Whenever there’s a show regarding acne on TV I get e-mails from readers and reminders from friends and family to watch or record it. Recently, BBC3 aired a show called “Dying For Clear Skin” which was a fairly balanced research focussed on the acne drug, Roaccutane. The show was dominated with the story of Jesse Jones who went missing in 2011. He suffered from – from what I could tell – fairly mild acne and was prescribed Roaccutane, which resulted in severe side-effects from the drug including depression and suicidal thoughts, and was eventually found dead near his home, believed to have committed suicide.
The show was interesting as it raised some valid points and got me thinking about the impact that acne has on our lives. Certainly for me – a 28 year old long-term sufferer – it’s had a drastic impact on the way I feel about myself and my overall confidence. If I’m having a good skin day then my confidence sky rockets, yet if I’m having a bad skin day (or we could just call it a normal day) then I’m constantly aware of it. I have to suck it up and get on with it, but that alone takes a level of confidence that I would imagine most people would struggle to find, especially those who are younger and haven’t fully developed their maturity and self-esteem.
The first noteworthy thing about Roaccutane is the numbers in relation to severe side-effects. From what I can gather, most people who use it will experience some kind of side-effect such as dry lips or dry skin, but there are the occasional sufferers who will completely change once taking the pill and become consumed with depression. The worst part is, it seems a lot of these people who do unfortunately find themselves suffering from severe side-effects will obviously and sensibly stop taking the pill, yet the side-effects will remain. This is believed to be the case with Jesse and there were a couple more examples used in the show.
However, in the same way that a very small percentage of babies will allegedly develop autism from the MMR vaccine, yet millions of babies will be fine and protected from the diseases that the vaccination prevents, could the same argument be made for Roaccutane? This is a drug that has apparently revolutionised the treatment of acne, curing thousands of sufferers and giving them normal skin that no longer hurts, bleeds and cracks every time a spot becomes infected. Out of all these thousands, one or two of them might develop suicidal tendencies. Is it worth it? Without turning this into a giant essay, of course the argument could be made for the fact that vanity should never become more important than life itself, but many acne sufferers will acknowledge that life with severe, painful, spirit-crushing acne that stops you socialising and progressing with your plans isn’t much of a life at all.
Dying for Clear Skin can be seen here.