Four Month Progress



I haven't posted in so long! School and getting ready for college has consumed my life just a bit.

So, I've been taking pictures at the end of each month to record my progress since when you see your own face everyday, you don't notice the changes as much. I was really, really surprised when I put all the pictures together. I took the first two pictures with my webcam which I wish I hadn't done since the quality isn't nearly as good as my phone.

I'm not wearing any make-up in these pictures. They are not retouched. Kinda refreshing from all the ads where the models are so obviously wearing make-up or are retouched, no?

You may notice that it's actually been five months since I first started Accutane. This is because when I went in for my November appointment, I was sick and it showed up as a high white count on my blood tests, so they took me off the medicine to make sure it wasn't Accutane causing it. All the tests they made me take (more blood-tests, x-rays, other tests that would qualify as TMI) ended up dragging out pretty much the entire month so I started back up again in December.

So what do you think? I think there's been some pretty good progress. I have two more months to go, and a lot of the time most of the clearing up takes place after you get off the medication. Perhaps I'll finally have truly clear skin? Can't wait!

Products for Acne Prone Skin

As I've mentioned before, I'm pretty sure I've used every acne product there is on the market. I've found some things I like and a lot of things I really don't. Now, I figure my suggestions should work for pretty much anyone since I have the most stubborn acne on the face of the planet. Of course, if you're in the same boat as me, you're probably already on a heavy duty medication like myself.

Before I get into some of the products I like, let me start from the very, very beginning. I am absolutely shocked by the amount of people I know who just don't know how to take care of their skin or really anything about it. The very first step you can take towards getting better skin (in general, acne or not) is just treating it properly.

There are four little steps you should be doing every day, twice a day. They go in this order:

1. Cleanse
You're probably already doing this one, well, I hope so. I'd say good cleansers are the easiest thing to find. Please don't ever use soap on your skin ever unless it's the Clinique facial soap or something specifically meant for your face. You may also just splash water on your face but, really, a nice cleanser makes your skin just feel better and it's a step in the right direction.
Cetaphil, Aveeno, and Neutrogena are all good, cheap brands for face washes.
I like to spoil my skin though so I use more expensive products like DDF and Clinique which are just downright amazing. I swear by everything DDF makes. I'll talk about some individual products later.
Also, there are really face washes for every skin type and if you're just lost, someone will always help you.

2. Tone
I can't really tone now that I'm on Accutane but I really love toners. Their main purpose is to balance the pH in your skin and prep it for the products that go on over it. A lot of toners have alcohol in them but I would advise against using them, there are others that'll still give you that fresh feeling. I like toners with witch hazel and tea tree in them since they're extremely calming. In general, if something has witch hazel, tea tree, or chamomile in it, get it if you have red, blotchy, or puffy skin.

3. Moisturize
Probably one of the most important steps of all, especially if you have problem skin. I cannot go the day without moisturizer on. It obviously does what the name says, it moisturizes you. It keeps your skin soft and supple. Just moisturizing alone without anti-aging properties or anything will help slow the process down. But, the most important thing I think for people who have acne is simply that it moisturizes.

You may think that you don't want to put more moisture on your skin since it's already oily but you couldn't be more wrong, really. After we wash our face, our skin is not typically oily. It's kinda dry since it hasn't had time to produce more oil yet. Well, if we put moisturizer on our skin before it gets oily again, what does it do? It stops the oil. It's telling your body, "I'm already moisturized, you don't need to produce excess oil." So, the bad oils don't get produced and in their place your skin is nourished with moisturizer specifically made to help your skin.

Of course, it can't stop all oil production so if you are oily, it's best to use something pretty light but if you're super dry, you're going to want to use something heavy. Also, you might want to have a heavier moisturizer in the winter since that's when our skin is most dry.

4. Sunscreen
You do not have to be super pale to need to sunscreen. Hell, there doesn't even need to be sun for you to need to put on sunscreen. I will say, I do rarely put on body sunscreen but that's just because I can't find anything that's not gross and oily, plus, you know, there's a lot more skin on my body than there is on my face.

But, anyway. Putting on a facial sunscreen every day is an absolute must. First off, it'll stop you from looking leathery when you're fifty. I'd say sunscreen is maybe the key component to fighting age before it gets to you. Also, if you're on any sort of acne medication you /have/ to use it because your skin is very vulnerable. Even if you're just using something you bought at Walgreens that has just a smidge of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide in it.
Something I put together recently was that sunscreens and products for pigmentation and scarring have the same two ingredients in them: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. So, effectively, if you use sunscreen, you're also helping with the scarring and redness you have from acne.

Now that you've been briefed on how to prep your skin, I'll tell you about some of the products I adore and am a little sad I can't use anymore because I'm on Accutane. Once again, these all come from Sephora because...I live there. Practically.


Cleansers

DDF

I really like everything DDF makes. My favorite cleansers have been the
Salicylic Wash, Glycolic Exfoliating Wash, and the Brightening Cleanser. They all have really, really nice textures and really feeling like they're working. The Salicyclic is for someone who currently has acne. The Glycolic is fine for someone with acne but is better for evening out skin texture and really cleaning out the skin. Glycolic acid in anything is a good thing. The Brightening, which is probably my favorite, helps with skin tone and just all together makes your skin look nicer.

We always hear that oils are bad for our skin but some oils are very, very good. I particularly like the
Shu Uemura Skin Purifier Cleansing Beauty Oil. When I still had some, I mostly used it as a make-up remover and just to prep my skin and pamper it before applying anything else. It smells lovely and Tyra swears by it apparently. Beware of the price though.

The Clinique Liquid Facial Soap is something that absolutely anyone can use, I think. Well, not me. But, normal people who aren't on Accutane. It's what a face wash should be, it's kinda frothy and really feels like it's cleaning and it's light. It's supposed to help with acne too but I really think it's just a good basic face wash.

Murad has a huge line of great products, too.

Moisturizers

I've never really stuck with one moisturizer and often times, I'm living off of samples that I get at Sephora. One moisturizer I do love is this Chanel Energizing Multi-Protection Fluid with SPF 15. It's ungodly expensive, of course, but it's just...heavenly. It makes your skin feel like velvet and because it's mousse-y like that, you can barely feel it on your skin at all. That's how a moisturizer should feel, like it's not there.

Aveeno's moisturizer clarifying moisturizer feels nice but it's not particularly special. Brands I can say that I love for moisturizers are Clinique, Boscia, Murad, and Peter Thomas Roth. That latter is up there in the price range, but also like the Chanel, it's kind of amazing. I've only ever had samples of his products.

Treatments

Now we can get to where the helpful stuff is!

First off, you need a sulfur mask. Yes, you're basically going to be paying for a jar of mud. I don't know what it is about mud and sulfur, but when you put it on your face, it just sucks out all the bad stuff and oils. It can also be used as a spot treatment at night for particularly nasty areas. My favorite mask is this one by DDF:

My best luck for ever clearing acne has never been with full topicals, it's been with spot treatments. Sometimes I'll use to stuff over my whole face even though I probably shouldn't.



I really like this Benzoyl Peroxide Gel. It has a kind of grainy texture that makes me think it's doing something, which it does. It's always visibly reduced my blemishes overnight. Not completely in one night, but maybe two or three. You can use it on your entire face but benzoyl peroxide makes my face go red and puffy so I'd only do it if you don't have sensitive skin.

One of my favorite products is the No Foundation Foundation. It's good for anti-aging and really helps brighten your skin. It really does go a long way in not having to use so much make up to cover up. It immediately balances your skin color and covers pores and takes away lines. It also has the titanium dioxide and zinc oxide I talked about earlier. It's ideal for really everyone but I think it'd be especially nice for someone who just hates wearing make-up but wants to look nice and also help their skin. I'm definitely going to buy a bottle once my skin has cleared (I've been existing off samples!).





Another piece of advice I can give you is to use a green primer or a green concealer. Green is opposite from red on the color wheel and when put over something red, like blemishes, completely cancels the color out. A popular green primer is this Smashbox Color Adjust Primer.

A lot of these products are just unfairly expensive but remember that you can ALWAYS go into Sephora and ask them to give you samples. If you don't have a Sephora near you, they offer samples online at the checkout and I know a few of the available samples are always skin care. At one time it was the No Foundation Foundation but I'm not sure if they're still providing it.

I think my next article will be about vintage clothing and maybe something about hairstyles so stay tuned!

My Accutane Skincare Regimen

When you're on Accutane, you basically become a mummy. Drying your skin out helps with the excess oils that lead to breakouts. Last time I went on Accutane, I remember being incredibly embarrassed because of how dry and flaky my skin was, so, this time I'm determined to not deal with that again.

About a week before I started back up, I took a trip over to Sephora (aka, heaven). At each store, they have skincare experts who have been to school and they know what they're talking about, I firmly believe they aren't solely trying to sell you $100+ Kinerase products. What I found really comforting when I went in was that the skincare expert had been on Accutane herself and really sympathized and knew just the level of dryness I'd be dealing with (very, very similar to a peeling sunburn). In fact, when I was in DC in June, I visited the Sephora in Georgetown to get a new foundation and the expert there had also been on Accutane.

While you're on Accutane, it's very bad to use any type of skin-clearing products. These products are harsh, typically containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, and are just an overload on your hypersensitive skin.

These are all the products I got from Sephora (except for the Skinceuticals) that I now use to battle dry skin. They're all organic which is something that I really love and, for the most part, they're within a reasonable price range (I'm looking at you, Kinerase).

I'll follow up with a post about some acne fighting products I love for those of you who aren't using something prescription.


Step 1: Cleanse

Boscia Soothing Cleansing Cream - $21

I love this line but I'm not sure if I'm entirely thrilled with this cleanser. It moisturizes really really well and it's helping a lot but I don't feel like it's actually cleaning my face. It has a very thick, milky consistency and smells really good.

Step 2: Moisturize

Juice Beauty Organic Facial Moisture Concentrate - $36

I love this product. I've always been told to stay as far away from oils as humanly possible but these are good oils. I know, I didn't know such a thing existed! The oils it contains are cranberry seed, grapeseed, and rasberry seed oils. It immediately makes your skin look nicer and it's loaded with antioxidants.

Step 3 (If you're REALLY dry): Night Moisturizer

Boscia Recharging Night Cream - $33

I've only been using this for a few days because my skin hasn't been too dry yet but I really like this. I use it with the other moisturizer and it just loads my skin with moisture.

Step 4: Sunscreen

Skinceuticals Ultimate UV Defense SPF 30 - $37

I think everyone can agree this is the best sunscreen ever. It's expensive but I love it. I already have really sensitive skin and I'm super pale so I used to not be able to wear sunscreens because they would burn and make my face red. That's not the case with this one. It's really light but can be used as a moisturizer and doesn't have that lotion-y sunblock feel that I hate, it's very smooth.


Etsy Finds - Lace - All Under $50



So, being a student and without a job, I'm a huge fan of cheap finds and shopping online. I believe firmly that you do not have to sacrifice quality or uniqueness for a cheap price tag!

Because of this, I love and adore Etsy. Here you can find vintage and handmade items as well as supplies for a seamstress like myself. What's also great is that there's a huge community of steampunk and historically-inspired clothiers on here, which are two things I'm head over heels with.

In fact, Project Runway's Louise Black is an Etsy seller who I've been a fan of for quite a while has a beautiful collection of very Burlesque, vampy, 1920's pieces.

Anyway, I'm currently obsessed with lace. I'm about to start working on robin's egg blue corset with cream lace on the bust, even. So, here I share with you some gorgeous, cheap little things I've found on Etsy.













Hope you liked these! I would snag that first dress for myself in an instant if it were in my size :)




My Journey Thus Far with Accutane

Like most teenagers, I've had to deal with a fair amount of acne. It also runs in the family so there was no way I was going to avoid it.

If memory serves right, the blemishes first started popping up in sixth grade. Now, I don't know if I went to middle school with a bunch of super models, but I was always the only person with acne. So, naturally, I was teased quite a bit. I was very self conscious in middle school starting with my recovery from sleep apnea which caused me to go from waif-like to healthy (which, to preteen girl, is fat) very fast. The acne certainly didn't help so I started going to a dermatologist and was put on a variety of different topicals to see if they'd do anything.

By eighth grade I'd tried almost everything available to cure my acne and it just didn't seem to want to go away. My dermatologist decided to put me on Accutane and see how it went. I remember being a little scared to go on it. I had to sign forms pledging my abstinence and on the packaging for the pills there were little pictures of deformed babies. I was also not thrilled about having to get my blood drawn every month to make sure my liver was still functioning. Nevertheless, my need to have clear skin out-weighed my fears.

In the spring of 2006, I was four months through Accutane and about to go on a school trip to Italy. Already not terribly responsible about taking my pills, I decided to go off Accutane so I wouldn't have to deal with it on my trip. My skin was not clear by any means but the quality and tone of it had gotten a lot nicer. My dermatologist told me that it was most likely that my skin would continue to clear up and it did, but I don't ever remember there being a time when I looked at my face and didn't see any blemishes at all. It did die down though and by this time I'd become a foundation/concealer master so I was mostly okay with it only being visible when I took off my make-up.

Throughout high-school, it stayed pretty stagnate. There'd be worse weeks than others but overall, it was the same. I went through some microdermabrasion that helped with some scarring and last year, I did a series of salicylic peels.

During this summer while I was taking a tour over the Northeast looking at colleges, I realized that I'm about to start my life and I need to clear up my skin once and for all just for me. Not for the cute college boys or any of that, just for me. For some reason, this having acne for my entire young adult life has become this strange emotional, nearly tangible thing. I feel like getting rid of acne will get rid of some insecurities I've been harboring for a very long time once and for all. A nice cleanse before I go out there into the real world. It's mostly psychological, but acne really does feel like something that's just a part of me that I'll never ever be free of. I've never know me, this quite-nearly-adult me without it.

So, on July 8th I went back to my dermatologist that I hadn't seen in three years. I told her how I've tried really everything I can think of (I've practically become a dermatologist myself by now) and just nothing's worked. She just gave me a little smile and the very first thing she asked me was if I wanted to go back on Accutane. Now, I was a little shocked. I had only been on one or two prescribed medications for my acne since my first round of Accutane and I had been certain she would suggest that I go on Retin-A or Differin or something less extreme. For any of you who've been clueless up to this point and don't know what Accutane is, it's pretty much the last hope for people with acne. It is generally proven to work on everyone, even people with stubborn acne like myself.

I really like my dermatologist and she even has a daughter exactly my age who's going through a similar situation to mine so I decided to start the process of going on Accutane. Now, for most drugs the doctor will just give you a slip and you phone it in to your local pharmacy. Not so easy with Accutane.

Accutane causes /severe/ birth defects and it has always been stressed (like with the deformed baby pictures) that you should not try to get pregnant on it at all ever. Now, because I'm assuming one woman a year fails to take this advice and then sues the company, the FDA has gone rather psychotic on the company. Taking Accutane was a difficult process the first time I took it but it's become almost ridiculous what they're doing now.

First, because no women are exempted (including girls who haven't even started their period), I was given a pregnancy test to take home and I was then instructed to call them with the results as soon as possible. Now, I'm seventeen years old and have never had a boyfriend, it sort of came as a weird shock to me that my first pregnancy test would come before my first kiss.

With my pregnancy test, I was given a large booklet (safety yellow complete with black caution stripes). The booklet is basically an instruction manual on why and how you shouldn't get pregnant and what happens if you do (the apocalypse, obviously). It's administered by a program called iPledge, which, as far as I can tell, was created by the FDA in some form to thoroughly hammer it into our heads that deformed babies are not good.

Along with having to carry about a safety yellow iPledge card every time I get my prescription filled, I also have to fill out a questionnaire on their website every month before I get my prescription. And, yes, you guessed it, the questionnaire is entirely about how to not get pregnant and what happens if you do.

To give them some credit, this process is a lot more annoying than it sounds. But...it's still ridiculous. I understand that they're just covering themselves in every possible way they can, but it doesn't seem right that I should have to deal with the consequences of someone who failed to acknowledge the thirty images of deformed babies with red ex's over them on the box containing their pills. But, hey, that's how it works.

Oh, and obviously, men don't have to deal with any of this crap at all. They, of course, can't get pregnant but it's still sort of laughable.

Anyway, after waiting for exactly one month (I'm not entirely sure why you have to wait one month), I was allowed to fill my prescription for Accutane. I'm not actually taking Accutane itself; I'm taking a generic called Claravis because Accutane is around $300 a month. But, apparently it works just as well or even better.

I have my monthly appointment with the dermatologist on September 11th and I think it's fair to say that I'm noticing changes. As expected, my skin is purging but the areas that are not breaking out, are looking really good.

So, this is my Accutane story so far. I'd love to hear your comments. Maybe some of you are even on Accutane or considering it :) I'm also going to start some reviews on skin care products and make-ups I've tried on and off Accutane soon.