActiv solution you can imagine. I’ve done topicals, I’ve done antibiotics, I’ve done both, I’ve done B.C. Everything. So when two years ago, my dermatologist suggested I try Accutane, I was both stunned and hopeful. Surely Accutane is only for those with painful cystic acne! But wait–you mean this can work for me, too? I left the appointment determined to research and make a decision.

Fast forward nearly two years later, a move away, and a move back, I am finally in a position to consider my last resort. My last stitch effort. A chance to say buh-bye to blemishes and discoloration for good.

I’ve put together this video explaining my decision to pursue Accutane, even despite the terrible horror stories and icky side effects. It was not a decision made lightly and I know that it’s not one that everyone should pursue. But if you’re curious or maybe you’re like me and feel like you’ve done as much as you can, take a few minutes to watch and see if this might be something worth looking into. Writing this post two months in, I can tell you that it’s working so far and that the side effects are very minimal (I’m a lucky one!).

I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts. Maybe you’ve had a bad experience–share it below. Maybe you’ve had a very positive one–share it below. Just know that everyone’s body is different and everyone responds differently to medication. I’m not a doctor and I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I’m hoping that I can shed light on an option for individuals with this unique skin type!

Keep checking back for updates on my progress and for more awkward videos!

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Hi! I'm Marissa. I'm a twenty-something dedicated to living life positively, sharing inspiration, developing my best self, and dressing the part. You can find me diving into a good book, looking for the ideal swing dancing partner, swooning over fabulous typography, or doing something ridiculous for blog's sake.

33 thoughts on “Accutane for Mild But Persistent Acne”

  1. I had a mixed experience with Accutane. During the treatment, my skin got very, VERY dry. I broke out with eczema on my arms, which was embarrassing because I had tiny bumps all over my arms. I ended up having to use a very thick cream all over my body to fix the problem. However, it did clear up my acne! My face was the clearest it has ever been in my life. Absolutely no pimples! It was nothing short of a miracle. However, when I was done with the treatment, most of my acne came back. I still break out like I used to before Accutane. However, it’s not quite as severe, and my pimples aren’t as big. I hope it works out for you! I’ve heard very different experiences.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Michelle! It’s interesting to hear the variety of responses people have had with the medication. I’m glad to hear that your acne has cleared up more, but I wish it was completely gone for you! So far my treatment is going pretty well–a little too early to tell how it will play out in the long run.

  2. My sister and I did Accutane as late teenagers. She dried out more than I did and experienced negative side effects like creaky joints (you could hear the cracking). I dried out like the Sahara but didn’t have other side effects. We both stayed on the drugs for about 6-9 months. I am certain it helped control breakouts in my 20s and 30s. I still got breakouts after I went of the meds and some were cystic, but it wasn’t to the degree I had suffered before. I would do it again, but I’m glad there are other options to explore now, like lasers, and it looks like more innovations are coming along. Still, for cystic acne I think it’s the gold standard. Best of luck to you!

    1. Eek! Your poor sister! I’m glad to hear you had a mostly positive experience with the mediation. I’m hoping it works out well for me, too! I am experiencing mostly just very very dry lips. We’ll see how it goes in the long run!

  3. I only get acne occasionally, and it clears up during certain times of the month, but I know that the hormones behind it can be a TOTAL pain. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  4. Good luck on your journey! Just a small anecdote, I had persistent back acne and it totally cleared up when I made some changes in my diet. Reducing/eliminating dairy is a huge factor. Also, I started eating foods that are low on the glycemic index (low GI foods) which really helped reduce inflammation. If you do need to quit your course of treatment, I think it’s worth trying to heal your skin from the inside out with dietary changes. I really hope you avoid the icky side effects!

    1. Melanie, thank you for sharing this! If only I were that dedicated. I know that I personally cannot follow certain dietary restrictions, but I absolutely think it is key for many people and their skin. I just know that I would not be able to follow through appropriately with the lifestyle I have/want to have :)

  5. My derm has recommended it before but I do not want to deal with the side effects. Plus, I already have so many other things going on, adding accutane seems like more of a risk to my body than anything. Props to you for trying it out and having success so far! I look forward to hearing (and seeing!) How it goes! You’re beautiful with or without it!

    1. Leila, I can definitely understand your hesitation. I would agree that it’s best to be on accutane when you’re not dealing with a million things at once, especially if you already have other medical concerns to worry about. I am having pretty good success with it so far–mostly just very dry lips–but I am anxious to see how it will play out in the long run. And thanks girl! It will be nice just not to have to spend so much time or money on my skin, fingers crossed.

  6. I’ve been on that antibiotic that helps a time or two before and wish I could stay on it. Good luck..Just pay attention to your body and stop if it doesn’t like it?

    1. Absolutely, Heidi. It’s definitely not something to ignore or be lazy about. Being cognizant and aware of your body at all times is so important! Luckily, I’ve really only had dry lips during the first few months of treatment so far. I’m hoping it will continue on this path. I wish you luck in the future!

  7. My husband had to do accutane for health reasons. He still has scars from his acne. His were the cysts and they were tearing up his skin. He too tried everything. Natural and medicine wise. After doing it, he has not had an issue for the past seven years.

  8. Thank you for sharing this! I have dealt with acne since my early teens, but it was fairly mild. I have been on a topical and antibiotic regime and it worked for me. Right now I am just on topical and it isn’t working as well, but I don’t want to go on medicine until I am done having children. I really hope everything works out for you! Acne can really be frustrating!

    1. I’m so glad I’m not alone in this, Laura! I thought long and hard about going on this medication, still being long before my possible pregnancy time of life, so I’m praying that it won’t affect anything. If I were in your situation, I’d do exactly what you’re doing and wait it out as best as I could! I really hope things clear up for you too :)

  9. I was on Accutane for a while in high school. I had persistent acne on my face, neck, chest, back and arms – it was AWFUL! I started tetracycline and other acne meds in 4th grade. Accutane was heaven-sent. I wouldn’t hesitate to put my kids on it, if they needed it.
    I’m, ehm, 37, now and still struggle with some breakouts but nothing like before. I love the Expose skincare line – I always have the Moisture Complex and notice a difference if I miss a day or two. I buy it on Amazon.

    1. Emily, thank you for sharing your story! It’s so helpful to hear how others have responded to Accutane and I am really glad it worked out well for you. I will definitely need to look into Expose after my treatment is over! Thanks for the suggestion.

  10. I have looked into this, but the side effects terrify me. Im trying the Exposed skincare line for now. If that doesn’t work, this will be my next option. I hope it works for you!

    1. It IS scary! I was so worried, but so far I’m doing really well! Only battling dry lips, as far as I can tell. Almost halfway through, so I’m anxious to see how everything plays out in the long run. I hope that Exposed works for you, but if not, definitely do some research to see if Accutane might be an option for you.

  11. I have struggled with mild but persistent acne as well, from puberty until my mid-late 20’s. (I’m 27 now.) I, too, had tried SO many things…ProActiv, Perfect Skin, prescription creams and face wash, lots of over-the-counter acne treatments, oil cleansing method, etc. They would all work temporarily, but eventually I’d have to move on to something new. I finally figured out that acne is actually caused by what is going on INSIDE our bodies….a hormone imbalance and/or the food we’re eating. If our insides aren’t balanced, then it does not matter what we put in our skin. Synthetic medications also merely fix the symptoms….they do not take care of the root problem. In January 2012, I went gluten-free and sugar-free to see if that would help, and it has!! :) I also avoid other grains and cow dairy for the most part, and I make sure to get enough good fat into my diet (fatty cuts of meat, coconut and olive oil, etc.). In September, I started using doTERRA essential oils and that, coupled with my clean, whole-foods diet, has been THE BEST thing that has helped my acne go away. I will have a flare-up if I start eating junky stuff, and I’m still working on balancing my hormones b/c I sometimes get very small break-outs right before my period or during ovulation. But I cannot stress enough just how important food and natural supplements are. Have you ever tried going gluten-free/Paleo or using essential oils? It is awesome and I have not taken any synthetic medication since September. :)

    1. I’m so impressed, Malori! Good for you! I know this is definitely a great option for many people and I commend all who can maintain this kind of healthy diet. I know that I personally wouldn’t be able to maintain that kind of lifestyle, at least not right now in this stage of life, but I think it’s a great idea. I did a bit of Whole 30, but not long enough to really see an effect on my skin. Life’s too chaotic right now :)

  12. I think you look beautiful in both the before and after photos. I noticed the lovely blouse you had on before I even saw your face, and I know I wouldn’t have noticed your mild/persistent “acne” if you wouldn’t have pointed it out.

    1. Aw well thank you! That was a pretty “clear” day for me in the before photo. The goal is to be able to notice my face first :P I know that I could be just “fine” without it, but when you’re actually in someone’s shoes that deals with acne that never goes away, it can be physically painful in addition to the frustration of not being able to have clear skin no matter what you do. Not everyone will approve of such choices, of course, but luckily it’s only mine to make :)

  13. I have modern acne but i have been noticing I have been breaking out. I tried everything and decided to eat healthy but it did work for a little while, but it still went back to horrible acne. Almost every morning I have been getting new pimple and there very painful and horrible deep down blackheads, and I don’t know what to do. Acne is so frustrating!! I was wondering to try acutane. But I’m scared about the side effects and I want to know how long would it take to start showing improvements ?

    1. Acne is incredibly frustrating, Tina! You aren’t alone. Accutane is scary, but it was worth it for me. As you noticed in the videos, I only experienced minor side effects (dryness) so it was manageable. It started showing improvements after a few weeks. I never felt like it got much worse than what I originally had, but it was consistently bringing up acne from underneath my skin. To me, I felt encouraged though because it meant they were all going away. My skin isn’t perfect now, but it’s much better than it was! Good luck with your journey! Hang in there.

  14. I keep getting 1 or 2 cysts persistently and have considered to go on Accutane. Have tried everything but nothing seems to work, so frustrating since I’m almost 27! Have you had an initial breakout once you started? Thanks for your blog…nice to know I’m not alone!

  15. I’m about to start my treatment as well. I relate to your post in that I have very mild but consistent and annoying acne! I hate waking up in the morning and wondering if it’ll be a good acne day or a bad one. I’m extremely anxious about starting–specifically about the initial break out. I know that you mentioned you didn’t really get one so that gives me some hope. I’m just really afraid that my body won’t react well to it. I’m going on it because I’m moving in with my boyfriend in a couple of months (which will be month 4 of my treatment) so I’m hoping by then I just won’t have to worry about breaking out anymore. I also just want to know that whatever I do is going to work. I don’t want to try another topical treatment and wait around for 3 months only to find out that it doesn’t really work. Any advice you have would be awesome. Thanks for documenting!

  16. You are amazing. Your video rings to true to me. I’m starting accutane next month, super nervous/excited and you’ve helped inspire me. Thank you!

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