As most people with persistent acne tend to say, I had tried everything.
On a pretty Saturday in April I woke up luxuriously late, went directly to the bathroom, wiped some fresh urine on my face, and let it sit there to dry.
"This is truly the best of both worlds," I told myself in the mirror. "Persistent problem skin and nice warm pee dripping down my face."
I first read about this technique in an acne.org forum. I was skeptical, but it seemed like it could be one of those things that worked wonders and changed lives but that nobody ever talked about because of the unfair public stigma against dousing yourself with your own bodily byproducts.
I did a little more research and found that it wasn't so uncommon, that people used "urine therapy" for all sorts of ailments. The urea and uric acid found in urine are powerful antioxidants, and urine also contains the body's excess resources of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Drinking and massaging urine into the skin, I learned, allows your body to reabsorb these nutrients and stimulate healing. For acne specifically, urine is also supposed to have exfoliating and hydrating properties.
My boyfriend, Ethan, was surprisingly not grossed out by the idea when I told him about wanting to try urine therapy.
"I drank my own urine once," he said, "I didn't like it, but it's sterile."
"Why would you do that?" I said.
"No reason. I was just curious."
As most people with persistent acne tend to say, I had tried everything. Even if this morning pee method wasn't fated to be my saving grace, I would at least have an extra notch in my belt of ridiculous things I had done to myself in the name of clear skin. It might even be the ultimate notch, completed only by those who are truly devoted to clearing their problem skin.
"Oh, you've tried everything, have you?" I planned to say to anyone who dared claim they wanted to cure their acne as much as I did. "Well, have you ever peed on your own face?"
Here are some of the things I've tried to cure my acne, in no particular order:
- Over the counter topical treatments
- Prescription topical treatments
- Crying in the fetal position
- Infomercial products
- Plain soap and water
- Drug store masks
- Health store masks
- Not doing anything special in case that was the secret
- Hormonal birth control
- Picking my zits while starting into a magnifying mirror
- A gluten free diet
- Yelling at my own skin as if it had separate cognition
- A gluten free, dairy free, soy free, sugar free, alcohol free, caffeine free diet
- A vegetarian diet
- A "red" diet (largely raspberries, apples, beets, and red cabbage)
- Zinc supplements three times daily
- Water fasting
- A daily swig of apple cider vinegar
- Spritzing apple cider vinegar onto my face several times daily
- Eating fermented food with every meal
- Regular exercise
- Learning to love my skin flaws and all (reverse psychology)
- Regular zit popping done by a very expensive professional zit popper
- All natural skin products including special laundry detergent, shampoo, makeup, and hand lotion
- Relaxation methods to help me de-stress
- Rubbing ice cubes on my face for thirty minutes twice a day
And now, I guess, pee.
Morning urine was best, the forums said, as it was the most pure and undiluted. This meant that I only had to do it once a day. I peed onto a cotton pad and wiped it quickly across my skin, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then washed my face as I normally would, usually in the shower.
The pee was warm and smelled nutty. I didn't mind it. Actually, if I'm being totally honest, l started to look forward to it. I liked knowing that I was the type of person who would do anything for my skin.
I believed it would work, because it made the kind of perfect sense that really weird idea makes when it meets total desperation, and because I believed every new thing I tried would be the thing that finally worked, took care of my acne forever, because believing was part of the game. Each new thing has to be the thing that is finally going to work, because it just has to be.
The difficult thing about a new acne treatment is that the life cycle of a zit, from the invisible, deep-pore conception beneath the skin to the full-blown zit, is months long. Any treatment you try has to be performed religiously for at least three months, otherwise there is no way to know if it's working or not.
For the first few weeks of wiping urine on my face, I paid very close attention to the state of my skin. My skin seemed softer, and then it seemed normal again. My existing zits seemed less red, and then they seemed as red as they had ever been. I saw a noticeable decrease in blackheads, and then a dramatic increase. The new zits that popped up seemed smaller, but then again I wasn't really measuring them in the first place. I couldn't tell if something was changing, or if I was looking so hard at my skin that it seemed totally changed from day to day.
I didn't tell many people about my new ritual, unless it happened to naturally come up and out of my mouth against my will, the way embarrassing things often did.
"I put pee on my face today," I said to my friend Alese.
"What? Why?" she said.
"It's just something people do in this day and age."
"What the hell?"
"I do it every day, actually."
"Don't do that."
"This is my path in life, Alese."
Having acne takes a lot of confidence. You have to constantly remind yourself that you have other good qualities that overshadow your skin. You have to focus on these good qualities to distract yourself from the flaw that's painted all over your face, coloring everyone's first impression of you. When one of your other good qualities comes into question, it feels doubly harsh, because not only is it a blow to your ego, but also a blow to the mask you thought you were wearing.
"I wipe pee on my face because I deserve the best," I thought, trying to remind myself of my superior sense of humor, which more than compensated, I liked to think, for the appearance of my skin.
Each day I wiped pee onto my face I felt a little weirder, as if allowing myself to grow accustomed to such a barbaric act was setting the bar very low (or high, depending on how you looked at it) for other socially unacceptable rituals.
"I would eat poop if it would help my skin," I thought to myself one day, completely unprompted by any kind of information or conversation about poop or acne, or any frame of reference for the thought whatsoever. "I would just put it in a capsule and swallow it."
The swiftness and acceptance of such an insane idea made me immediately question the sanity of what I was already doing. Was wiping pee on my face really a good idea? Was there even a chance it would actually help? More importantly, did I want it to help? Did I really want to wipe fresh urine on my face this every day for the rest of my life? Or did I just want to prove to myself/the world that I had indeed tried everything, as some sort of concrete evidence that my acne was, in fact, beyond my control.
After that day, I stopped wiping pee on my face. Not because it wasn't helping; I hadn't gotten anywhere near the three-month test period (I had lasted just over a month). I stopped because I wasn't committed to the idea of wiping pee on my face every day for the rest of my life, I was only committed to the idea of trying everything, of knowing I had done everything I could no matter how difficult or gross it was.
So if wiping pee on your face cures acne, I guess I don't want to know.