My mom has given me a lot to be thankful for. Because of her, I know the meaning of unconditional love, I grew up eating real fruits and vegetables, and I’m pretty cute. But she also passed along something that hasn’t been so rewarding: acne.
It’s painful and, on occasion, aesthetically disastrous. The unpredictability of what my skin will do, say, before a job interview when I would prefer to look like a together lady and not an unbalanced adolescent, adds to the stress (which means more breakouts).
If you’re thinking any of the following—1. Why don’t you just stop eating so many sweets and wash your face? 2. Have you tried Proactiv? My friend’s friend loves Proactiv! 3. Try slathering coconut oil on your face every night!—please stop. You have probably had poreless skin since birth and you believe acne and a single shallow pimple are the same thing.
Those of you who have known true acne know that it is stubborn—the cystic kind that starts deep beneath the skin and swells and hurts to touch, like the tiny goose egg that forms after you’ve bumped your forehead—and causes scarring. In my case, it comes on the chin, and usually around the start of my period. It’s also triggered during times of turmoil. (We all manifest emotional turbulence differently, and I guess I’d prefer zits to regular panic attacks. However, having my mental state literally displayed across my face is not ideal.)
But it’s not all hormones and stress. This kind of acne is genetic—some specific cocktail of bacteria and overactive sebaceous glands (aka oily skin). My mom is now in her late 50s, still with acne that won’t quit. Mine, granted, is not of the worst variety, but still! I’m a vain human. I want clear skin. Cleanliness is godliness, or whatever.
This brings us to isotretinoin, aka Accutane. Essentially, it’s a very high dose of synthetic vitamin A that comes with a host of possible side effects but kills off the bacteria and makes your skin sing!
This drug sort of terrifies me. One summer in my early twenties, when I was at home in Arkansas about to head out to Spain for the year, my dermatologist recommended it. Even though my brother, my cousin, and a whole bunch of other people I’d heard of had taken the stuff and given it good reviews, I stalled. I told her I’d take it next summer. (I never did.)
Now, in my late twenties, Accutane is back on the table. But I still have reservations. The plan is to go on it a month from now after I’ve gotten a signed doctor’s note saying I’ve been taking birth control pills for a month (female Accutane users are required to take two forms of birth control). That’s four weeks I have to take on a last-ditch effort to cure myself before blasting my body with poisonous doses of vitamin A—not wholly dissimilar from my last last-ditch effort, for which I briefly considered moving to a commune and eating nothing but raw food for a month, just in case. This time, however, the experiment is more feasible—I’m going to eat liver.
Liver is one of the best sources of the kind of vitamin A that can most closely replicate the effects of isotretinoin (different from the vitamin A in sweet potatoes and other veggies—but because it’s not synthetic, and (at least in theory) should be easier on the body. Here’s the plan: for the month of February, I’ll consume half a pound of liver every week. Beef liver! Chicken liver! Pork and lamb livers! I’ll try them all. I’ll make liver pâté, and try my hand at the classic liver and onions. (Luckily, I love pâté. Not sure how I’ll feel about liver and onions). If, by the end of the month, I see a marked improvement in my complexion, I’ll once again skip out on Accutane.
Since I’ll be eating something’s liver, I’ve decided it should be free-range, grass-fed, organic, et al. I haven’t had the time yet to go, but there’s a local butcher that meets the criteria. In four weeks, I’ll report back—I hope with positive feelings about liver and onions, and beautiful, blemishless flesh.