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Accutane: Skin-Care Secret for Celebs, Horror Story for Me

ESC: Emma Stone

Dominique Charriau/WireImage

Accutane seemed like a no-brainer. A magic pill that promised to clear up my lifelong, soul-crushing struggle with acne? Sign me up. 

Once upon a time, I had severe acne. I had become a master at concealing it with makeup, but there are only so many hours in a day, and thus, I was determined to get rid of it for real. You didn’t have to lure me with the fact that celebs like Emma Stone and Molly Sims owe their crystal-clear complexions to the drug. I had done my research and was ready to all but sign my life away to get my hands on the prescription.

Sure, there’s a laundry list of side effects, but my dermatologist downplayed it, telling me, “It was no big deal, and all the celebs do it.” Apparently, even the stars who deal with minor bouts of acne use it. 


Little did I know the roller coaster that I was about to embark upon.

First off, Accutane is a six-month commitment. During that time, I was required to limit my alcohol intake (I only pretended to do this—not one bottomless mimosa brunch went unattended #sorrynotsorry). I also had to make time for mandatory monthly doctor visits for pesky blood tests that monitored my liver and confirmed that I was not pregnant. Apparently, on it, there’s more than a 90% chance of birth defect, so if you do get knocked up, the State of California can sue you. Did I mention that I also had to log in online for monthly multiple choice quizzes about the dangers of getting pregnant on the drug—it felt like school all over again.

I also had to sign a textbook-sized iPledge booklet, citing two forms of birth control. My head was spinning from information overload, but my vain desire to rid my face of a splotchy complexion far outweighed the inconvenient life events listed above…or so I thought.

The big deal with FDA-regulated prescriptions is that you have to follow their rules to a T, no exceptions. If you miss any check-ins (online included), you’re screwed: booted out of the system and you basically have to wait 60 days to get your hands on the next 30-day supply. I’m usually on top of things, but like all humans, I’m not perfect. I work full-time, have a social life, work out daily…I’m busy. Despite my monthly calendar reminder, I forgot to log in online at the four-month mark. If it wasn’t already a process, it got worse from here.

I was just starting to see results, real results, and I would be dammed if I wasn’t able to stay on track. Sure, my joints were aching (so much so that I had to stop lifting weights at the gym), and my skin was on fire 90% of the time (even worse when I would break a sweat or come in contact with the sun’s rays), but I was just starting to feel confident with my skin for the first time, ever. It may be a first-world problem, but stemming from my teenage years, severe acne leaves physical marks and lingering insecurities. So, eager to get back on track, I called the Accutane powers that be. I begged, I pleaded but to no avail. 

I had to start from the beginning once more (remember the joint pain, sensitive skin and, on some cases, mood swings?). The thought of the side-effects alone brought tears to my eyes…then there was the paperwork. To re-register, I had to make an appointment with my general practitioner (a one-month wait) to get a referral for a dermatologist (another month wait) and then set an appointment (tack on two more weeks there).

After trying to navigate all of the appointments, I soon realized that it wasn’t a process I was willing to endure a second time (let’s just say there was more than one occasion where I broke down crying at work). Like I mentioned, my skin had cleared up, and while it wasn’t celeb-status by any means, I was too emotionally drained and frustrated with the health-care process to go on. I wonder, though, if the process is regulated by the State, do stars have to jump through similar hoops? If so, that’s a lot to bear for great skin. 

After four months on the pill and what is now one year later, is my skin clearer? Yes. Is it perfect? No.

But at least I feel comfortable in my skin. 

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