Acne Vulgaris Is Stupid and Expensive

I wish I could say that I've been feeling beautiful lately, but I haven't. I recognize inner beauty, and I have that, thank god, because I have had a great case of middle-aged acne smattering my face, neck, and shoulders for about eight months now. Of course, I've had issues with acne since my chin saw a proliferation of blackheads at the age of eight — EIGHT — so this last several months has only really been differentiated from the last 31 years of acne issues by its severity.

moi
This is me last August in less vulgar times.

Just before I went to BlogHer '11 in San Diego last August, I broke out in a painful case of acne vulgaris behind my ears. My skin was relatively normal everywhere else, but behind my ears was a swollen, bruised, oozing, pustulent mess. I know this for certain, because this weblog also apparently doubles as a Schmutzie Acne Tracker, and I wrote about my condition prior to the conference. Apparently, I wanted to draw attention to my air of cool confidence.

That particular outbreak never fully resolved itself. It waxed and waned, and, just when I thought I would stop already with having the skin everyone told me I would outgrow after high school, the outbreak persisted and wended its way down to my neck and across my jawline and chin. I have been the very picture of those before photos on late-night acne medication infomercials.

This happened once before when I was sixteen. It was the fall of grade 12, and I woke up one morning with my right cheek inflamed with bright red pot boilers. I daubed them with zit cream and thought that was that.

Well, that was not that. Over the course of the week, the zits grew and deepened until my cheek was bruised purple from the swelling and infection. I walked around with my permed hair draped over my face, hoping to affect a brooding moodiness until I could get a doctor to take a look at it. Luckily, large, face-encompassing hair was en vogue in 1989.

When I showed the doctor my cheek, she winced.

"Who hit you?" she asked.

"What? No!" I said.

"Do you have a boyfriend?" I could see her mentally reaching for the local cop shop's phone number.

"What? No one hit me. This," I made a circular motion around the right half of my head, "started out as pimples."

"I've never seen anything like it before," she said, her expression changing from one of moral outrage to a kind of perverse fascination. "It's bruising itself, even. Does it hurt?"

"It's incredibly painful," I said.

"You have a case of acne vulgaris. It might scar," she said.

I walked home with a strong antibiotic prescription in my pocket and the words acne vulgaris playing on a loop in my head. Acne vulagaris. Acne vulgaaaaaris. Vuuuhlgaaaairis. I was certain my face would come out the other side permanently pocked and discoloured. I spent the next two days hiding out in my room double-dosing on antibiotics, certain that whatever hopes I'd had of ever finding love were now as dust in the wind, and then I played Kansas' "Dust In the Wind" on repeat, because you have to drum up your own moody drama when you're all alone in your room brooding over skin eruptions. Oh, the perils of mortal flesh! (Seriously, you have to click on that link and watch the video. The ruffled shirts and caveman chic hair is fantastic.)

ANYWAY, back to the present day. I have had this slowly worsening but mostly isolated issue with singlular acne vulgaris outbreaks since last summer, but it has recently become so bad that I won't leave the house without a scarf around my neck, because I have about 10 to 15 of these suckers heaving across my throat like angry bee stings.

Finally, at the Palinode's urging, I went to the doctor on Saturday to have this issue looked at. I told the doc it was my throat, and while he was looking inside my throat, I unwound my scarf from my neck.

"No, here," I said, pointing, and, just like that other doctor over 22 years ago, he winced.

When the doctor winces, you can be assured that you are not blowing things out of proportion. The $100 of topical creams and antibiotics that followed were pretty convincing, too.

So, I'm still waiting to outgrow the skin issues that first started to surface in nineteen-FREAKING-eighty-one, and I still hold out hope that I will finally have the fresh, clear skin of my dreams when I am sixty. This will happen, yes?

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PS. I am already seeing vast improvement, which is thrilling. THRILLING. I mean I like scarves and all, but always wearing scarves up to my earlobes indoors is starting to take on the colour of strange affectation, like the person who only ever wears red chucks with every single outfit.