[ This is me in grade 9, baby. This is me in grade 9! (left) 1993... pre-Photoshop ]
I had good skin in high school.
Go on. Hate me. But I dealt with other ugly-duckling qualities, like a height I just couldn't embrace until my 20s. And flat-chest insecurities I harboured until I realized the fashion advantages of meager boobage. And a giant gap between my two front teeth. And general awkwardness that still haunts me. High school wasn't easy for anyone. But I can't imagine what it would have been like to deal with severe acne on top of it.
I can't relate. BUT, after a freak heart-attack-like episode on Day 1 of my honeymoon last year (I know, stellar timing, right?), my GP advised that I go off The Pill for a while until they rule out a pulmonary embolism. Yikes. So I did. And no, I didn't have a PE, but instead a much less scary lung infection. Since I was already off The Pill, though, I thought it might be a good idea to just stay off for a while. I had been popping hormones since I was 15 (uhhh...for purely period-regulating purposes, of course!) and without any actual medical advice to prove it, I decided that giving your body a break was a good idea.
Since the advent of the internet, I think I'm a doctor.
Apparently, I was always meant to battle acne. The Pill, in one of its other-than-baby-preventing uses, actually improves skin conditions like acne, as it reduces oil production. Huh. So, since last year, I began experiencing painful cyst-like acne on my face and body. As a pretty self-assured 30ish-year-old woman, it was seriously affecting my self-esteem. I can't even IMAGINE what it would have done to my angst-y tortured teenage self. The agony!
So I tried everything. Prescribed creams. Over the counter washes, gels and toners. Natural remedies. Supplements. Heat therapy. Diet changes. Picking, squeezing, prodding.
Do NOT waste your money on this. Wasteful (you throw it out after 80 individual uses - and some zits need a triple-zap), only useful for "perfect" zits - so no whiteheads, blackheads or ginat throbbing under-the-skins types (um, what else IS there?!). Shoppers $49
Should be called "Better Skin" - marginal improvements but not a standalone cure. I still take it every day. But I'm a hopeless optimist. Heath food stores, $30 for 60 gelcaps.
Overall, a great scrub for everyday, but not really powerful enough. I prefer a scrub with a good grit. Shoppers $16
My go-to heal-all. I can't live without the stuff. While it's great for killing bacteria after too much skin-meddling, it can't do much for a serious break-out. The Body Shop, $9
Now I have permanent scarring on my face and back. 2/3 of my summer wardrobe has gone untouched.
The result - I went back on The Pill. Do I like this fact? No.
My doctor and the general medical community agree that while there are risks, it's perfectly safe to be on the pill, err, forever. (???) Strangely enough, the potential side-effects are super scary (yet, fully disclosed):
- Larger breasts (wait... this is a side-effect? Nobody told me.)
- Weight gain or loss
- Reduced or increased acne
- Slight nausea
- Emotional sensitivity right before your period
- Mood swings throughout your cycle
- Irregular bleeding or spotting
- Breast tenderness
- Decreased libido
- Increased risk of cervical and breast cancers
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Higher blood pressure
- Gall bladder disease
- Benign liver tumors
- Decreased bone density
- Yeast overgrowth and infection
- Increased risk of blood clotting
No surprise, right?
Do we really agree to this!? About 30% of North American women use oral contaceptives regularily, despite the laundry list of side-effects. Are unwanted pregnancies worse than...gulp...cancer?! Natural health advocates have been warning of the other potential risks of long-term use of The Pill (like vitamin depletion) although the information is so vast and contradictory that I'm really not sure what to think. Yay, internet. Although, am I vain enough to play ignorant if it means having better skin? Sigh. Probably.
So I won't accidentaly produce grandchildren anytime soon (sorry, Mom). But at least I will be a fabulously blemish-free non-mom, right? Am I destined to go through this again when we DO have kids?
While I'm usually anti-antibiotics and shun most prescribed symptom-based bandaid-solutions, and would rather heal via teas and vitamins and herb-based potions, imma gonna stay on the estrogen train for the time being. Still keeping my eyes peeled for a magic zit-cure without carcinogenic side-effects, though...
Any suggestions? Willing to be a guinea pig if y'all wanna send me products to try. The side-effects can't possibly be any worse, right?
[ photos via: chatelaine.com, Marie Claire mag, Zeno, The Body Shop, Burt's Bees ]