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Roaccutane: Is it worth it for the perfect skin?

Even though my acne was far from severe, getting clear skin did the world of good for both my personal and body-confidence

Timothy Dodd discusses his experiences with the skincare treatment and the fears surrounding it

Roaccutane, or isotretinoin as it is also known, is the NHS’ last port of call for acne treatment. We’ve all had the Clearasil, the facial scrubs, the oral antibiotics… but when it just won’t budge, something else is needed. You may have been offered this drug and been apprehensive due to the potential side effects, or you may have heard of the somewhat controversial drug in the media.

The scientific evidence suggests that the drug is safe

Tenuous links between Roaccutane and suicides, mental illness, and extreme health problems, have been reported. However, much of the scare has been based on the testimonies of individuals, not scientific study, and particularly in the case of mental illness, it’s very difficult to tell whether the depression has been caused by the drug, or by the often-severe acne that the patient has.

Opening the accompanying leaflet will give a sight for sore eyes (in fact, sore eyes is one of the common side effects) due to the extensive list of side-effects… so is pursuing Roaccutane worth it? The purpose of this article is not to debate the safety of the drug, but to give my own experience of the 6-month course I had. The scientific evidence suggests that the drug is safe, and with regular blood tests by your dermatology department to monitor levels of liver enzymes etc., any harm should be prevented.

So what was Roaccutane like for me? Roaccutane is quite harsh on your liver supposedly, and thus alcohol is not advised. However, 6 months is a long time, and between you and me, or rather, between me and my dermatologist, he advised me that many of his patients drank and were fine, and that any damage would be detected in the liver tests anyway. Having come back from an alcohol-drowned fresher’s week for my first blood test, the result came back normal, thus setting the precedent which would allow me to justify normal drinking habits again.

Within the first few days of treatment, cold sores (caused by dryness of the skin, not herpes simplex virus) began to appear, which require constant moisturising to keep at bay. Nevertheless, be prepared to LOOK like you have herpes cold sores for the majority of your treatment. This drying is usually the whole face, and so regular moisturising of the face is essential. Soon after, my mucous membranes began to dry out, and thus random and often inconvenient nose bleeds began to occur.

(Flickr/Saluda Programa de Salud)

Among my awkward highlights were bleeding upon my partner’s face in a romantic episode, and randomly bleeding for 5 to 10 minutes in the (once-sterile) laboratory of the Life Sciences building. Again, there is a way of dealing with this. From the pharmacy, you can buy what is essentially artificial snot, in the form of a noise spray which will keep the mucous membranes moist and prevent bleeds.

getting clear skin did the world of good for both my personal and body-confidence

In all honesty, that’s as bad as it gets (at least for most people), and though arduous at times, the result is absolutely worth it. Previously plagued by painful acne on the face and upper back, I am now pretty much acne free, with only the occasional spot if I don’t wash my face one night, for example. Furthermore, it seems that the changes are long lasting. Most individuals will require one 6 month course and will then be more or less free for life.

If you have any underlying mental health conditions and are perhaps worried about going on this drug, I would advise that you seek treatment for those first before starting Roaccutane, just so that you can have peace of mind in knowing things won’t be made worse for you by the drug.

Even though my acne was far from severe, getting clear skin did the world of good for both my personal and body-confidence, and having seen the results of those who suffered with debilitating cystic acne, it is unequivocal that this can be a life changing treatment for some people.

Featured image: / Unsplash

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