My friend Kate complimented my skin yesterday. I breezily thanked her and agreed to send her my routine. But then later in the day, I remembered I also did my yearly “refresher” at the dermatologist a few months ago. 😇
And then like an unfolding drama in my head, I remembered a tweet I read just that morning in Casey Lewis’ brilliant Gen Z Substack Afterschool. It was a total mic drop. Are you ready?
The best skin care routine is having money.
Ain’t that the fucking truth?
When I was growing up, like many of you, I had moments of having terrible skin. Every so often I’d get a real honker of a zit right on the tip of my nose, between my eyebrows, my chin…or most fun to pop, my ass. Sorry, that’s not true. I was just trying to be funny. My ass pimples came later in life…but yes, I do like to pop ‘em. I didn’t have horrible acne per say, but I wasn’t a Noxzema model. I had my skin struggles.
One time in middle school, newly energized by my Back-to-School issue of Seventeen, I procured my own tube of Clearasil and I was determined to look like the girls in the ads, so I kept it in my pocket and in between classes I’d rush to the bathroom at school and reapply it to my honker-du-jour as often as some people apply Chapstick.
Okay. Yeah. Bad move.
So apparently what happens when you overuse Benzoyl Peroxide is you burn your skin like a marshmallow in a firepit. I went from having a pimple on my forehead to having a third-degree burn. No bueno. So I just went back to my old habits of picking, squeezing and using cover up. (And no. Dermatologists for pimples were for rich people at that point in my life.) Although in college, I upgraded my zit squeezing game to include a comodone extractor after I interviewed a dermatologist when I was an intern at Sassy. I know. I was a baller. 💅
After college, as a card-carrying member of the industry I’d ogled from afar and armed with a paycheck and insurance plan, I was finally ready to look like the girls in the magazines. And I have to tell you, there was some level of magical thinking here because I saw those girls when they came in for castings. I saw them at the shoots. I knew what retouching was. But yet there was still a young, wide-eyed version of me that wanted Niki Taylor’s poreless skin on the cover of Seventeen. So, I did Accutane. Do you know what that is? It's a totally toxic skin medicine that will give your babies deformities if you get pregnant while you’re on it. But of course, I didn’t care. I signed that waiver in a heart beat. At that point, I’d rather have perfectly smooth skin and never have a baby. I did the first round for around four months. It did nothing. I did a second round. Four months. Nothing. Next stop on the journey was a short stint on birth control pills. I gained weight but my skin stayed the same. l kind of wish I had talked this through with someone in my life because honestly, my skin really wasn’t that bad. I just didn’t look like people in magazines…even though the actual people in magazines didn’t look like the people in magazines either.
Luckily, when I got promoted out of being an assistant, I was engaged and excited enough about my work that I stopped hyper focusing on my skin. I honestly didn’t even think about it until I stopped working and started considering self-care. What I noticed was that my skin was totally impacted by what I ate. What I neglected to mention here is that all throughout my childhood and career, I pounded candy and Coke. I literally only drank water when I was thirsty. That’s it. Thirsty! And I would have a sip.
These habits ran deep. Unbeknownst to my parents, every single morning in 4th grade after the bus dropped me off in front of school, I’d haul ass a block in the opposite direction and spend my lunch money on two candy bars that I would nibble throughout the day in lieu of lunch. And then every day after school, my dad would take me to the store and buy me whatever candy bar I wanted and a few of those little chocolates called Ice Cubes for himself. It’s truly a wonder I never had diabetes like my dad. As a fashion assistant, I used to eat cotton candy for dinner. There was a guy who worked at the bodega downstairs from my apartment who would kindly make sure he had always had two bags ready for me after work. Oof, and I was a McDonald’s girl. The launch period of CosmoGIRL! was studded with hamburger Happy Meals and about 6-7 cans of Coke a day in my memory. By Seventeen, I was double fisting Red Bulls (which they supplied to me for free) and hitting the candy machine outside my office before any meeting I was dreading. Everything in my life was centered around using sugar to control my moods. It was how I coped with stress. I knew a lot about nutrition because of the magazine content, but I guess I didn’t think it applied to ME. I didn’t even consider it.
This was one of the first things I worked on when I left my job.
For starters, I quit Red Bull and instead drank tons of water! Then, I started eating foods like salmon and more salads. I had the palate of a 7-year-old, but the determination of…well…you know me, I don’t need to explain. And of course, in short order, everything about me looked (and felt!) better. My poor skin was so dehydrated. I assumed since it wasn’t impacting my weight, I was one of the lucky people that could “get away” with it. I was wrong. Around my 40th birthday I also got curious about cosmetic dermatology. It kind of scared me because…well…you know why: So many people look cray crazy after doing too much. But with the help of my old boss at Sassy, former Fashion and Beauty Director Mary Clarke, I found a dermatologist that I trusted. I gave him the whole I’m-curious-about-this-but-don’t-want-to-look-like-a-psycho speech. And…I didn’t look like a psycho. I looked like me but a little extra.
And so that’s my schtick today at 50. Once (sometimes twice) a year, I go in for the tiniest bit of Botox. My dermatologist kind of rolls his eyes at me and says only 28-year-old’s get the amount I get but whatever, 28-year-olds shouldn’t be getting any botox so I feel fine with my decision. I also get some filler: You may notice my lips are a teeny bit fuller than they were when I was working. My lips always bothered me to be honest. I felt like my eyes were so big and I had this tiny mouth. It worked when I was younger, and I had a kind of Addams family vibe, but I wanted a little more balance as I got older and a little filler gives me that without getting fish lippy. And I do think my choice of products coupled with my eating habits make a difference in the quality and texture of my skin because I’ve never done lasers or peels. But that once-a-year boost with injectables kind of creates a solid frame for it all. But to be clear, it’s a $3,000 frame, sister. It’s certainly not cheap.
So, I guess this is a long way of saying there’s a new version of the airbrushing of (y)our youth and that’s cosmetic dermatology. Not everyone can afford it and depending on where you live, the artistry and the skill of the doctors may not be up to snuff. (I’ve only allowed two doctors to touch my face. The first one tragically died, and it took me years to trust another.) I knew my interest in writing about this related to having mixed feelings about my choice. I feel sad for the girl who was chasing the airbrushed look of the magazines of yesteryear. But do I feel sad for the 50-year-old of today who is choosing to dabble in dermatology’s real-life retouching? Hmmmm…I don’t. I don’t judge myself for my choice. When I look at pictures, I prefer myself at 50 than 30. But that’s not related to anything skin deep. I know it sounds so cliche but I wouldn’t trade the wisdom for all the youth in the world.
Paid subscribers can scroll down to read about my morning and evening skin care routines, the only doctor I trust, the one product that makes me literally look retouched and see a picture of my cuckooloo needle-tracked face after my last session at the derm. Girl, it’s a beaut.😱
So now I have no beauty secrets from you, my friend. I’d been meaning to have this conversation for a while, but my wacky love life kept taking over. Feel free to email me any skin questions. I can get answers for you! Here for you 24/7, as always at email@example.com.
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