One helluva prom date

By Mir
August 21, 2006

There were all sorts of things that my childhood mind dreamed up as being the spoils of adulthood. Even as a teen, the fantasies continued. About how great it would be to be on my own, be my own boss (apparently in these imaginings, I lived in a vacuum… a vacuum full of money!), be able to wear whatever I wanted without a critical “Do you think you’re leaving the house dressed like THAT?”

Being a grown-up was going to be totally awesome.

And even as the grey hairs started to sprout, even as my ass began its slow, inexorable slide towards the backs of my knees, even as the bills piled up, I still held tight to the conviction that certain rights of adulthood were inalienable.

I was so naive.

I’d like to introduce you to Phil. Phil, this is everyone. Everyone, this is Phil. Phil loves me. Phil has moved in and taken over and I am powerless under his magnetism, as are you. (I can’t stop touching him, and you can’t stop staring.) Phil does not care that I am 35 years old. Phil thinks I am just as attractive as a teenager. In fact, Phil is going to take me to the prom! The internet told me so.

No, I have not been drinking. (I sort of wish I’d been drinking….)

Phil is a monstrous zit that has taken up residence on my chin. Rather, UNDER my chin. Under the skin on my chin. I suspect it starts somewhere on top of the actual bone, but not very far above it. From there, this zit, or cyst, or WHATEVER IT IS expands out in a golfball-sized mound of pain and redness. It is, by all accounts, pretty impressive.

Oh, sure. Phil started out modestly enough. Even though I am 35 (did I mention that, already? how I am WELL PAST ZIT AGE), I still struggle with acne. I own stock in Clearasil. I am no stranger to pimples, is my point. And when Phil started out, I figured it would be a brief, unremarkable visit and then he would be on his way. When the area started sort of THROBBING last night, I made sure to put extra zit zapper on it, before bed.

For my efforts I was rewarded this morning with a grotesque distortion of my chin, to make way for Phil in all of his glory. I stood there in the bathroom, applying several ounces of cover-up, and pondering the tacit agreement I’d entered as an adult.

Part of that agreement was that once the wrinkles started, the acne would GO AWAY. I’m certain that was a clause in there, somewhere. Something has gone dreadfully awry and I want my lawyer! (Oh, wait. That’s right. My lawyer’s still in jail. That may explain how this happened, actually. Ahem.)

Anyway, aside from the obvious social handicap of looking like I’m storing nuts for winter IN MY CHIN, this thing is making my entire face hurt. I am desperate for relief.

[Phil: But I LOVE YOU! We shall be together ALWAYS!
Me: Dude. You need your own zip code. Somewhere OTHER THAN MY FACE.
Phil: Here is where I belong.
Me: I regret having named you. No, wait. No I don’t. Fuck you, Phil.]

So I went over to see my friend Dr. Google, to see if he might know of any surefire remedies for interlopers like Phil.

Do you know what Dr. Google said? He said lots of things, actually. Mostly he said “Like, OMIGOD YOU GUYS, I have a HUGE ZIT and my prom is tomorrow night!!!!!! What do I DOOOOOO?” It’s not that Dr. Google didn’t have lots of information, it’s that he believes that everyone with this problem is 16 and owns a really bitchin’ sequined minidress that needs to make it to the gymnasium for that one special night.

And then here I am, all “Hey, Dr. Google? I’ve kinda got this PTA thing to get to, and I’d rather not have everyone see this pus tumor on my chin, if you know what I mean….”

But Dr. Google has many suggestions for me. Phil has laughed at every single one, you understand, but hope springs eternal.

Use benzoyl peroxide cream every night. Okay. And? I mean, I see the logic, but I’m pretty sure Phil is DRINKING IT.

Use toothpaste! Uhhhh, okay. I’ll try that. Hmmm. Sticky. Don’t use toothpaste! It can damage your skin! Right, because the state my skin is in NOW is something worth preserving….

Try a dab of tea tree oil. That’s a great idea. Just let me throw on my burqa so I can get out to the health food store for some of that. Or maybe I can just send Phil out to fetch it for me.

Alternate hot and cold compresses. I don’t think this actually helps, but it certainly keeps a person busy.

Using Visine on the pimple will reduce redness. But the zit isn’t in my eye. Also, it’s not so much the redness (which I can cover with makeup) as the TWO INCH PROTUBERANCE which concerns me.

Pop it! I don’t actually think I could pop my entire head, which is what would be required at this point. Whatever you do, don’t pop it! Okay. Without a pair of pliers and a bucket, that seems unlikely at this point, anyway.

Mix together equal amounts of benzoyl peroxide and antibiotic ointment and slather the area. Okay. That’s what I’m trying tonight. But I’ve gotta tell you, my hopes are not high.

Maybe I should just relent and let him take me to the damn prom.


  1. Jenn

    Oh, I have my own personal Phil on my cheek right this very minute. I have rosacea and I’m used to the pimples if I forget to put on my medicated cream (so sexy! especially with retainers!) but this goes far beyond rosacea pimples. Yuck!

    For what it’s worth, my sister swears by toothpaste, but I always think that would just make your zits minty fresh.

  2. Sandee

    I’m 49 (yes, old with wrinkles!)and I still break out! My current method of keeping the Phils away is Neutrogena Acne Cleansing cloths followed by Biore Astringent. It’s been working well for about 6 months. I still get a small Philette occasionally, but nothing that moves in and takes over.

  3. Patricia

    I’m not that much younger than you, have had grey hair since 16 and have wrinkles — so I can voucher the cruel twist of fate that means being adult excuses you from pimples.
    I’m Pro-Toothpaste. But it must be the paste stuff — no fancy gel kinds. And yes, it is icky, sticky, and will get on your pillowcase. But it will dry up the zit — over a couple of nights.
    Ice will help the pain too.

  4. Jennifer

    I do like tea tree oil and they sell it at drug stores, too!
    But if you do venture out to the health store, go for basil oil! It smells better, hurts more but works better!
    Hot washcloths help bring the puss up(yuck) and then a clay based mask dabbed on and left overnight dries it out!
    Good luck!
    I hate those guys that come up from the bone and then peel their way out!!!

  5. Moose

    Rub oil into your face. Seriously. I’ve spent a lot of money over the past 15 years attempting to keep my face, if not porcelain smooth, at least incapable of frightening small children. Rubbing oil into your pores may seem counterintuitive. Or downright retarded. But my skin hasn’t broken out once since I started this regime o’ skincare and I’ve saved somewhere in the range of 50 bucks in pricey skincare products.

    Here’s how it works: Rub generous amounts of castor oil into the blemish prone sections of your face. Rub generous amounts of olive oil everywhere else. Rinse a washcloth in hot water, squeeze it out and lay it on your face to let the warmth open your pours and allow the oil to penetrate. Repeat once or twice. Remove the oil with the wash cloth and splash your face with cold water. Voila. No soap, no moisturizer – just oil. It’s a remarkably good deep cleanser and gratifyingly cheap. I do use sunscreen in the morning and eye makeup remover when necessary, but nothing else.

    Cheap, easy. No zits.

  6. Carla Hinkle

    I have no practical suggestions. Whenever faced with a Phil I inevitably squeeze and poke and prod, in an attempt to pop it, rendering it much much redder and worse looking and only popped about 10% of the time.

    I know it does not help but I cannot stop myself.

    On second thought, I have been known to use old-school white toothpaste. It does a pretty good job. If I can keep from the pick pick pick.

    Good luck! And what, no photos???? (Cause I’m nosy like that.)

  7. Marvo

    I’m suggesting Clinique Spot Acne Treatment. For some reason, that overpriced stuff works. Also, you should be glad that one didn’t form on the tip of your nose or in the middle of your forehead…or on your eyelid.

  8. Cele

    After having once gone to beauty college I understand why Moose’s applications work.

    So that you understand. Zits are caused by small infections in your pores or sebaceous glands. Not body oil.

    I have done the toothpaste route, but as I reached my upper 40s the zits changed. I now swear by Neutragenia Anti blemish / Anti wrinkle cream. It was a light application of salicylic acid in it, that also helps fight those lovely dry, raised dead skin scaly patches that aunt Henrietta has and I don’t want to get.

  9. Chris

    OK you guys, after I finished wetting my pants like 4 times I’m ready to talk….YOU ARE ALL TOO FUNNY..Please come to my neighborhood and we’ll all go out for coffee. I needed those laughs tonight….Thank You all so much!

  10. carrien

    My aunt had really bad acne and the doctor told her to apply warm olive oil twice a day. It totally worked, and her skin is the best of all of her sisters. I’ve not tried it, but I never really had much acne so…don’t hate me, I have a large ass.

  11. hollygee

    You are still to young for middle-age acne, so this must be a hold over from your late adolescent acne. Ain’t that good to know? And I agree with Cele and Moose and Carrien about the oil treatments. I use coconut oil and it’s worked pretty damn well. But I may have to try that Neutragenia Anti blemish / Anti wrinkle cream that Cele talked about as I share Aunt Henritta’s affliction in winter weather. Don’t want that.

  12. Kendra

    My soul-sistah! Since I hit puberty I’ve been had some sort of anti-zit regimen, but I never experienced agony like I did when I was pregnant with both of my darling sons. When prego with my second son, I developed a large (painful, red, throbbing) cyst. I didn’t name it but I did ask the OB/GYN if she wouldn’t mind doing an ultrasound to see if it had a spine inside–it was horrific and right on my cheek for the world to see. After trying benzyol peroxide, clindamycin, oral anti-biotics, warm/cold compresses and tea tree oil, I decided to call a dermatologist. He refused to “drain” it, because of it’s location, but gave me a cortisone injection (directly into my evil twin) and a day later, it wasn’t swollen anymore (still red, but it’s easier to use cover up on a discoloration than on a cyst that was close to an inch long, half and inch wide and a quarter of an inch high). The problem was, it kept coming back. Long story short, i had to see a plastic surgeon who sliced half my face off, but at least I have a cool scar and not a red spot the size of Rhode Island on my face. Call a dermatologist, do the cortisone shot…that’s my advice. And try Proactiv…or a weekly microderm abrasion–the Proactiv is awesome and definitely as good as the commercials make it out to be.

  13. Sheryl

    I don’t have any zit advice, but I’ll pay for the limo.

  14. Kelly

    Hi…long-time reader, first-time commenter. Proactiv will SAVE YOUR FACE. I know, I know, associating yourself with a product hawked by Jessica Simpson might cause you to want to eat your own face off, but trust me, it’s worth it. Best ever.

  15. sumo

    I’m finding that you’re never too old for acne!

    Maybe you should introduce Phil to Lance.

  16. MelissaC

    Well, I’ve got first-hand experience with the cortisone shot from the dermatologist, and it definitely did work. In fact, come to think of it, after I had that shot my chin never grew any other giant Phil-like cysts. Maybe the dermatologist frightened the others into submission! Bonus!
    Also, re: Moose’s suggestion with the oil. I just read about that skin care regimen over the weekend (yay, innernet!) and now that I’ve seen another endorsement of it, I think I’m going to give it a shot. I’m putting it in my file of can’t hurt, might help.
    Okay, I’ve totally rambled without adding ANYTHING to the conversation. Can you tell I’m at home with my three-week-old daughter, and am in desperate need of adult contact? Was it totally obvious?
    Sorry! But thanks for letting me talk…

  17. Stacia

    My mom’s gone completely through menapause and she still has acne. Both my sister (19) and myself (32) went on acutane and that stuff works wonders. You’re really dry and disgusting for 4 or 5 months, but it is well worth it. I wish I had done it years ago.

  18. Bob

    Bluto. Animal House.

  19. Amy-Go

    Why are you complaining? Phil has given you an excellent excuse to stay in bed for a few days! If anyone calls, you just say “I’m having quality time with my new boyfriend.” Sorry, Otto…sounds like you’ve been replaced!

    Or you could just go the burqua route. *Ducking*

  20. chris

    Who knew that there were so many ideas for dealing with zits.

    My idea put a bandiad over it and tell people you cut yourself shaving.

  21. Elleana

    I’ve gotten so many of those cystic acne things that I could start naming them like the weather service names hurricanes. And I’m 31 – and I feel like I should be over this acne thing already, darn it! But what I’ve found helps, short of an expensive visit to the Dermatologist, is a regimine of Salicylic acid and good old Clearasil. I’ve been using the Olay Clarity line and enough Clearasil to drown small animals for about 6 months now, and so far, so good.
    As for the Phil you already have, I wish I knew the solution that would get immediate results. Those buggers HURT! I hope he vacates the premises soon.

    And really folks? Oil? Hmmm. On already oily skin, like mine??

  22. kim

    Mary Kay microdermabrasion! Sure it feels sorta like rubbing your face with sandpaper, but I’ve been using it once a week for about six months now and I haven’t had a pimple since. Yes, I’m almost forty and still got them at least once a month.

    Plus my skin feels smoother now. It’s a bit pricey but if you use it sparingly it can last a long time.

  23. Randi

    I guess I’m really lucky because I’ve hardly ever had zits. The ONLY time I get them is when I’m expecting a period. Do you think maybe the fluxuation in your hormones could have something to do with it?

  24. Susan

    I have no suggestions. I do, however, have a zit right between my eyes today, just where my bindi dot would be if I were a Hindu. Which I’m not, but I may start pretending, just to get through the next few days.


  25. Aimee

    Lordy…you hit a nerve with this post! Anyway, the only thing I can really add to all of the advice above is to take some sort of anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen or the like) for the redness and pain — I know those bone-deep zits can hurt. And you might try the bandaid (although probably without the “I cut myself shaving” excuse someone suggested) as it might help bring the durn thing to a head. Good luck!

  26. Julie

    First of all, vast quantities of sympathy. I’m a touch younger than you, but am fully convinced I’ll be poking, popping, and cursing at my face for another decade or two if left to its own devices.

    I recently started using baking soda for a wash and a mask. It’s super cheap–about 50 cents for a 2 month supply– which is a huge plus considering the sticker shock that comes with most treatments. It seems to be working wonders. A Tbsp or so in a dixie cup mixed with some water to make a solution splashes on as an exfoliating scrub each morning & night and then, 2-3 times per week, a Tbsp with just a few drops of water makes a paste to apply as a mask for 15-20 min (stings a bit, but works wonders!). I follow up with some BP cream and a good moisturizer around my period, but otherwise that’s doing a better job than the Proactiv, Clinique 3-Step, Loreal 3-Step, Acne-Free 3-Step, Clearasil, Noxema, or even BCP’s and other acne prescription drugs have ever done.

    And I’m sure you’d totally rock that sequined minidress.

  27. Julie

    (oh, and BP cream is Benz. Perox., not a baking powder cream.)

  28. wookie

    The only thing that works on my mega-cysts is one of those clay masques. The blue one from swiss ives or something is the only one I like and doesn’t give me a rash.

    It doesn’t completely eliminate it but it does seem to reduce a lot of the swelling because the clay, as it dries, pulls the extra moisture out by osmosis. I think, anyway. And I get to scare my kids with my blue face.

  29. Charlotte

    I can’t believe no one has suggested hemorroid cream. Should help reduce the swelling. Witch hazel might help, too.

  30. InterstellarLass

    This last week Phil’s cousin Bob came to visit me. He was a real ass. I attacked him with toner and a masque. He didn’t like all the girly stuff, so he left quickly.

    I’ve used toothpaste before. It actually works. But I think that’s on the ones that aren’t below the skin so much.

  31. Jenn2

    I’m thinking if you balk at Visine, cause Phil isn’t in your eye, Prep H is a no go, cause, well…he’s not on your ass. Then again, that’s something to be thankful for.

    Guess a long distance relationship has its good points too, huh? Say hi to Phil for me.

  32. Susan

    I ~so~ feel your pain. Phil’s twin brother, Bill, took up residency on my NOSE (my NOSE!!!) just a week before my 20th reunion earlier this month. Um, excuse me, but I had nicer skin–and no wrinkles!–when I was 18, thankyouverymuch. I panicked. I went as far as to order ProActiv and have it fed ex’d to me! (NO success with that, by the way, except I now had flaky, dry skin *surrounding* Bill.) It was a nightmare, and though Bill diminished in height by the night of my big reunion, I was still self-conscious. And pissed off. I didn’t need him there; he was not welcome to attend.

    That was August 5. It is now August 22 and that sumbeech is still visiting. He is fading out, but he hasn’t left completely. And I hate him for that.

    FWIW, I googled like a mad woman, too, and the best treatment I think I got via the internet was dabbing hydrogen peroxide on the area to dry it up. Worth a try, right?

  33. Rachael

    Proactiv won’t save your face; it certainly didn’t do mine any favors. My roommate put Neosporin on a big “underground” zit once, and it really helped. That mixed with the peroxide sounds like it just might work.

  34. kim

    I didn’t start having skin problems until i was in my 30’s…And i am pretty sure that Phil’s cousin LIL is here visiting me right now..or on her way as i can feel her trying to make an entrance (she is SUCH a diva)!

    I am a “popper” as well as a toothpaste user. Does it help? Not too sure, but it makes me feel like i am an active participant in her distruction!

  35. Gillian

    Man, do we care about you. You may need to put up a paypal button in order to try all the recommendations though. How will you sort through all this input?

  36. jlybn123

    I feel your pain. I’m 34 and get the occasional Phil myself. He’s irritating and has even recently left an impressive scar. Nice. Thought that my time was done for dealing with this, apparently I was wrong. I have tried toothpaste and it actually does work to draw out the yukkiness! That’s the only assistance I can offer right now!

  37. Andrea

    Vinegar and hot water…I have done that and it has sufficiently dried up any oily spots on my face

    at 33 i too have had the battle of the pimple….I feel your pain

  38. SheBear

    Mir, are you sure it’s just a simple zit? In reference to your recent illness, I’m wondering if it could be related.

    I know several of your “regulars” commented on the possibility of Mono (and maybe that was what your doctor suspected, also? I can’t remember….).

    Anyway, a couple months ago, a young friend of mine (our teenage babysitter) developed a large lump under her chin. It started as small, almost unnoticeable bump, she thought it was a zit, it kept growing, became very firm under the skin, grew larger, darker, more tender. They checked it out and it was a rare manifestation of mono. They had to go in and drain it, excise some of the tissue, and stitch her back together (don’t think of it as surgery, think of it as PLASTIC surgery, LOL!). It healed quite nicely and she is as gorgeous as ever (which is to say, almost as pretty as you!).

    Just something to consider….since so many of the pieces fit, I thought it was worth mentioning. I can get more specific details if you would like. Feel free to email me!



  39. Ei

    I’m not suggesting anything…but I’ll let you know if the tears and the snot from laughing so hard give my skin some kind of youthful exuberance (minus the zits of youth that is).

  40. Bob

    first of all, I don’t have any cousins named phil. And I’m not an ass – most of the time – although if I get attacked by a “toner” in a masque I can see where my reaction might earn me the appelation Ass. (is a toner anything like a poseur?) Anyway, I’m confident enough in my masculinity that girly-stuff doesn’t bother me so I can’t see myself running away. And I can definately say that I’ve never been attacked with toothpaste, but I were to I would survive – with stronger teeth and a brighter smile.

  41. Dawn

    Mir — crush a few aspirin, add enough water to make a paste, spread it on the zit from hell. Aspirin = salicylic acid, which is the ingredient in all the fancy-schmancy products. It will dry and shrink the zit, and it’s good for those chin cystic acne zits.

  42. Sandee

    Bob makes me laugh!

  43. Zee

    I do what Carla does – poke and prod and try to pop the zits until they inevitably look worse than they did to begin with. Now I use Dermalogica and my skin is so clear and pretty that random strangers actually walk up to me and comment on how pretty it is. SERIOUSLY!! (Except for the nasty bout of acne I had right after steroid treatments for my MS flare-up, but that was only temporary.)

    Anyway, now I swear by Dermalogica… it’s spendy but totally worth it!

  44. Jenny J.

    There seems to be soem disagreement here, but I wanted to second (?) the Proactive.

    I am in my thirties and like you (I think) it isn’t like my face is covered in zits, but I do get the major hurking volcano zit fairly frequently. (Isn’t ONE HUGE ZIT worse than many small ones? I think so.) Because of this, I didn’t want to do Proactive because you have to sign up for the package and they send you all four products every month whether you need any or not.

    So I buy just the Renweing Cleanser on ebay and it has really made a difference. Better skin without the monthly contract! Brillant!

  45. Susan

    Just so you know, Mir, Jenny J. meant to say Proactiv’s *renewing* cleanser! LOL (A typo.. God knows we all make ’em!)

    I was trying to figure out how, one minute, she was “second-ing” Proactiv, and then the next, suggesting some cleanser made by a company called Renweing. LOL …When, actually, all along she meant Proactiv’s Renewing Cleanser.

    Okay, just had to clear that up! No pun intended, of course.

  46. Peggy Spence

    MIR – I am 48 and have had a HORRIBLE time w/ zits… it is Acne Rosacea. The only thing that has worked is Minocycline (doxycycline’s bigger, meaner brother) from the dermatologist and a medicated face wash called Plexion. The name brand that they give you at the dermatologist smells better, like sulphur soap (really, I like that smell) and it works WONDERS. I’ve got the first clear face in the last year for the last month after getting this.

    You are probably sick and tired of hearing about Phil cures. Go.To.The.Dermatologist. Demand. Samples. I am living proof…

  47. Christine

    I have one on the tip of my nose. Ha.

  48. anna

    hey… I don’t own this medication myself, but when my sister visits from college I always go through her stuff and she had a really cool tub of this stuff called benzaclin. well, I had a phillette on my cheek and this mystery stuff cleared it up over night…. wild, huh? well, I kinda wish she were home now cuz I can feel another one coming… darnit

  49. Dee

    I had this bump possibly called Phil growing on the side of my nose that I had had before. He came again just befor my wedding. I fought hard and didn’t bother him and allowed to nestle on my face and he shrunk so he was noticeable but not extreme. My pictures of my wedding you can see him blowing a kiss on certain angles but the thought that you know he’s there really takes your confidence and leaves you in this paranoid state. Well he was forgotten for about a month and then he came back to visit and he is psst off as hell. He is really making my life a living hell. He is getting bigger and redder and harder. Sounds disgusting and I want him out of my life forever. It is so hard talking to people and all you can think about is, “Are they looking at Phil?” or “Is my nose growing another nose?” I#%*#@!$hate it!!!!!!!!!!!!! Making a dermatologist appointment will be worthless because the next available appointment won’t be for a month and by then Phil will have taken me hostage and you won’t even be able to idntify me. Me Deanna.. You know the cyst that Phil turned me into. Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  50. T

    I get zits all the time. It’s almost sad. I don’t know about the phill zit, but my friend got one and this is what helped her. It helps me with smaller zits to….
    Take a 2 or 2.5% benzoid perodoxide cream, and rum a massive amount into the zit. If you get some on you’re skin, it doesn’t matter. Because instead of trying to dry this zit, which wont work trust me, you’re going to be getting rid germs. Now rub a large amount of moisterizer where you put the cream, and it works amazingly. It can make it improve over night.

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