Accutane: A User's Guide
Tuesday I went into great (and by great I mean long. Oh. So. Long.) detail about my experience with Accutane. Today is an extension of that post, but I'm going to tell you about the products and procedures I used to help get me through the occasionally agonizing, but ultimately worth it, journey through Accutane treatment. I've reviewed quite a few of these things before, but this post will tie them all together. Plus, since I've written extensively on my experience with Accutane, you can follow this link (or use the search bar to your right) to read all about my trials and, ultimately, triumph, while on this super drug.
This is the big one. My dermatologist and his nurse were very adamant about me using Cetaphil and ONLY Cetaphil to wash my face while on Accutane. This was easy, as I'd already been using Cetaphil since I was 12 or 13. (See my review of Cetaphil here.)The only change was that I had to retire my Clarisonic for the duration of my treatment. Even now, after about three months off Accutane, I'm still not supposed to use the Clarisonic. I cheated a little, in terms of only using Cetaphil and not using an exfoliator. This is a secret from my derm, but I'll tell you, since we're such close personal Internet friends...
This was my first cheat. Cetaphil isn't going to take off all the makeup I use! Accutane or not, I need something more powerful to take off all that spackle. I quickly realized my favorite Boscia cleansing oil was gentler on my skin than any other makeup remover, and as nice as Cetaphil is, it just isn't strong enough on its own to take off every stitch of makeup you're wearing. My skin was happy with Boscia cleansing oil during my entire course of Accutane. At night I'd first use Boscia Makeup-Breakup Cool Cleansing Oil as I always had (see my review here), and followed up with a quick rinse with Cetaphil.
This was my second cheat. Sometimes while on Accutane I'd get small little flakies all over my cheeks. They made makeup impossible, and I couldn't get them all off with a simple face washing. This was where my trusty washcloth came in. I wouldn't scrub my face - not in the slightest. Instead I'd make sure that my face was soaking wet, then I'd add a thick layer of Cetaphil cleanser. THEN I'd take my washcloth flat in the palm of my hand, and GENTLY stroke the side of my face like I was about to confess my love and kiss myself at the end of a romantic comedy. That is honestly the best way I can explain it. In fact, there is no other way.
Accutane is famous for taking regular humans and turing them into dried up, flaky monsters. Some people have a terrible time with dryness, while others just need to up their moisturizing game a little. I fell into the latter camp. I needed to pay more attention to my skin, but nothing extreme. At the beginning of my treatment, basic Cetaphil moisturizer was enough for me. I'd put on a nice thick layer of it after washing my face before bed each night. This did the trick for about three months, then things had to get more intense.
When I complained to my Accutane nurse about Cetaphil's moisturizer not cutting it anymore, she gave me a sample of this cream. I bought a tub of it immediately. It's a fantastic moisturizer for face and body (it's actually sold as a body moisturizer) and I still use it even now, after I've stopped Accutane. I actually wrote a whole review of this moisturizer, which you can read here.
This was my daytime moisturizer before, during, and after Accutane. It's a basic, sensitive-skin friendly moisturizer that you can easily get at any drugstore. Accutane makes you SUPER sun sensitive, and it's essential to use a sunscreen daily. This was enough for me, because I'm not outside a lot. While on Accutane I also made sure to stay out of the sun whenever possible, whether it was walking on the other side of the street where buildings blocked the sun, or taking Hero for his long daily walk after the sun had already set. Your time on Accutane is not the time to be spending the day on the beach.
My hands are usually dry, and Accutane only exacerbated the problem. I discovered Yu-Be at Sephora and quickly became a devotee. Now I use it on my hands, but also regularly on my face and lips. It's just a fantastic moisturizer. I've talked about it twice, here and here.
If you aren't already a devotee of Aquphor Healing Ointment, you will be once you are on Accutane. Good God, this stuff is basically essential to any Accutane patient's survival. That's not an exaggeration. You will DIE without this. Your skin will get so peely and flaky that you will just float away on the wind and cease to exist. I wrote briefly about Aquaphor in my post about my favorite lip products. That was before Accutane was even a twinkle in my eye. While on that oh-so-drying of drugs I used Aquaphor all over my mug, from my lips to my cheeks to my nose. I had a tubes of the stuff stashed all over my house. I buy the big tubes and keep one in my medicine cabinet and one in my nightstand, then I have a little tube in my purse and another one next to my couch. The first rule of Accutane: Always be Aquaphor-ing!
I'm going to be honest with you. I only recently started using this eye cream. Before, I would just get a random eye cream from Marshall's. I chose them based on which packaging I liked best, or which one had the best name. A little while ago I was using this eye cream from Flos-Lek because it's a Polish brand, and therefore specially suited to my Polish eyes (I kid... kind of). Anyway, I decided to try Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Eye Cream, and I absolutely love it. It's super moisturizing, lasts forever, and compared to other eye creams, downright cheap. A friend of mine that had been on Accutane before told me that the skin around her eyes got so dry and peely it hurt her to blink. I was already diligent about my eye cream, but after hearing that I was religious about it.
3. A Good Concealer/Makeup In General
I've heard from some people that while on Accutane they never wore makeup. Their peeling was too bad, or their skin was just too irritated. I, on the other hand, could have never made it through my course of Accutane without makeup. I went through makeup like there was no tomorrow, but there was no way I was going out in the world with the state of my skin exposed. My personal favorite during Accutane was Bare Minerals Correcting Concealer (reviewed here), but I've since moved on to a foundation from Smashbox that I use as a concealer (that I will probably review soon). I think in this case you need to just try out a few things and see what works for you. Go to Sephora and talk to a specialist. They have an absolutely amazing return policy, so you can take product home and try it out a few times to make sure it's the right thing for you. Just as everyone's skin reacts to Accutane differently, each person's makeup needs differ while on the drug. The one recommendation I would make is to steer toward higher end brands. I think you should do this for your foundation and concealer anyway (get your eye or lip makeup wherever, who cares), but this is especially true when on Accutane. You don't want to risk looking like you're wearing clown makeup or - even worse - risk breaking out.