Pimples — Everyone gets them once in a while, but some unlucky ones have been bombarded with an assortment of whiteheads, pustules, and nodules since the start of puberty. I am one of those unlucky ones. Since my first major breakout freshman year of high school, I have been obsessed with the appearance of my skin. It’s a superficial problem, I know, but as a 14-year-old girl, my skin was who I was. My acne became a barrier that prevented people from seeing the real me.

Before and after four months of Isotretinoin / Photo by Lilliana Castillo

Not everyone has a fixation on their acne, but for some people it can destroy their confidence. I would avoid going out with my friends and I would cry taking off my makeup, knowing that another pimple stealthily emerged during the day. I cursed my genetics for making me so susceptible to hyper-pigmentation.

One of the many videos I watched before Isotretinoin / Credit to Hana Lee 

I tried everything to achieve clear skin. I used Proactive, changed my diet, took spironolactone, started birth control, but nothing helped. I took the advice of dozens of Youtube videos on skincare recommendations, only to be disappointed that I wasted my money on a useless product. After a while, I gave up. I masked my disappointment with layers of foundation, day after day. Then, during senior year, I discovered Isotretinoin.

Isotretinoin, better known as Accutane, is a pill that contains a derivative of vitamin A that naturally occurs in the body. And unlike vitamin A supplements, Isotretinoin does not build up in the bloodstream. But it does come with its own fair share of grisly side effects, and that was what made me put off trying the drug for months.

Cracked lips, dry skin, upset stomach and thinning hair are just a few potential horrors that WebMD buzzed off when I first looked into Isotretinoin. And to top it off, the drug can also cause severe birth defects in fetuses. To make sure they don’t get pregnant, patients have to be on two forms of birth control and take a pregnancy test every month at their dermatologist’s office.

I spent months contemplating whether all the obstacles that Isotretinoin presented were worth it. Ultimately, I decided to start it right after high school graduation. Four months into the treatment, I am ecstatic to say that I made the right choice for myself. Aside from a few minor scars, my skin is smooth and clear, and my acne no longer consumes my self-esteem.

Photo from flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons

That being said, I still experienced several unsavory reactions to the medicine. My lips are so crusty that I apply Aquaphor more than five times a day. My inner nostrils are drier than the Sahara. Isotretinoin gives me the joint pain of a 65-year old. There are nights I cannot sleep.

Weinberg freshman Sarah Baca said she was initially against taking Isotretinoin because of the psychological side effects that it had on people close to her who had taken the medicine. She said that she eventually went on it, and experienced dry skin, chapped lips and body aches.

“My body actually got very sore," Baca said. "It made it fairly difficult for me to keep up with sports practices, which were frustrating to go through senior year."

She also experienced some mood changes during the last few months, but said that the outcome was worth it.

“I don’t feel like I need to hide parts of my face with makeup or leave my hair down to cover up my scars,” she said.

It is up to you to decide whether the benefits of Isotretinoin outweigh the risks, as the side effects are not something to just brush off. Everyone reacts to the treatment differently, so take my experience with a grain of salt. After years of bitter resignation, I finally have clear skin! I feel confident in myself, and that means more to me than you can imagine.