I first realized I had oily skin when I was eight. I used to do all the tests in my sister's Cosmopolitan magazine, despite the fact they'd already told me I was a lousy date, lousy in the sack, and definitely having my period. Naturally I took the oily skin test. I washed my face, then fifteen minutes later rubbed a Kleenex onto my skin. If the Kleenex snagged, I had dry skin. If it remained pristine, I had normal skin. If it turned slightly transparent, I had oily skin.
I could have wrung mine out and fried chicken.
The zits that appeared over the next few years prompted an intensive, lifelong research into skin wellness. Before folks start calling you Pizza Face, check out my findings below.
All the skin-care specialists agree that facial scrubs are either good or bad for your skin. Maybe they exfoliate your skin, stripping off dead layers and exposing fresh skin, or maybe they irritate your skin and make you break out more. It's easy to test. Try using a scrub: if you break out after using it, then the scrub definitely helped or hurt.
Me, I look to the science. See, zits are caused because your body's natural oil can't escape if your pores have gotten clogged by dirt. Naturally, then, the best way to prevent this is to forcibly push vast quantities of almond meal into your skin. Use all ten fingers to make sure the ground-up skin-care spheres fits snugly into your big round pores. (You can also make an inexpensive facial scrub with lemon juice, olive oil, and sugar. It too reveals fresh new skin, and if your skin gets over-irritated you'll break out in Jolly Ranchers.)
Still, I can see how scrubs could hurt your skin. I mean, if your skin was angry because you ate a Cheeto on Friday, what do you think rubbing it with liquid sandpaper will do? Zits are your skin's cry for help. If a kid starts crying, you think a brief encounter with a belt sander will fix everything? The good news is, if a scrub makes you break out, you can tell all the people who stare at you that it's your extra-good hygiene that caused it.
I can confidently say that diet has absolutely zero to do with your complexion. I tested it: I ate nothing but garbanzo beans for a year and a half. It didn't affect my skin at all, though I did start to darken slightly because nobody would let me indoors.
I've never tried Accutane because I don't trust drugs. You know how Viagra was invented? Some scientist was fiddling around with chemicals and he came up with something he thought might treat heart disease. He gave it to a trial group of people, and when they died they all had hard-ons. "Eureka!" he shouted, not nearly as bittersweet as when his patients shouted it.
After I heard that story, I started to assume that's how all drugs are invented, and that's how I think Accutane came about. I'm guessing they gave it to a small group of people, and a coupleof weeks later noticed they all had clearer skin. They said, "Hey, cool -- we invented a skin treatment!" They designed a logo and packaging and didn't really check to see if, oh, it dried out your pancreas too.
See, Accutane decreases the body's production of sebum. You really think all those feisty molecules are going to get into your bloodstream and say, "Okay, everybody: straight up to the face!"? Yeah -- and everybody who goes to Disneyland runs straight for The Carousel of Progress. I mean, there must be some reason pregnant women aren't supposed to take it. If it really just affected the facial region, kids would be born looking like Heidi Klum.
Checking the literature, it appears Accutane does dry out vast portions of the body. The makers have listed this as a harmful side effect, though I think they should turn a negative into a positive by adopting the motto, "WHO NEEDS TO BE MOIST?"
About the only treatment I can wholeheartedly recommend is salicylic acid. It exfoliates, but unlike a scrub it won't clog your pores. Instead, it makes your skin noticeably thinner, which is really the only solution for breakouts. Now when you guffaw at a movie theater, when you sigh on the subway, when you raise you eyebrows at a job interview, your zits will pop by themselves. Picture yourself having friends over for dinner. "Here it is," you'll be saying proudly, "Roman's Eggplant Parmesan. I know you're going to love it, if I must say so my -- Oops. Sorry. [PAUSE] You know what? I think there's some fried chicken in the fridge."