After her own ten year battle with acne, YouTuber Katie Snooks investigates how other people cope with the skin condition and looks at the psychological impact it can have.
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Hey, everyone. So, I am Katie Snooks and you can normally find me here.
I've suffered with acne for the last decade,
and honestly, it has controlled every single aspect of my life,
from my social life, dating, and also my self-confidence.
I don't feel beautiful at all.
My confidence is really low today.
I tried five different antibiotics,
I even tried light therapy. None of them worked.
Until recently, I finally had success.
I have spent the last eight months vlogging my journey
taking the sometimes controversial drug isotretinoin,
more commonly known as Roaccutane.
The success rate is high, but it's also hard to get.
You can't get it from your GP,
and it took me a couple of years to get referred to a dermatologist.
I recently finished my treatment,
and I just uploaded my last skin update on my YouTube channel.
And the transformation in my skin has just been amazing.
So I finally found a drug that cleared my skin,
but I want to know how other people deal with their acne.
Not just the treatments, but how they deal with the emotional side -
the self-confidence, and the way you feel about being you.
Time to catch a train. I'm off to Edinburgh.
Libby and Lauren are taking me on a night out.
Libby's tried Roaccutane three times without success
so now she's trying something different.
So the first time I went on it,
it totally cleared up and it was really good.
Cleared up for about a year,
and then it just came back, all of it,
and I feel like it came back even worse than the first time.
So you lived with perfect skin for a whole year?
I wouldn't say perfect, cos I still had scarring from, like...
obviously the spots before,
but I was happy with my skin,
and that's, like, the only time in about eight years
that I have actually been happy with my skin.
You're trying a new treatment now. Can you tell me a bit about that?
So it's a suction and laser treatment,
and they just go around your skin
and they suck, like, the bacteria out, and then they
zap it with the laser to basically kill any leftover bacteria.
So what is the first step in your make-up regime?
So I always start with, like, covering the majority of the redness
-with just some really high coverage concealer.
-That looks like an amazing product.
-It's so good. I love it.
'This is BBC Radio 1, Saturday night.
'This is Danny Howard, and a big shout
'to the girls getting ready for a massive night out in Edinburgh.'
-Enjoy your night out.
Libby's training to be a beauty therapist,
and she says nights out like this
are some of the times she feels most self-conscious about her skin.
You feel like the odd one out, like you stick out like a sore thumb.
Also I feel like...sort of through the night, your make-up comes off,
like, it's not as nice as it is at the start of the night,
Do you feel like you completely let go on a night out?
Regardless of how you're feeling about yourself
at that particular time?
If I drink enough!
If I've had enough drink, then yeah, but if I've not, then...
Yeah, I'd say I do let go. Like, I'm with my friends,
and I'm trying to enjoy myself, so...
When I ever have a problem about anything I can always go to them
-and they're so nice about it.
-I love them.
-Do you feel like Libby at any point
gets jealous of you and the friends that don't have acne
and have never really suffered with it?
I wouldn't say so. Libby's not, like, a jealous person.
But I do see that she is, like, you know, not confident in herself,
and it is a real shame.
She'd never be jealous of anyone.
Do you think her acne has held her back
kind of with dating and her self-confidence?
As far as I've known Lauren -
it's been since, like, high school, since we started there -
she's never... I've never known her to have a boyfriend.
Which is a real shame, cos she's not...
There's so many girls that aren't as pretty as her.
She's had acne the whole time you've known her?
Never known her without,
and I just hope something does happen for her
that she can gain her confidence back.
She's not really dated many guys
since I've been friends with her, but...
-Do you think that could be because of that?
If Libby never looked good before she went out, she wouldn't go.
She'd just be like, "I'm not going out."
Do you think her confidence has been affected by having acne?
Like, sometimes we have to come in in the morning
without any make-up on, and... I think Libby
is quite self-conscious coming out into college
with absolutely no make-up on.
Like, if you are giving someone a facial that's got great skin
but you've not got great skin. So yeah, definitely.
So it has been lovely to spend the evening with you,
and after spending the last couple of hours with you and your friends,
I've been thinking... Are you kind of pinning all your hopes
-on this current treatment that you're on?
-Yeah, I'd say I am,
just because of the amount of money I've paid towards it.
It's like my own savings and things like that.
But if it doesn't work, it doesn't work, and I'll try something new.
Hopefully not as expensive!
But I have noticed a difference in my skin, like,
and I've only had two treatments of it, so fingers crossed.
It was lovely to meet Libby,
but after meeting her, it really dawned on me
how much she's spending on this acne treatment.
It's costing her £600,
and that's on top of all the make-up she's buying as well.
I can relate to her so much, and I really know how it feels
to pin all of your hopes on one acne treatment.
Day 1 of Roaccutane.
This is my skin. I've taken one pill, so it's kind of the first day,
but nothing's really happened yet.
I've woken up and my lips feel weird.
I'm very worried about these big ones all coming at the same time.
Cos that'll be very painful and very unattractive.
Day 18. I wasn't going to film today because, er...
..I didn't...feel like it,
but I thought I would be completely honest
and show you guys today's really hard.
My skin hasn't been this bad in a really long time.
I put so much hope and so much faith into every single thing I tried,
er, for acne, and when things didn't work,
it just crushed me even more.
I'm wondering, what are the other solutions available
for people like Libby?
So I've come to meet one of the UK's leading dermatologists.
-Have a seat. Nice to see you.
-Lovely to meet you.
I met Libby a few days ago, and she's tried Roaccutane three times,
and it hasn't worked for her,
and now she's paying her own money for a new light-therapy treatment
that she's kind of pinning all of her last hopes on.
I was wondering if there are any other treatments left
available for her or people like her.
I wouldn't say there's anything imminent
that's going to topple Roaccutane off its perch,
but there are...particularly light-based treatments now
that seem to be
gaining more evidence to suggest they may help.
For Libby, I think getting support from consultant dermatologists,
privately, if it's not possible because the NHS is so burdened,
would probably at least make her feel more empowered and enabled.
So I've just finished my course of Roaccutane after eight months
and before I started I was googling it and researching it
an awful lot. There are a lot of
kind of controversial things about Roaccutane on the internet.
Is it really that controversial?
Well, Roaccutane is an extremely strong medication for acne
and acne is not a life-threatening disease,
so it's always a matter of balancing up the pros and the cons,
but it doesn't come without risks,
and it's understanding the risks, informing the patients of the risks
so they can make their own decision.
But it can be extremely effective
for people who have severe and/or stubborn acne.
It's understanding what the risks are.
Someone who knows all about those risks is Jessica.
I'm off to third-wheel her date night with boyfriend Brendan.
Jess hasn't used Roaccutane cos she's been diagnosed with anxiety.
Dermatologists say the side effects range from dry lips
to, much more rarely, kidney damage and even mental health problems.
-So how did you two meet?
-We met at my dad and my stepmum's wedding.
-Do you want to show us your moves?
-No, I don't think so!
-How long have you had acne?
-Round about ten years now.
I'm 22 now, so it kind of all started when I was about 12.
I'd get, like, really bad whiteheads on my face
and my friends were like, "Let's pop your spot!"
And I'm like, "No, no, that's horrible!"
I think you forget the physical side of it as well.
Kind of worse on my shoulders, but it does go down my back as well,
and I like to call it "backne".
Can we see that as well? Do you mind?
Let's have a look.
See, they don't look too inflamed at the moment.
They just look a little bit... It looks like scarring.
-Yeah, I think...
-But it has been worse in the past?
How about when you first met? Was that kind of awkward?
I think I was a bit embarrassed,
and especially because of my shoulders -
I kind of like made a joke out of it,
but I think it was... It's hard.
And do you have any ways in particular
to make yourself feel better whilst you're like,
really suffering with acne?
Just, like, having somebody, and having your friends and family,
and then just know that they're always there.
None of my friends and family,
my boyfriend, they don't care about my skin.
So spending time with them,
-and I just make sure that I use, like, a moisturiser.
-Yeah, I'm a bit tired after that.
-Now it's your turn. Show us your moves.
Brendan... I'll join you in a minute!
Er, so, I just wanted to talk a little bit about how kind of
Jessica's acne has affected your relationship at all.
She does have a bit of low confidence sometimes,
especially when wearing tops where her back's revealed,
because she feels quite conscious about that.
Has it ever, like, caused any friction in your relationship,
her low self-confidence because of her skin?
I've always been able to notice
when Jess is being quite down about things
so when she's being quite quiet or quite upset
I've kind of approached her and spoke to her about it.
You sound like a great boyfriend!
Shall we go back in? Let's go join Jess.
It was really lovely to meet Jessica last night,
and although she's feeling confident and happy at the moment,
I am concerned, because I know from experience
that if you have acne, it's always there in the back of your mind,
no matter how many kind of smiles you can put on for other people.
I'm supposed to be going out tonight.
Supposed to be going out tonight.
Er...and now I really don't want to.
Not only is it breaking out, it's also so itchy.
And it hurts, it's painful as well.
It becomes really infuriating and frustrating
when girls with clear skin on social media,
especially some of the ones I follow on Twitter and Snapchat,
they're, like, "Oh, I've got a spot! Everything's ruined!"
And they've got the tiniest, tiniest little spot you can't even see.
I've got something going on with my eyes.
I've got some kind of eye infection. Never really had one before.
It makes me want to gouge my eyes out, so I'm just...
Today, I'm going to meet Sarah. She got in touch with us about her acne.
She suffered with it for an awful long time.
And we're also going to be meeting her son George.
He also has acne.
I'm unsure about how much he's going to talk to us about it,
but let's go and have a chat.
So your mum got in touch with us about her acne.
-How did you feel when you found out?
-Not too bad, really.
I think it's quite good that you're doing a documentary,
because then people understand what it's like.
Almost everyone has or suffers from acne at some point in their lives.
But when you're going through it,
-it kind of always feels like you're the only one.
I mean, I look at myself in a mirror and think,
yeah, this is worse than everybody else.
I don't really see...like, look at other people specifically.
I kind of just criticise myself for it.
You sometimes wear make-up to cover your acne.
Can you tell me a bit about that?
Of course it was a bit of a shock at first,
everyone's like, "Ooh, you're wearing make-up."
But then everyone suddenly realised, like, what's the difference?
Because...all the girls in my year would slather themselves in make-up
as soon as they got a spot, and then...at the stage I was,
I think that everyone could empathise with me
and see why I was doing this,
cos I was at such a bad point.
-And it made you feel better about yourself?
I mean, it covered it up. When I looked at myself in a mirror,
I didn't look atrocious, I just looked...normal.
Do you have any pictures, and do you mind me having a look?
You can have a look, yeah.
'George is 15, and it takes him real guts to show me these pictures.'
So these are ones back on my holiday,
and as you can see, I look pretty bad.
-It's not at my worst, though.
-That's not at your worst?
'He's now on Roaccutane,
'but showing the camera photos of when he wasn't is a step too far.'
It looks really painful.
Cos it's not only kind of... your T zone,
-it is your entire face...
-..that is covered with quite big...
Yeah. Yeah, it was quite bad. And it wasn't just on my face,
it was on my back and my neck
and getting to sleep was a struggle.
I mean, it was kind of as though I had to feel my face in the day
-and my back at night.
Cos it... I'm sorry to say this,
but it also... It almost makes you look like a different person,
because the kind of cysts are so big
-they kind of distort your face...
-Yeah, it did.
-..and that's so...
I was quite swollen as well, so...
Thank you so much for showing me these pictures
and thank you for talking to me today. You're super inspiring.
I thought we had a unique story, me and George,
because we've both got acne, we're both on Roaccutane -
I can't imagine
-many people are in that situation.
'If showing the world his acne at its worst
'is too much for George, his mum has had decades to grow in confidence.'
-Here we go.
-Oh, my gosh!
That was pretty much rock bottom.
That was horrendous.
How did... Like... What did... Like, when you woke up every day,
-what did you...?
-Ugh. Literally every time I looked in the mirror,
It was like it was moving around, it was getting worse and worse.
When George was kind of nearing the age that you started getting...
Were you kind of like worried about that?
I always said as soon as they got spots, they'd go to the doctors.
Did it make you feel guilty at all?
No, it just makes me feel a bit sad.
I can't feel guilty cos it's nothing I've done wrong, you know.
But it makes me a little bit sad, and I feel for George,
that he's had to go through this,
and he's dealt with it really, really well.
You know, he's... He's a very resilient kid.
Seeing acne that bad has really touched a nerve.
I can remember exactly how I used to feel when mine was that bad,
and it just isn't... It isn't fair.
You just want someone that you feel like you can turn to
and who will have answers for you, but...
obviously, that doesn't happen for everyone.
I was lucky enough to have found a dermatologist I could connect with.
This has also got me thinking about Jessica.
She hasn't really nailed any solutions yet,
despite putting on a brave face.
So I've decided to put her in contact with Dr Tamara.
-Hello, Dr Tamara!
So I thought I'd just tell you a bit about myself.
I'm 22, I've had acne for about ten years now.
I did see a dermatologist,
er, and I was offered Roaccutane,
but we kind of decided it wasn't the best thing for me.
Er, so I was just wondering if there was any alternatives.
Well, I would say every patient is different,
and again, I'm meeting you for the first time,
but Roaccutane may be a treatment option
for someone with your skin type, but it's not just your skin,
it's the emotional side of things, and anxiety.
There are a lot of different options for the treatment of acne.
So I have a few questions for you.
Er, do you think there will ever be a cure for acne?
In many patients, Roaccutane, or isotretinoin, can cure the acne -
in other words, turn it off and it doesn't come back.
But it's not all patients. We always live in hope of a cure.
I've heard lots of things, that your diet, your skincare,
er, affects your acne.
Is there any truth behind that?
Well...whether or not one develops acne
is pretty much genetically determined,
but there are other outside factors.
Stress can trigger it. You really need effective strategies
to help you manage it, so you feel happy
that it's acceptable and that you're coping with the condition
rather than the condition is ruining your life.
-Thanks so much for talking to me. Bye!
-All the best!
And that's really what it's all about, isn't it?
You finding ways to deal and cope with the acne
rather than letting it control every aspect of your life.
Somehow, you have to find a way to stay positive.
Everything is looking...so good!
I'm really, really happy with how my skin's looking.
What is this, though?
For the first time in a really long time,
I'm just using, like, a stick concealer foundation,
which I've never been able to do before
because my skin's always been so blemished.
Day 205. This is my skin.
Still really happy with it, apart from this,
but apart from that, perfect. Loving it.
Today is my last-ever day of Roaccutane.
I...am the happiest I've ever been within myself
for a really, really long time. Like ten years since I've had acne,
and I couldn't be happier.
Yeah. This is my skin! How good is it, guys?!
I've been lucky so far, but the one thing I've learned
is that your skin doesn't define who you are.
So whatever stage of your acne journey you're on,
you've got to find a way to feel good.
I'm a keen photographer. It's what my degree's in.
So I wanted to do something to make all the people I've met feel better.
So what were your thoughts after chatting to Dr Tamara?
I do feel a little bit more confident
about going to talk to my doctor about seeing a dermatologist.
She definitely put my mind at rest,
and I'm a bit more open now to going on Roaccutane.
It's good that you actually spoke to her,
because you haven't spoken to anyone about your acne for a while.
No, it's been about four years now.
So it was, er, nice for her to put my mind at rest.
Do you guys have one thing
that you would say to someone suffering from acne?
Go to the doctors.
And if the doctor doesn't give you the answer you want,
go to another doctor, and keep asking for it.
And ask for a referral to a dermatologist
if the medication's not working.
Yeah, I'd just say that you're never alone.
There's always somebody else out there who's suffering as well.
Try and find someone to talk to.
Even if they haven't got acne, they'll always want to talk to you.
Don't pick your spots, because it leaves you with so many scars.
And...every time I get a new spot now, I just don't touch it.
Look how beautiful that is.
-Do you like it?
It's been absolutely amazing to meet so many inspiring people
along this acne journey
who all have great ways of dealing with their acne
to make themselves feel better. You can go and talk to your doctor
and see what treatments are readily available.
You can also visit a dermatologist.
Listen to their advice and take it in,
because they are the experts.
So whatever stage of your acne journey you're on,
there are still ways to feel great about yourself.