Why skincare makes me hivey
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Over the past two years, I’ve become more aware of skincare than I was when I started reading beauty blogs and forums. It’s not something new, obviously; but it seems like it’s being mentioned more on beauty blogs. High-end, prestige, drugstore, everything in between…lots of companies are launching skincare lines. Bare Escentuals originally had m.d. formulations, then they dropped that, and now in the last year they’ve relaunched their skincare line. BB creams are showing up all over - not just tinted moisturizers, though those seem to be the bulk of what’s out there in American markets. Maybe this is just a natural progression: I’ve spent years experimenting with and learning about ways to enhance my features and play with color; now I’m concentrating on making the canvas as good as possible. Maybe there is an upward trend in companies marketing skincare products. Maybe it’s a combination of both. But figuring out a skincare regimen causes me more anxiety than any makeover.
With makeovers, you can see the results right away. You know if a color looks good on you, or if it is applied too dark / too light / slightly out of place. You can experiment, wipe the slate clean, start again, perfect and correct. At the very worst, you have to wait a few minutes (or hours) until you get into natural light to see if the mall or store lights showcased the makeup slightly differently or radically differently.
With skincare, you’re essentially looking for negative results. You don’t want to see rashes appear. You don’t want to see your skin drying out. You don’t want to see wrinkles forming, or the skincolor deepening or turning red because there’s not enough SPF in your sunscreen. And since it’s often supposed to soak into your skin, not sit on top like makeup does, the smallest differences in body chemistry from person to person can make a significant difference in how effective something is. In a terrifying twist, if you’re using something that does minute but compounded damage to your skin, you can end up causing yourself problems…that you won’t discover for a few years. At which point the damage can be really difficult to impossible to reverse. (Primarily I’m looking at pigment-reduction creams here. Some of the cautions on them…worry me a little bit.)
I’ve been lucky with my skin: a combination of genetics and a love for reading (and thus spending more time indoors than outdoors) means that I don’t have tons of sun damage, I don’t have many wrinkles, I have no birthmarks, I don’t even have any chemical sensitivities. I am able to use just about any skincare product that’s on the market without having to make sure it doesn’t contain an ingredient I’m allergic to. I look about ten years younger than I am, and if my mom is a guidepost to my future, that trend will continue into my late 60s at least. (You can all send me the Double Death Glare now.) My problem is that aside from “keep it clean, use sunscreen and moisturizer daily, gently exfoliate once a week” I’m pretty much clueless about skincare. Someone tells me that something’s good for me, I don’t really know how to judge it for myself. I know enough to know that I’m fairly ignorant, but I have no idea where to go to get a clue about what’s good, what’s a waste of money, what’s harmful, and what’s a big ol’ overpriced bucket of snake oil. A friend very kindly sent me a list of the products they use. They’re not the most expensive in the world, they’re not the cheapest, and I generally trust this person’s opinion and judgement. (And they did ask what kind of skin I had before they sent the list. We both have combination skin. So they knew that their list of suggestions wasn’t totally off the mark.) But…this person and I don’t have the exact same tastes in makeup, or haircare, or other things. And with those things, I have a better idea of how to figure out if something they love is going to work for me, or if it will be something I can do without. But skincare? I am utterly free from the taint of clue.
And I don’t know where to go to begin getting a clue.
Frankly, I’d rather attempt to compile a Linux kernel on a dual-boot Dell desktop. Because at least for that, there are several clear, unbiased, factual sources for instructions and documentation. Even if one of the sources is the idiots at Dell Support who oh so helpfully say “Dell doesn’t recommend that configuration.” (Dear Dell, You’re really really close to making me switch to a Mac. And I took an oath long ago never to become part of the Cult of Apple, under any circumstances.)
I’ve tentatively added this skincare item and that to my routine over the past several years, and I still barely know anything about skincare. I do know that I’m happiest when using SPF70. (I am so very vastly unthrilled about the FDA ruling that says ‘anything above SPF 50 must simply be marked 50+’. I’m going to have to start buying all my sunscreen in Canada.) I do know that I have recently started using Olay’s Sculpting Serum (yay, Costco!!!), and I think I’m seeing results but it’s not easy to be sure. But…what in hell is a toner for, and why do some sites say that it isn’t necessary? Is it a case of some people need it and some don’t, or can everyone benefit just to differing degrees? Or will it only really be effective on certain skintypes and in certain situations?
See what I mean? I know that, to an extent, the beauty industry is trying to sell us things that we don’t all need to the same degree, and some of us not at all. And naturally sales associates at a given boutique will try to convince you that their brand is the very best choice for you (and that, really, you can use just the cleanser, but you’ll see much better results if you use their whole line. And today you can get all eleventy-bajillion pieces for just $200, which is a savings of over $400. Or something like that.) How do you tell when you’re just being put off by a hard-sell, and when your inner bullshit-meter is pinging off the scale and screaming at you?
What are your skincare nightmares? What product have you tried that not only didn’t work for you, but it caused you some damage? What type of product do you want to try, but don’t know if it will be worth the money?
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