Why Is The Universe Making Me Choose Between Good Vision & Good Skin?

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Once you move past the age where bullies call you "four eyes" and smash your lenses under the bleachers (is that just in the movies?), you find that glasses actually come with some pretty sweet perks.
They make you look like someone who can have a calm, measured political discussion across party lines. Who listens to music that doesn't have words. Who can role-play "naughty teacher" after a couple of drinks (but wouldn't, because that's tired). Smart, hipster, and sexy — get you an accessory that can do all three.
But there's a downside. After years of suffering through irritating contacts every day (thanks to a cute issue my eye doctor calls "excessive protein buildup caused by a compromised natural flushing ability"), I finally found a pair of glasses I liked enough to wear outside of the house. My eyes felt healthier and happier than they had since I was 20/20 — all was well in the vision department. The problem was now my skin.
On either side of my nose, right where the glasses rested, a series of bigger-than-usual blackheads and red dots have taken up residence. I figured it was due to foundation build-up, so I started cleaning the outer edges of the glasses more. It didn't do much. I patted acne cream around my nose after cleansing every night, but it just made my skin flake off. The only thing that's worked at keeping the area semi-decongested is... hardly wearing glasses. So, we're at a standstill.
According to dermatologists Joshua Zeichner, MD, and Robert Anolik, MD, this isn't just a personal problem. Dr. Zeichner says he routinely hears patients complain of acne development in areas where there is friction. "This includes glasses sitting on the skin, helmets and chin straps pressing against the skin, even musical instruments, like violins, that rub against the side of the face. Friction causes a low-grade inflammation that promotes acne in some people," says Dr. Zeichner. Ideally, you'd remove the contributing factor, he says, but that's not always practical. I mean, what if you're the next Beethoven?
So your next step is to check the fit. Both derms agree that if you're regularly cleaning your glasses with rubbing alcohol and your face with cleanser, and the pimples keep popping up, the issue is too much pressure of the material against the nose. (Of course, you know what that means: Now you'll have to deal with glasses that slide off. Does it ever end?) "Poorly fitting glasses can lead to what is considered an irritant contact dermatitis, which could be slightly itchy and tender and pink," says Dr. Anolik.
To get rid of the acne in this specific area and start fresh, Dr. Zeichner recommends a combination of a salicylic acid-based cleanser, a leave-on benzoyl peroxide, and a topical p.m. retinoid, like over-the-counter Differin 0.1% gel. "They each work slightly differently to get to the root of what causes acne," he says. And if you do in fact have a component of irritant dermatitis, Dr. Anolik advises looking to a topical steroid, like an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
If this all seems like an unfair price to pay just to be able to see where you're walking, I'm with you. But take comfort in the fact that things could always be worse: Your mom could still be forcing you to wear transitional lenses. Now that's scary.
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