Fame, Fortune, and Skin Disease

Famous people are immune from jail time, financial woes, and thanks to graphic designers, bad looking skin. They may look like they have flawless skin, but underneath all those Photoshop layers are some common conditions that can affect anyone. Read on to see some notable people and airbrush-free images of skin diseases they have dealt with.

Bill Clinton wasn’t blushing during his sex scandal; it was just rosacea.

Sometimes called adult acne, rosacea is a chronic inflammation of the face of unknown cause and without a permanent cure. Rosacea typically affects adults between ages 30 and 60, especially fair-skinned individuals.

It is estimated that around 14 million Americans have rosacea. Rosacea is triggered by things that increase face blood flow, such as sunlight, spicy foods, alcohol, and exercise. In severe cases of rosacea, many bumps are visible at nearly all times, accompanied by redness and lots of blood vessels on the face.

People with rosacea should avoid or minimize exposure to triggers. Avoid facial products with alcohol or other skin irritants, use cool compresses, and wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on the face.

Antibiotics may be prescribed by a physician, and surgical treatment may be performed in some cases.

Others with rosacea: Princess Diana, Cameron Diaz

Syphilis - Capone


Al Capone passed along more than just the contents of his vault to his son; baby Albert contracted congenital syphilis during childbirth. The same disease Al died from in 1947.

The first large syphilis outbreak occurred in Europe during the 15th century. It wasn’t until 1947 that another large epidemic occurred; however, penicillin was used to help control the disease in this later instance.

Syphilis is usually spread through sexual contact, although an infected mother can pass it on to her newborn. In the US, rates of the disease are higher in urban areas and in young adults ages 15–25.

Syphilis is highly contagious. During the primary phase syphilis can heal on its own, leading those infected to believe it is not serious. Syphilis can be completely cured if treated early.

Others with syphilis: Paul Gaugin, Ivan the Terrible

Scarlet Fever

Scarlet Fever

Thomas Edison creator of an early phonograph had scarlet fever, which permanently damaged his hearing.

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that produces a poison, causing the distinctive rash of scarlet fever. Considered a childhood disease, peak ages for the infection are 4–8 years.


A sandpaper-like rash accompanies scarlet fever, starting on the neck and moving to the trunk of the body and the arms and legs.

It is difficult to avoid infection of others who are not immune to the disease. An infected child’s items should be kept away from others and washed in hot, soapy water, and caregivers should wash their hands frequently.

A physician will do a throat or skin culture to confirm the diagnosis, which is treated with prescription antibiotics.

Others with scarlet fever: John Louis Clake, Dwight Eisenhower II



Michael Jackson told Oprah in 1993 he suffered from vitiligo, a chronic skin condition that causes skin to lose its pigmentation and turn white.

Vitiligo is a disease in which the immune system turns against itself, where immune cells attack the pigment-producing cells. All ages and races can be affected by vitiligo.

Despite a common belief, the disease is not seen more often in blacks.

Midday sun exposure should be avoided by those affected by the disease, and an SPF of 45 should be worn. Medical evaluation need be sought only if the condition becomes bothersome, in which case steroid creams or ointments may be prescribed.

Others with vitiligo: Tempest Bledsoe, Sisqo



Bob Marley died of melanoma and brain cancer at the age of 36.

Marley might have been successfully treated for melanoma, had he allowed physicians to amputate his toe. He is quoted in the biography Catch a Fire as saying, “Rasta no abide amputation. I don’t allow a man to be dismantled.”

Early diagnosis and treatment of melanoma can lead to complete cure and survival, while advanced forms are likely to have a poor outcome.

You are more likely to develop melanoma if you have a family history of the disease, a history of severe sunburns, fair skin, or multiple unusual moles

If you develop a melanoma, you will probably need to have it surgically removed, and you may need to have your lymph nodes examined.

Others with melanoma: Troy Aikman, Maureen Reagan



Ronald Regan had a small basal cell carcinoma removed from his nose in 1987.

During a press conference, Reagan jokingly announced, “I can stand before you proudly and say my nose is clean.”

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and usually occurs on sun-damaged skin.

The majority of people with this type of skin cancer are white and middle-aged or elderly. Monthly self-exams should be preformed to look for signs of skin cancer, such as new bumps or a spot that bleeds easily.

Others with basal cell carcinoma: Regis Philbin, Elizabeth Taylor



Benjamin Franklin suffered from a weakness for French women and gout.

Franklin’s medical advice may be tough for some to follow, including himself. Franklin used to say,  “Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls, and sloth, or the gout will seize you and plague you both.”

Some individuals with gout have a genetic predisposition to developing the disease, which causes attacks to be triggered by eating certain foods and consuming high levels of alcohol.

Most commonly affecting men, gout emerges as the sudden development of swollen red, hot, tender joints, especially at the big toe, ankle, wrist, and knee. The pain may be so severe in some cases that a sheet draped across the affected joint is intolerable.

Elevating and icing the affected joint may be beneficial, as well as taking ibuprofen. If you suddenly develop a painful, red, hot joint, see a physician as soon as possible.

Others with gout: Thomas Jefferson, King Henry VIII



Tyrant Joseph Stalin was irritated by democracy and psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a lifelong skin problem characterized by thickened red and often scaly skin. It is very likely to run in families and seems to be caused by errors in how the immune system works.

A common condition, psoriasis affects 1–2% of the US population.

The elbows, knees, buttocks, scalp, and genitals are typically affected by the disease. Heavy moisturizers, hydrocortisone cream, and a healthy diet can help control mild to moderate psoriasis.

There is no cure for psoriasis, but multiple treatments are very helpful at controlling it.

Others with psoriasis: Art Garfunkel, John Updike

Lyme Disease - Bush

Lyme Disease

President Bush, after a little too much time on the ranch, was treated for early localized lyme disease in 2006.

Lyme disease is transmitted by infected ticks that also feed on mice and deer. Many cases occur in the spring and summer months, often in the Northeastern, West, and Midwest United States.

Lyme disease often appears as the classic “bull’s-eye” rash; however this rash does not need to develop for Lyme disease to be diagnosed. Later phases of the disease can affect the joints, heart, and nervous system.

If you find a tick on your skin, you may want to save it in a small container of alcohol to be used for identification. Lyme disease can be treated and cured with antibiotics in most cases.

Others with lyme disease: Daryl Hall, Richard Gere



Seal’s facial scars are the result of discoid lupus.

Lupus can affect almost any part of the body or organ system, so no two people have identical forms of the disease.

While lupus can occur in people of all ages, races, and sexes, it is far more common in women, especially those between the ages of 15–45.

People with lupus have an immune system that attacks their own healthy cells and tissues, causing inflammation and damage.

Several measures can help prevent flares if you know you have lupus, such as avoiding intense sun exposure, reducing stress, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol use.

There is currently no cure for lupus.

Others with lupus: Tim Raines, Mary McDonough
Published on 07/13/2011 | Last updated on 03/27/2020