Monday, May 13, 2013
I've sought out more modest ways to say this, but it turns out there aren't any, so I'm just going to tell it like it is: I have relatively nice, hassle-free skin. I think the relative clarity of my skin kind of balances out my crazy, difficult, lion's mane mop of hair, which is a constant source of frustration for me. Obviously, a lot of this is genetic: my mother, like me, was always combination-dry and pretty much acne-free. The women on her side of the family have always had quite clear, ten-years-younger-looking-than-you-actually-are skin. But I'm like my father in that I am ghost white and somewhat sensitive to certain skincare ingredients, like high levels of alcohol and salicylic acid. Figuring out my "skin genetics" and talking to my parents about what worked (and didn't work) for them really helped me find better ways to care for my own skin.
Another important factor in my skin's health is my diet. A few people have told me that diet doesn't affect skin, but I have to disagree with that based on my studies and my own experiences; the first year of graduate school, when I survived on a diet of absolute shit, wreaked havoc on my face. And as soon as I reverted back to my usual diet, the acne, flaky patches, and overall dull appearance cleared right up. I'm not going to act like I eat a "model's diet" of primarily raw foods and no fats or junk, because that's a complete lie, and I certainly don't think it's necessary for the average person. But I DO eat a lot of fresh veggies, non-fat yogurt, lean meat, and whole grains ,because..that's what I like. Seriously. I've always loved chocolate and I eat it almost every day, but my favorite food is a sweet tomato, and I never cared for most starches, fried foods, or processed products, even as as child. White bread tastes like cardboard to me. I don't get what the big deal is about white potatoes (although I loves me a sweet potato or a yam!). And I rarely drink carbonated beverages like Coke because I just...er, don't like them that much. My biggest "weak spot" is fruit--if I wanted something sweet, I'd eat candy, and if I wanted something substantial, I'd eat a vegetable--so I try to sneak it in and get my 3 servings a day.
For reference's sake, some of my favorite snacks include Fage 0% Greek yogurt with fresh fruit or honey and nuts, Triscuit crackers and goat's milk cheese, raw veggies with dill dip, antipasto bar offerings (like stuffed banana papers or sundried tomatoes), homemade whole grain Egg McMuffins, and Luna bars. As far as liquids go, I have a cup of coffee almost every morning, or a non-fat caramel cappuccino, and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Sometimes I'll make a fruit-and-yogurt smoothie or have some Bolthouse Farms juice. In the summer, I drink an iced chai almost every night; in cooler weather, I have hot cocoa instead.
And of course, chocolate. I fucking LOVE chocolate.
So maintaining a diet that works well for my body and keeping my family's skin history in mind are definitely half of the equation. But I've also done my best to find products that really work for my skin type and address my concerns. And while no one product can work for everybody, I have to say that I've used most of these products for years and stand behind them wholeheartedly.
Before I delve in to the products I use, I should probably list the concerns I'm regularly trying to address:
1. My oddball skintype. I call my skin "combination dry" because the majority of it is the freaking Sahara, with no sebum production whatsoever going on. But regardless of the time of year, my nose and eyelids are always absolute oil slicks. This means I have to find products that will moisturize the majority of my face without turning those two "hot spots" in to an oily mess. My skin type does change slightly with the climate, and in a Pennsylvania summer, it's more like true-blue combination skin, with a normal-to-oily t-zone and dryness on the cheeks, chin, temples, and jaw. Regardless, I generally treat my skin like dry skin and look for moisturizing products.
2. My legitimate fear of the sun. I mean, c'mon, most companies don't even make a foundation that's a shade darker than me, let alone my actual Casper-white skintone. My MAC Face & Body? It's two parts white to one part color. So it's important to me to find skincare with a high SPF that won't make my face or body break out in teeny tiny reactionary bumps. Which brings me to...
3. Sensitivity. If I find a product that really does the job and doesn't sting my face, cause a rash, or suck any semblance of moisture from my skin, it's a given that I'll keep that product around. If a product DOES cause a problem, I have to sit down and figure out what ingredient might have caused that problem. Some of the ingredients I seem to have trouble with are alcohol, salicylic acid, and tea tree oil, although I can use salicylic acid on my body (below the neck) in small amounts. My face tends to be quite sensitive to physical pressure as well, so I try to use extra-soft brushes and gentle exfoliants.
3. Discoloration, the most obvious being the disconnect between my N5ish body and neck and N15 face. But I also have a lot of redness in my t-zone, the Undereye Circles of Doom, and an odd scar that runs between my nose and lip. If I get a zit, it takes about a month to fade, as the pigmentation tends to linger on my pale skin long after the pustule/cyst is gone.
I'm very stringent about removing my makeup. I've always used something oil-based to completely break down even the longest-wearing products, and the only times I slept in my makeup were the nights I accidentally passed out mid-homework during graduate school. I've been using baby oil as my makeup remover ever since I looked at the label of my Mehron remover and realized the primary ingredient was plain old mineral oil. I soak a Shiseido Facial Cotton in baby oil and sweep it across my face to start breaking down the makeup. Then I hold the cotton over each eye for 30 seconds to remove my waterproof mascara. When my face is good and slick, I massage the oil in to my face for a minute, stimulating the skin and breaking down the makeup even more; this felt super-gross and weird when I first started using oils, but now I love the feeling! Then I wipe a dry Shi cotton all over my face to remove the excess oil (which the makeup is still suspended in) and I hop in to the shower.
That's actually an important part of my every day routine: cleansing with Clean & Clear Daily Pore Cleanser while I'm in the shower at night, and ONLY when I'm in the shower. I find that if I cleanse more than once a day on a very regular basis, I stress out my skin, leading to dryness, flaking, and acne. If my skin is really haggard in the morning, I might splash it with a bit of lukewarm water, but that's it. After my nightly shower, I smooth a thick layer of Avon Nurtura Replenishing Cream over my face and neck. This rich cream is so incredibly moisturizing without being greasy or heavy, but it's also so cheap! I get it for $4 during Avon sales or on Ebay. I've used it for about 4 years now and would absolutely DIE if they discontinued it. I also rub some Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream on my lips to lock in moisture, and sometimes I put it on my eyelashes and cuticles as well. I technically don't wear the Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Liquid SPF60 every day, but I do every day that I'm outside for more than 5 minutes, so I consider it an important part of my daily routine.
Roughly twice a week, I exfoliate and use extra moisturizers. The absolute best facial exfoliant I've ever used is the humble konjac sponge, which I order from Chinese eBay sellers. A konjac sponge is essentially a dry piece of vegetable fiber that softens up in water so you can rub it across your skin in super-gentle, circular motions. Sounds weird and gross, I know, but it really works for me (as long as I apply next to no pressure--no need to be rough with your skin, especially if it's sensitive!)! I also exfoliate my lips, primarily before I put on a bright lipstick. I used to use olive oil and brown sugar, which worked great, but was super-messy, so I switched to the travel-friendly ELF Lip Exfoliator. Immediately after I exfoliate my lips and pat them dry, I apply a thick layer of the C.O Bigelow Rose Salve. This rose salve has a much oilier, more emollient feel than the Smith's version. If my face feels a bit dry and tight or looks dull, I use a pump and a half of Elizabeth Arden Let There Be light Radiant Skin Lotion. It works especially well under sheer foundations to amp up my glow! I just wish they hadn't discontinued this product; luckily, I have a back-up in the downstairs fridge. I use the tiniest bit of the Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream all around my eyes about once a week for extra smoothness; I don't need it, but it sure feels good. Because it's so damn expensive, though, I tend to stick with sample pots and use them sparingly.
I also have a few choice body products. I just started using the Coppertone Water Babies Pure and Simple SPF 50 sunscreen, but I'm super-impressed with it; it doesn't feel greasy/tacky or break me out the way most high-SPF sunscreens do. After I've applied my Shiseido sunscreen to my face and neck and my Coppertone to the rest of my body, I spritz on a layer of the Banana Boat Quick-Dri Sport Body & Scalp SPF 30 sunscreen, making sure I spray down my hair and scalp as well. It's pretty smelly, but it's one of the few spray-ons that doesn't make my hair crispy and greasy-looking. All of this sunscreen can be a bit heavy on my body, where I'm more prone to acne, so I exfoliate once a week with the St. Ives Apricot Scrub (technically made for the face, but it's far too harsh for anyone's delicate facial skin, IMO) and slather on generous amounts of the Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Intensive Moisturizing Body Treatment.
Finally, there are my emergency problem-solvers. I don't use these too often, but when I've got a major skincare issue, they're always there for me. If my skin is getting dull and tired-looking from travel, stress, or horomones, I liven it up with the GLAMGLOW Tingling & Exfoliating Mud Mask. It's a stupidly expensive product, and it can be quite harsh on the skin if you aren't careful, but once or twice a month? Man, it makes my face as smooth and glowing as a babydoll's! If I have a zit, I zap it with Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10, which is a 10% benzoyl peroxide cream. It's quite drying, but it helps dry up the zits and calm the redness within a few days, meaning I only have to deal with the pimple's discoloration and not the texture. And while the Haus of Gloi Pumpkin Butter is too heavy and rich for me to rub it on my body every day, it's a life-saver on cracked hands and feet or on winter-time lizard skin, and it was my daily go-to in the colder, dryer North Dakota climate last year.
EDIT: Almost forgot to post a picture of the new skincare goodies that arrived today! :D One of my dear Paula's Choice loving friends sent them to me. Super excited for all of this, especially the mask!