Dying For Clear Skin?

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.



  • Pampered Prince
    November 29, 2012

    I personally wouldn’t consider taking it. I have history of depression & anti-depressants so I think I’d probably be at greater risk of suffering the more severe side affects. I agree acne itself can also cause depression though & I have no doubt my issues were also a contribution to this.
    Ironically depression can make acne worse too the same way stress can.
    Thankfully I am going through a clear skin phase at the moment I’m hoping it stays like that!

    • Sascha BG
      Pampered Prince
      November 29, 2012

      That’s exactly the reason I would avoid it as I was very prone to depression when I was younger and I don’t think it would be wise to chance it. I think anything that causes hormonal fluctuations can have an adverse effect on your skin, especially if you’re prone to skin problems. Really glad to hear yours is clear at the moment; long may it continue! xx

  • Beauty Daze
    November 29, 2012

    I wouldn’t consider taking it. The fact the side effects can be so severe and long lasting, even when you’ve stopped using it males me think it is a huge gamble, and not pwrth the risk at all. Since the side effects have become known, doctors have dramatically reduced how easily they prescribe Roaccutane. They will often only prescribe it after all other options are exhausted.
    The problem with it is that the you just don’t know how you.are going to react after taking it and side effects stay with you. It’s far too much of a risk in my opinion.

    Steph xx

    • Sascha BG
      Beauty Daze
      November 29, 2012

      Thanks so much Steph, I’d be inclined to agree as it does seem a bit like Russian Roulette; especially as you can’t tell what cards you’ll be dealt until it’s too late. I’m pleased that it’s seriousness (for want of a better way of putting it) is getting the coverage it needs as I do hear a lot of people speak of it quite flippantly, which I definitely think is ill-advised xx

  • Anonymous
    November 29, 2012

    Thanks to lithium, I had acne bad enough to make people stare in the street and then look away quickly. Which didn’t do much for the major depression or my ability to leave the house. I was sufficiently ill at the time to be fairly closely supervised anyway, and I think there’d be a lot to be said for that kind of supervision by default when this level of side effect is involved. As it happened, despite my pre-existing illness I only got the thinned skin and bleeding lips and nose – grim but not life-threatening – and although I still have acne in my thirties (thanks, stress hormones!) and the scarring still shows pretty badly when I’m tired or dehydrated, I can leave the house without attracting ridicule.

    As an added bonus, the whole experience has done great things for my self-loathing-based fear that people are secretly laughing at my hideousness, because now I know that when people think you’re hideous enough to stare at, they don’t do it secretly. And I’ve got about a dozen spots currently, three of which are huge neon monsters, but compared to the post-lithium nightmare it doesn’t seem that grim. Not even with wrinkles starting to show up in between them.

    Incidentally, Beauty Brains linked a while back to a study that suggests that adult acne (aka It’s Not Bloody Fair I’m OLD acne) can respond to a lower dose with fewer side effects. Early days, but possibly good news.

    But yes, it’s a drug of last resort. And if you do decide to risk it, a support network is a Very Good Thing.

    • Sascha BG
      November 29, 2012

      Thanks so much for your comment and I’m so sorry to hear about what you’ve gone through; it sounds absolutely awful and certainly puts my skin problems into perspective!

      That’s really good news about the low dosage but I still think it’s a little too risky for me as I know what I’m like and I’d be terrified from the moment I started taking it. Ironically, that heightened sense of paranoia could kick things off and make them much worse than they might’ve been. I’m really funny about medication in general; I’ll use pretty much anything on my skin but I’m reluctant to take even anti-biotics.

      Thanks again for your comment and your excellent advice xx

    • Anonymous
      November 30, 2012

      I’m actually just grateful that the thing that made me look horrible was something that could be treated and made to go away.

      I’ve noticed that acne is something teenagers are told will go away and is natural, part of growing up &c &c. It’s not fair at all to dismiss it like that, especially as it’s a time of life that combines serious self-consciousness with particularly cruel peer groups. I saw Rob Brydon say something to this effect: adults told him it was “not that bad” rather than suggesting he see a doctor and get it treated, and it didn’t make him feel better, it just made him have to be spotty for longer than necessary.

      And thanks for talking about this stuff. Just discussing things like this as though they’re not shameful secrets is important.

    • Sascha BG
      December 4, 2012

      Thanks so much for your reply and sorry for the delay in mine. I’m so in agreement about the attitude that acne is something teenagers should just accept; it’s a skin infection and any other kind of infection would result in the suggestion that it needs medical assistance, but for some inexplicable reason Acne is something that we’re all supposed to just tolerate, even though it’s both physically and mentally scaring.

      I really admire your attitude so thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this xx

  • Bare Faced Chic
    December 1, 2012

    As someone who suffers from severe depression anyway, I would never, ever take or recommend someone to take Roaccutane as I don’t feel it’s worth it. I am lucky enough to never have suffered from severe acne so I can’t empathise from that perspective but having severe depression, I know the pain that causes. I also know several people who have taken roaccutane and more than one have suffered depressive symptoms which is significantly more than the 1 in thousands advertised. I don’t think that anyone who has suffered from the pain of depression, the anxiety, the loss of self-worth or the sheer terror of what you’re capable of when you sit there and plan how to end your life, could ever recommend that anyone take a drug where there is even the slightest possibility of developing depression.

    • Sascha BG
      Bare Faced Chic
      December 4, 2012

      It’s so interesting how so many people know of people who have suffered pretty extreme reactions to Roaccutane; I really wish there were some firmer figures to study as I’m sure if all these cases were given more attention, everyone would have a better chance of making an informed decision.

      Really sorry to hear about your depression and I hope it’s something you’ve managed to overcome xx

  • Susie
    December 2, 2012

    Hi Sascha,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I am so glad you weigh out the negatives and positives of the drug. I was really upset when I first saw an article in the Daily Mail, only focusing on the negatives that I wrote my own article. In the post its very obvious that I am pro Roaccutane however I do acknowledge and understand that it’s not for everyone. I believe that life should be ‘each to their own’ because no one understands a person more than themselves.


    • Sascha BG
      December 4, 2012

      Hi Susie,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I had read of your post and it made for really interesting reading; I’m so glad it worked for you but I’m still leaning towards finding the drug a little too risky due to it’s unpredictability. xx

  • Brucie
    June 8, 2013

    I have taken roaccutane as a 6 month corse, twice with an interval of 6 months on between, it took a long time to clear up but now after two years my acne is back like before, and as far I know all who I know have sever side effects, I was avert lively person but that has changed a lot, I am always depressed, and I also have a strange side effect, where my skin cannot tolerate sun exposure for more then half an hour with protection , and it burs like I was on a 2 day beach holiday but a bad sort of sun burn. Not happen with this rare side effect, also I had very curly hair now they are nether straight nor curly but ugly frizzy, I am not happy, for have close to clear skin for 2 year this price I have payed of permanent damage and change is not worth it, what’s worst is my doctor did not inform me about the dangers of this drug , wish I knew , then would have never chose this ever.
    Please don’t try it, it’s not worth it. I would rather have a high maintain-ness skin Then suffer permanent damages.

  • alisha
    May 22, 2015

    Hello, I’ve read your blog on occasion and know this is an old post but I found it because I was looking at cheek products wondering if you had ever tried accutane. Honestly, it was the one thing that ever worked for me as it is the only thing that can literally slow oil production in your body as anything else you do doesn’t make a difference; unless, of course you irritate your skin with say alcohol toners or something it is going to stimulate it to temporarily produce more sebum/oil. I went on accutane for 8 months and I live in wisconsin in the us and our winters are already long, dark, and extremely cold and I already suffer from depression. However, you go to the dr. Every month for a blood test, pregnancy test, and are closely monitored. I mean, if you are not depressed and started to feel depressed then got to the point of suicidal, I would think you would start noticing yourself if not a family member and stop treatment. You don’t just go from nothing to suicidal. I had painful cystic acne on my cheeks and it is gone and it has changed my life. I felt like nothing worked before. I have heard of people having to redo treatment every 10 years. I just had dry lips because my skin was so oily it just became normal during treatment. Now I still suffer from hormonal acne (whiteheads) on my jawline and I take spironolactone and that has really helped. it is actually a blood pressure med but I can tell when I try to go off it flares up a bit. I use rx aczone for spot treatment as I don’t need it for everyday. Most acne medications, oral or topical, you are advised to avoid the sun but should go away after treatment. Accutane was originally a cancer treatment so yes, it is powerful stuff so I can’t speak to a Change in someones hair texture but have never heard of that stuff before. My doctor said he doesn’t believe it causes depression at all. I disagree in that it may very well for some people, but as for the other effects I really am not convinced. You can’t drink alcohol and need to follow instructions plus the actual brand accutane was pulled from the market (by the mfg co) at least in the us sometime prior to 2009 so depending on which pharmacy I went to, it was a different brand as there was one brand name and multiple generics so I dont know if it makes a difference. I would say do your own research because that’s what I did and if you put up posts like this or go to forums you are just going to find the bad experiences rather than an overall look at the whole picture. I’m not much of a fan of her anymore but youtube beauty guru allthatglitters elle…I’m not sure of her full user id, but she took accutane and talks about it.

    • Sascha
      May 26, 2015

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I think the key thing to keep in mind is just how powerful a medicine it is, so it has the potential to do absolutely anything – anybody can have a strange reaction to something that hasn’t happened to previous takers, which is why I tread extremely careful with taking medicine myself; I’m not even happy taking painkillers for menstrual cramps, but that’s just me. I would certainly never want to put something in my body that has the potential to have some sort of impact on the health of any part of my body with the hope that it’ll clear up my skin, but again, that’s just me and I totally and completely understand why others have no problem taking that small risk.

      Another thing I should add is that I’m yet to meet someone who’s taken it and it’s cleared up their skin the first time – admittedly I’ve only spoken to a few people, but they’ve all had their acne come back or had to start a second course. This is something to keep in mind as well I think.

  • alisha
    May 28, 2015

    I think it has cleared up my skin the first time, I just think that when I went on mirena iud birth control it went wacky again causing me to need the spironolactone to balance.

    • alisha
      May 29, 2015

      I also used to not want to put anything in my body, not even tylenol, but then I came to the realization that I had a chemical imbalance that I couldn’t help or treat on my own or self medicate and I needed to take medication for my depression. I didnt actually really do that until I was maybe 23. I consider myself environmentally conscious because that I feel there is no turning back, but me, I’m just one person and our bodies are amazingly resilient and I only last last a lifetime then I’m gone. My grandma lived to be 89 and was overweight, type 2 diabetes, heart disease with Heart attacks and strokes and always had her nails done and black black dyed hair. Just think of all the chemicals in that dye and polish but apparently it didn’t matter. My other grandpa also had heart disease because all he ate was junk food and died after his 5th heart attack after having a quadruple bypass and then a 5 bypass 20 yrs later. He would have been in better health if he took the pills like he was supposed too but was stubborn thinking I don’t need that in my body I’m just fine. I just figured I was sick of the pain and walking around ugly and the acne was causing damage to my skin and going to create scarring and irritation and I just felt like there was no better option. I did it fall 2009 and haven’t had Cystic acne since except when I took biotin supplements. although coincidentally I have recently read multiple articles talking about dairy and even if you aren’t lactose intolerant, if you cut dairy out your skin and/or acne may improve due to all cows that’s produce milk havingjust been pregnant or pregnant so it is high in hormones naturally and when you ingest those extra hormones your body produces more oil. More oil=more acne. I’m currently seeing a dietition for weightloss and she has me on high protein low carb and it involves quite a bit of dairy and even though I haven’t been really breaking out, I feel so oily and it has been gettingwarm so it would be nice to cut down oil production so maybe I’ll look into it but from what I read the one personsaid it took about a month or so for results and as I mentioned I live in wisconsin aka the dairyland or dairy state so it is everywhere but I was lactose intolerant as a young child. What do you think of the theory? The writer of the article also tried gluten and soy, each individually first to see if she had an allergy that was causing her to breakout or feel sluggish and neither did anything until she did dairy. I drink whey protein powder so I need to find one that tastes good if I’m going to try that cuz like I said I had read this before and researched it and have been trying to drink almond milk for the last year trying to switch over but not until recently did I see these other mainstream articles, one even being in allure magazine I think.

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