Friday, July 22, 2011

Pizza face.

[ 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.

Bad idea.

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
  • Migraines
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Infertility
  • 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:, Marie Claire mag, Zeno, The Body Shop, Burt's Bees ]


  1. I don't know if you remember it, but when I was in high school a new pill was on the market called Accutane. The side effects were terrible. My skin dried out to the point no moisturizer could repair, My lips were so dry and cracked that I couldn't eat without them bleeding.

    Worst of all though was the psychological effects. While on accutane I became uber depressed and angry. It later came out that there were a lot of teens who were committing suicide while on the drug.

    It's crazy what lengths we go to in order to have great looking skin. It's a battle I've been fighting for 15 years, and I haven't won yet.

  2. Dayna...thank you for this post! It's so great to know I'm not alone!

    As a fellow married lady, I also went off the old hormones recently. And not because we want to grow our family but because I figured it was just time to stop ingesting synthetic chemicals every day of my life.

    Same thing happened - terrible teenage-style breakouts, weight gain, and bloating. Yuck.

    But I did find a skin care line that helped...a lot. Paula's Choice.

    And yes, I know it was featured on Dr. Oz (cringe). But it works. Let me know if you want details.

    And good luck with your search!

  3. I found your blog through Jessica. I've also battled terrible acne since going off of the pill - it's hormonal acne, so it gets worst about a week before my period. I have tried EVERYTHING and the only thing that makes a difference is a perscription cream I got from the dermatologist. It's a peroxide cream that has antibiotic mixed into it. Maybe ask your doctor?

  4. Hey Day! your old roomie Kate here...yes I (stalk) read your blog! Love it and just had to comment because same thing happened to me when i went off the pill. Super happy about the perma-scars. WTF? I found (sadly) that Justine Bieber and his team of pro-activ products has been the only thing close to getting my skin back. Doesn't help the scars though - frowny face. Anyway, there's my 2 cents. love ya and miss ya old pal.