Today I’d like to talk with you about a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart: my vanity.
Specifically, my face. And the things that grow on it.
Zits. Acne. Blemishes. Pepperoni pizza. Connect-the-Dots.
I’ve long been blessed with temperamental skin. Once puberty hit and the ol’ hormone factory began hiring on extra shifts to meet demand, I was a “before” picture in a pimple medication ad just waiting to happen. That’s typical for a teenager, but it didn’t stop once I was in my 20s. I was recently rummaging through a pile of old photographs and found a JC Penney portrait1 of me at age 22. Girlfriend had learned to put product in her hair but hadn’t yet learned there was such a thing as “concealer.”
At age 25, weary of the ongoing battle with my epidermis, I gave in and got a Proactiv subscription. And thus commenced my skin’s golden age. I still got acne, particularly in conjunction with my womanly times, but it was nothing like before. For the first time in a long time, my face was mostly clear.
Then, in 2011, I decided to quit Proactiv. It had chemicals in it, and someone had told me that chemicals were bad. Also, it stained my sheets and towels something fierce. So I went on a quest for natural products made of, I dunno, olive oil and crushed flowers and holy water.
That was two and a half years ago. So how has that little experiment worked out for me?
In a word: Terribly.
At first, it wasn’t so bad. I started getting more acne but it was manageable. Then at the start of 2012, I stopped taking hormonal birth control. That was a bucket of laughs! My skin started doing this fun stuff it had never done before, like breaking out on my neck. At first I thought it was a rash from hair care products, but no, it was just good old hormonal acne. I was chagrined to find that this shit never clears up. I constantly have acne along my jawline. Sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s worse, but it never ever goes away.
And because that skin change wasn’t exciting enough, I then decided to up and move from a mediterranean to a semi-arid, continental climate. Oh man! I am still trying to figure that out. My skin is currently in the weirdest, most unpredictable state it’s ever been in. I don’t know how I can be both dry and flaky and oily and congested at the same time, but that’s totally happening.
Things I’ve tried over the last two and a half years, in no particular order:
- Orange blossom toner
- Aloe juice as a toner
- Diluted tea tree oil as a toner
- The “oil cleansing method”
- Washing my face with raw honey
- Washing my face with “Forest Mint Gentle Foaming Cleanser”
- Washing my face with “Geranium Sap Purifying Cleanser”
- Washing my face with Burt’s Bees Salicylic Acid Natural Acne Treatment from Willow Bark Purifying Gel Cleanser
- Washing my face with water
- Washing my face twice a day
- Washing my face once a day
- Not washing my face
- Jojoba oil as a moisturizer
- Sea buckthorn oil as a moisturizer
- Rose hip seed oil as a moisturizer
- Some expensive “primrose calming serum” as a moisturizer
- Tea tree oil as a topical acne remedy (NOPE, my skin HATES it even when it’s strongly diluted)
- A $28 natural “blemish stick” as a topical acne remedy
- Not touching my face
- Not looking at my face
- Leaving offerings for my face on a tiny makeshift altar; burning incense and chanting
- Clarisonic Mia vibrating skin cleansing brush
- Taking saw palmetto supplements around my womanly times
- Pressing crushed peppermint leaves on my face
- Lying in the middle of the kitchen floor as my spouse tries to make dinner, repeatedly encouraging him to divorce me
When I slam these together in list form, it makes it seem like I am simply slathering everything on my face all at once and then wondering what’s going wrong. Nope, I focused on one basic ingredient combination at a time, any change I made was gradual, and I gave every method a shot for at least 2-4 weeks. And for the record I try to take care of myself internally, too — heavy on water and exercise, and light on sugar/processed foods.
Looking back, it’s clear that I need something more. Something bigger, something stronger. The past two and a half years have been like trying to put out a fire with a teacup — the flames may die down where you pour the water, but the inferno rages on. I am treating existing acne, not future acne. I’m not really fixing the source of the breakouts.
I don’t know what to tell you. I feel like I’ve failed. All the literature I’ve read makes it seem like healthy, glowing, dewy skin is within me, waiting to reveal itself, if I just use this natural stuff. Well, I am using the natural stuff, and it is going off the fucking rails. I am happy that someone out there was able to find their perfect radiant skin remedy in a bi-monthly application of club soda, apple cider vinegar, and pinecone shavings, but for some reason that’s not working out for me.
Okay, look who’s riding their sarcasm pony through a field of clover. I’m not saying natural is bad — I’m just frustrated that after all this time I haven’t been able to find a fix. And it doesn’t help that over the last two weeks I’ve been sweating into a ventilator mask while working at the house, tracing a new track of zits across my cheeks and around my chin. Then I look at the beau’s glistening, dusty visage and there isn’t a single blemish in sight. Jelly much? That dude could wash his face with Crisco and sleep on a sheet of sandpaper and his mug would remain clear as Crystal Pepsi. Meanwhile, all I have to do is glance in the mirror and my face throws a snit fit, stomping out and slamming the door, then opening it and slamming it again. I am the concerned parent and my skin is the rebelling teenager. It is a sensitive soul and it’s so misunderstood.
I have no clue what to do or try anymore. I don’t even know what my face wants, I just know that it’s angry. Which is why I’m reaching out to you, I guess.
Do you have clear skin? If so, would you be willing to let me graft it onto my face? Ha ha! Just kidding, sort of! But really, if you have any tips or insight, send them on down. I am willing to entertain any acne treatment method at this point, whether natural or man-made.2 Seriously, anything. I have got two weddings to attend next month and I’m not willing to show up with a road map of red bumps, people.
1 Yeah, that happened.
2 And yes, I know I should see a dermatologist, but I need to get my primary physician sorted first, slanty-face emoticon.