Friday, April 4, 2014

Skincare Routine, April 2014

Ceci n'est pas une skincare post.


I hesitated for a while before writing this post, because I've had a skincare routine for only two years, which makes me an utter amateur compared to my favorite beauty bloggers. Before the age of 24, I did almost nothing to my skin. I never moisturized, because I didn't know that women under 40 used moisturizer. I wore SPF only during the summer. I'd always had good skin, so it never occurred to me that I might need to put anything on it. Why should I when it looked like this?


19-year-old me in biology lab. Look at that fresh-faced, rosy-cheeked little jerk. I call this photo "Our Lady of the Arthropods."

I forget why 24 was the turning point for me. Maybe it was the melancholy realization that I could no longer claim to be in my early twenties. Maybe it was that my discovery of makeup meant more time in front of the mirror, and more mirror time meant closer examination of my epidermis, and wait, were those lines under my eyes? Maybe (probably) I was just reading more beauty blogs. In any case, I decided I needed some moisturizer, and moisturizer led to moisturizer-with-SPF, which led to cleanser, which led to eye cream, and suddenly I was re-enacting "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" on my face. At the moment, I have a pretty basic routine, but it keeps my skin happy and it's entirely cruelty-free. I hope that's enough.

My skin is on the dry side of normal. I've never had a real problem with acne, though I do tend to get one or two small pimples every month, because my hormones can't spare me even one PMS symptom. Thanks, guys. The only serious skin problem I've had to deal with is eczema, usually around my ears and eyelids. I haven't had a flare-up in a couple of years, though, which indicates that my skincare regimen is doing me some good.

Now for a breakdown of the products pictured above, which form the backbone of my daily routine.

1. First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream


I started out using Lush Celestial Moisturizer as my all-purpose moisturizer, but I soon realized that $24.95 for 1.5 ounces was unsustainable on my budget. So I transferred my affections to Ultra Repair Cream, which I'd read about in my friend Anaïs's skincare post; it's a delightfully affordable $12 for a 2 oz. squeeze bottle at Sephora. (There's also a 6 oz. jar for $28, a slightly better deal, but I favor the bottles for their portability and their more sanitary squeeze mechanism.) It turns out that I actually prefer Ultra Repair Cream to Celestial. It's lighter, despite its heavy-duty-sounding moniker; it melts into the skin instantly; and it has a pleasant herbal scent. At first I thought the scent was rosemary, but now I'm pretty sure that it's eucalyptus, since eucalyptus appears on the ingredients list and rosemary does not. I don't care; I still think of delicious rosemary focaccia (which I can never remember how to spell) whenever I put it on. I use this moisturizer every night before bed, as well as during the day when I need some extra moisture and am not going outside immediately.

2. Eucerin Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen


For almost two years, I was using an SPF 30 sunscreen without broad-spectrum protection. I consider myself pretty well-informed about beauty and skincare, yet I didn't realize that my sunscreen needed to filter out both UVA and UVB rays. In other words, I was protecting myself against sunburn, but not much else. Which makes me wonder: How do normal people find out these things? Did all of you have skincare mentors or something? Was my mom supposed to tell me about ultraviolet rays? Anyway, Eucerin has been working really well for me. It's lightweight, it has a slight but not overpowering sunscreen smell, it's cruelty-free, and I trust that it's helping me fend off the inevitable (aging, wrinkles, entropy, decay, the heat death of the universe).

 3. Lush 9 to 5 Cleansing Lotion


My love for this product amuses me, since I went straight from college to graduate school and have never worked a 9-to-5 job in my life. 9 to 5 is a thin, milky lotion; I massage it into damp skin and wipe it off with a moist washcloth, and it leaves my skin feeling far less dry than traditional foaming cleansers do. It also does a good job of removing my makeup, though I don't tend to wear a lot of eye makeup and I wouldn't trust it to get rid of an elaborate smokey eye. It has a delicate floral smell that I find pleasant but a little old-ladyish--I'm not a huge fan of Lush's floral scents. I use this lotion twice a day, when I wake up and after I come home in the evening.

4. Lush Angels on Bare Skin Facial Cleanser


Angels on Bare Skin is a dry, crumbly paste of ground almonds, glycerine, kaolin clay, and various essential oils, primarily (and, scent-wise, predominantly) lavender. It's an example of what Lush does best: quirky, unusual skincare products that require you to get a little messy. Or, in this case, very messy. Put your hair back, for the love of God (I like to use Angels just after a shower, when all my hair is up in a towel). Pinch out a pea-sized amount of Angels with dry hands, as moisture in the jar will hasten spoilage. Mix in a few drops of water to form a paste. Rub this paste all over your face; some will get stuck in your hair and eyebrows, despite your best efforts. I like to leave the paste on my face for a minute or two, to let the kaolin draw out impurities:


Then wash the stuff off, creating yet another mess, because the clay granules and almond shards will gunk up your washcloth and drop all over the sink and the floor. Oh, and did I mention that a 3.5 oz. jar has a shelf life of three months and you almost certainly won't use it up in that time?

Yes, Angels on Bare Skin is what the British call a faff. But I love it, God help me. I don't use it daily, because I don't want to over-exfoliate and I've heard that lavender oil increases the photosensitivity of skin. But my skin feels so soft and smooth and clean after its Angels treatment. Not sure whether I'll repurchase this, given all its drawbacks, but I'll definitely consider it. Sometimes I like making messes.

5. Burt's Bees Royal Jelly Eye Creme


I picked this up at Whole Foods a few months ago after realizing that 1) I should probably start wearing eye cream and 2) most eye creams on the market were leagues out of my budget. Does this stuff work? I don't know. I confess that I often forget to put it on before bed, but when I do, I tap it lightly around my orbital bone and hope for the best. My eye region looks exactly the same as it did before I started using this cream, so I choose to believe it's doing its job.

Writing about eye cream makes me uncomfortable, because aging makes me uncomfortable, and so does my prejudice against it. I'm a 26-year-old grad student with almost no disposable income or visible signs of aging, yet I've been tempted to spend $135 on a tiny jar of eye creamOur culture has a way of making us feel like it's already too late. I didn't start moisturizing at 12. I didn't start applying sunscreen daily at 15. Has the damage already been done? Can I only ever play catch-up?

The thing is, you can never really know whether your anti-aging routine is working, because you can never really know what you'd have looked like without that serum or retinoid cream. If you look younger than your age, it may well be due to genetics and nothing more. And, in the end, I'm going to age. We're all going to age. A sad event last year reminded me that aging is a privilege. Not dying young is a privilege. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to look young; I always joke that I'm going to become a Miss Havisham figure in my old age, with my twentysomething selfies pinned on every wall of my apartment. I wouldn't have a beauty blog if I weren't vain. But I don't want to fear getting older. After all, I'm much happier today than I was at nineteen, with my youthful glow and unwrinkled skin. The teenager you met earlier in this post was shy, inexperienced, and insecure. The last seven years have changed me for the better, and I hope the next seven years will do the same--and if they do, a few fine lines will be a small price to pay.

Plus, makeup and beauty and skincare should be fun.


And with that vision of surpassing beauty, I bid you good day.

10 comments:

  1. Oh my god, you beautiful cherub (both 19 and 26? year old you).

    I think 24 was the turning point for me too -- that was when I started looking at the eye creams in the supermarket, wondering "should I?" I still don't really wear it though. Around then was also when my face started freaking out with acne which led me down the path of no return.

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    1. You are so sweet! :D And yes, I'm 26. I feel like I should have this stuff all figured out by now, yet here I am.

      What really frustrates me is that there's no way to gauge the effectiveness of *preventive* anti-aging products--and most of them are preventive rather than reparative. I don't want to drop over $100 on a wrinkle-prevention cream if I have no idea how many wrinkles I'd develop without it. The same goes for other products that many people consider essential, like serums and toners and beauty oils. My skin is fine right now without them. It would probably be fine with them, too. But how can I know which ones will actually make a difference in the long run, and which ones just smell nice and feel good?

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  2. I know, right? From what I've gathered, there are really only a few ingredients that actually do anything -- retinoids, antioxidants, AHA/BHAs, niacinamide, and EFAs (plus sunscreen). That being said, things that smell nice and feel good shouldn't be written off either! It's just the fact that a lot of brands charge through the nose for that that bothers me.

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  3. There is so much for me to comment on in this post, I sort of don't know where to start :-P

    Essentially everything from Our Lady of The Arthropods (ROFL) to the first product you reviewed is exactly the same as me. Skin leans dry, generally good but pimples do appear, eczema... not to mention the reasons you mention for starting a skincare regime. Down to the *age*.

    Speaking as a fellow rather impoverished grad student (of 27 in my case, grad school high fives!), I can totally understand the whole 'BUT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE PUTING XYZ ON YOUR FACE TO HELP YOU NOT AGE' and the corresponding "XYZ COSTS WHAT!?' thing. Also that it's so hard to tell if anything is working.

    As a scientist (IRL grad school), I tend to lean *very* skeptical when it comes to assorted creams and potions that promise to do all the things. Basically, what most of them are is moisturiser + gimmicks (if you're not already a reader, I highly encourage you to check out Robyn and her awesome Beauty Bullshit posts at BrightestBulb InTheBox). So long as your skin is hydrated (either from the inside or the outside) and protected from obvious sources of damage (eg, the sun), then you'll look younger and fresher for longer than you would if you totally ignored your skin. Much of this can be done without expensive creams at all, although for those of us who are dry, a good moisturiser definitely helps!

    OK, before this comment becomes even more unwieldy than it already is... :-P

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    1. Hello, Antipodean twin! (Except that I am staunchly a humanities person; I considered majoring in biology for about ten minutes one day, before remembering that I couldn't do math.)

      Like you, I'm skeptical of hyperbolic beauty claims, and I'm continually frustrated that I don't have the scientific knowledge to cut through what I KNOW must be bullshit. For this reason (and for her hilarious writing style), Robyn's blog is one of my very favorites! And thanks for the encouraging words; I've been choosing to believe that sunscreen + moisturizer is more or less all I can do against aging, and it's nice to have that corroborated.

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    2. I won't judge your Humanities - I have an Egyptology degree to go with my Chemistry one, and my science is focused towards art conservation ;-)

      I meant to put in my last comment some sort of witty comment about the first, italicised line of this post, but I forgot. Now, I'm tired, so I'll settle for 'at least it's not a pipe, either' :-P

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  4. DAT FACE makes you more than qualified to share your skincare routine :) Keep doin whatchu doin etc.
    Two things:
    1. the lavender-photosensitivity-entropy-doom meme drives me up the wall. There has been ONE study to show cytotoxicity of lavender oil, used in vitro, in ridiculously high quantities. Many more studies showing various benefits. I suspect it was Paula Begouin who started the LAVENDER=DEATH thing, and now it's the favourite thing to cite for anyone who wants to play more-educated-than-thou games over skincare and the reason I can no longer read skincare forums without much blood pressure raising, which must be ageing surely. So worry not about lavender content, if you like the product and it suits your budget/lifestyle/skin.
    2. Only sunscreen and certain active (like vit c and a) have actually been shown to effectively minimise size of ageing. I'm a personal believer in eye cream simply because no face moisturiser has ever proved enough hydration for my freakishly dry eye area. Most people do just fine without.

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    1. ...I got my rant on, sorry. XD Hate the idea that you're twisting that sparkly brain into knots over anti-ageing and that I may be one contributing to this pressure. Elizabeth Bathory was onto something.

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    2. Yes! Paula Begouin's site can be useful, but there is a lot of unnecessary hand wringing over certain ingredients/formulations.

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    3. Rants always welcome on this blog! <3 Please don't blame yourself for contributing to anything but my general sense of why-am-I-not-as-awesome-as-Kate. I'm delighted to see the lavender myth debunked; it was one of those things I kept seeing around the internet but had never bothered to investigate properly. LAVENDER = DEATH: I love it. Lavender wishes it were that badass.

      Perhaps the worst feeling in the world for me is the feeling of having been tricked or taken in. I love that beauty blogging has given me so much more knowledge about the stuff I put on my face.

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