I’ve just begun taking Roaccutane. I was warned before starting it that the drug can cause major birth defects and may worsen depression or anxiety. But no one warned me that my skin would get SO DRY—and so sensitive! My lips are already cracked and bleeding. My foundation looks disgusting on top of my dry skin. The treatment has made my skin too sensitive for exfoliation, and I don’t know how to deal with this! Please help! —Liz
Let me first say that I FEEL YOU. A few of us on staff have had experiences with taking Isotretinoin, otherwise known as Accutane in the U.S. and Roaccutane in many other countries. Being one such person, I’m intimately familiar with the overwhelming feeling that your entire epidermis is turning into a burnt crust. You should definitely ask your dermatologist about products she might be able to prescribe to counter the dryness—when I was taking Accutane, I used an extra-strength prescription lip balm and moisturizer. For immediate relief, try using shea or cocoa butter—the pure/unscented kind, because any additives like oil or fragrance can irritate and STING sensitive skin, especially if it’s already cracked and bleeding. And use a gentle cream cleanser made for sensitive skin: I like Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser. Otherwise, look for any fragrance-free cream formulation designed for extra-sensitive skin. Ultimately, though, your derma should be able to help you out with this—and keep in mind that everybody’s skin is different, and what brought me relief may be very different from what you need.
I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that this drug can do permanent damage to your health in various scary ways, including the psychological risks you mention and a slew of other troubling possibilities like weakening your bones and causing long-lasting diseases. If you choose to take Roaccutane, please be sure to pay super-close attention to your moods and body and keep your doctor in the know about any changes you experience. Based on my own Accutane usage, I also urge you to monitor the amount of moisture in your hair and eyes. The drug dried out my eyes so much that I still can’t wear contacts. Allyssa, who also took Roaccutane, says, “It made some of my hair fall out because I was producing no oil whatsoever. I sort of just dealt with it and slathered myself in whatever my derm gave me, but my hair has never been the same.” So, while some of the Rookies I spoke to had totally fine experiences with the drug, there are very real risks involved with taking it. Talk to your doctor, and in the meantime, I hope you find relief for your hurting skin soon! —Julianne
I’ve been wanting to dye my hair blond for a while, but I’m a little scared. If I go blond and don’t like it or get bored, can I dye it back without damaging it too much? My natural color is golden brown. —Floriane, Glasgow, UK
As someone who has bleached and dyed her naturally black hair over and over again, I know that coloring your hair can be scary, especially if you choose to do it at home. But it’s also a totally fun rite of passage! It’s so awesome to me that all it takes to look like a whole different person is a few hours and some strange-smelling goop on your head.
It’s usually less risky to change your hair color in a salon, but that can be really expensive depending on the products and processes the colorist uses. It’s possible to go blond at home, but before you actually slather any blondenizing potions on your head, consult a hairdresser for advice. I asked Shannon Dean, a stylist at Refuge Salon in Los Angeles and educator at Form Academy, for his profesh thoughts about DIY lightening. He had this to tell us: “Going lighter by lifting pigment from the hair can be damaging, depending on how light you go, what type of lightener is used (high lift color versus powder bleach versus wax- or oil-based bleach), and how long the product is on the hair.” You can check out this article by Hannah for tips about using dye. If you opt for bleach, which is the most tried-and-true way to go blond but also potentially the harshest on your hair condition, here’s a thorough guide to the whole process. No matter how you choose to go about it, always do a strand test to see how hair reacts to your product before you go in for the whole head.
You might want to lighten your color in stages, too. Depending on how light you want to go, it’s possible that you won’t be able to get your desired result all in one shot—if you space out your coloring sessions to just one per week, it might be a while before you can get to your desired the shade of blond without frying your hair to a crisp. Platinum is a little tough to do yourself and hard on your hair; a more golden-y blond will be less damaging. You’ve got an advantage here in that your hair is already kinda light, which will make the dyeing process less difficult.
And if you do screw up or experience “bleacher’s remorse,” you can totes fix it! Shannon offers these comforting words: “Taking your hair darker again by adding pigment would have very little negative effect on the health of your hair.” While going lighter can dry out your hair, going in the other direction isn’t generally too damaging—it can even fill in some of the porousness in really fried platinum hair and make it appear healthier. But I’m willing to bet that you’ll look so tight as a blonde that you won’t need to worry about this. And even if you do bungle it, you’ll have taken part in a long tradition of people temporarily wrecking their hair and then having a really funny story to tell at parties ever after. As you’ve no doubt heard from countless elders, and/or observed during the course of your life as a human, hair grows back, so you might as well go forth and blondify! —Marie ♦
Wondering how to do a bouffant? Looking for advice/validation on wearing head-to-toe denim? In search of the PERFECT purple lipstick? Describe your most elusive beauty and style wishes to Marie and her team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your first name (or nickname) and where you live.