As highlighted by a recent documentary, the teenage obsession with the appearance of skin can lead to the use of harmful medication
There were times when I would have tried ANYTHING to fix my face. It would appear that some have done just that.
As someone who has suffered varying levels of acne since the age of 13, I can still vividly remember the dread of looking in the mirror before going to school. Fretting about whether I had managed to cover up that blotchy patch or that ghastly whitehead – the one I hadn’t quite been able to pop. As a teen, I’d spend hour upon hour trawling the internet and skimming magazines looking for new ways to clear spot prone skin.
With around 85 per cent of us affected by troublesome skin at some point in our lives, acne really is a widespread problem. So it’s hardly surprising that there’s a pretty enormous spot-zapping market in search of the latest way to beat the breakouts. But with more treatments available than ever before, are people really aware of the risks involved? BBC Three’s Dying for Clear Skin documentary offered a stark reminder of the extreme lengths people go to and the long term health risks they willingly take, all in the name of a clear complexion.
So let’s take a look at the myths surrounding acne and its causes, of which there are many. From the idea that it’s caused by chocolate eating to claims that it’s a result of not washing properly, everyone is quick to offer advice. Exercise more; drink ONLY purified water; wash in cold water; wash in hot water; don’t wash your face – the list goes on. Do you seriously think we haven’t tried this? Yes, all of them. While I don’t deny that there are simple lifestyle choices that can help reduce the severity of spot prone skin, it’s important to avoid claiming its direct correlation with poor diet. Acne is caused by a range of issues and is often hormone related, thus explaining why spots are common in teenagers, whose hormones are more playful.
As we all know, acne is very closely linked with low self-esteem. No big surprise there then. I mean, it’s not something that you can easily hide – what with it being on your face and all. Try as you might, there’s only so much a good cover-up stick can do. High school can be hard enough without added contention from bad skin. Social situations can, therefore, bring enormous discomfort as all efforts become focused around ways to avoid drawing attention to your face. Having what may seem to others, like a few spots can become socially debilitating, so much so, that people put their health and mental well-being on the line.
So besides the questionable yet, relatively harmless, remedies of old wives tales, there are the more risqué methods to achieving clear skin. Perhaps the most common right now is Roacutaine. Considered the fail safe answer to more severe forms of acne, this drug is often thought of as a last resort and a course of treatment that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The quite typical symptoms Roacutaine users are warned about include dry skin and eyes, as well as sickness. But it seems that some of the more severe potential risks are considerably less publicised. Do we really know what we’re letting ourselves in for?
BBC Three’s revealing documentary highlighted a number of the devastating side effects linked to Roacutaine. Firstly, there is the risk of erectile dysfunction which can inevitably lead to relationship problems, anxiety and lack of confidence. Secondly, there is depression. A potential side effect relatively under reported and one that, for some victims and their families, has brought fatal consequences. Yes, these cases may well be rare, but these instances are real nonetheless. In fact, I know plenty of people who have taken this particular medication and to great success. I do think it’s important to note however, that while there may be a high success rate, as with any medication, you can never predict how an individual may react – particularly those likely to be suffering from low self esteem. With this in mind, is it sensible to offer this drug so freely to an arguably vulnerable group?
Fortunately, acne is a condition that usually improves with time. I’m now 24 and my skin is still not perfect, but it’s just not as much of an issue anymore. I am more confident generally and thus, no longer believe that everyone is analysing my skin all day long. Through trial and error, as well as patience, I now know how to help my skin: the food to avoid, the fact that I should never use scented facial care and I now own the best cover-up stick (which with practice I have learned how to use). And I can safely say I’m happy I didn’t use Roacutaine. I’m not saying that this will work for everyone, but I would urge young people to try other options. When you’re in your thirties, a few spots will seem a million miles away.
Image from: http://www.futurity.org/tag/
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