Recently, I picked up an old issue of Lucky magazine from October 2013 (Eva Mendes was on the cover), and featured inside was an autobiographical piece about this one writer’s struggle with extreme acne. I had no idea this would be in there, but I read it and I really appreciated her sharing her experience with skin issues when so many are left to feel ashamed or lost. While I have yet to deal with acne to such levels, please believe I understood Megan O’Neill’s testimony “Clear Skin At Last” to the very last word.
Even as I’ve gotten older, skincare continues to take an unfortunate backseat to the frivolity of makeup. Though I have come across so many articles in magazines like Allure and Glamour on what foods to eat and the latest treatments and newest products to make your skin glow, I will still choose lipstick and mascara (because apparently I can never have enough) over a body scrub. Acting as if I don’t know better, by the time I hit that register queue, I’m beyond being under the spell of “Oooooo! Pretty colors!” instead of “Yes! Revitalize my skin cells!”
It’s overwhelming to me when I do or want to make a conscious effort to take care of my skin. Unlike makeup, the validation is something that arises from hard work and not the quick fix of a lip gloss swipe. Also, with so many conflicting pieces being written and posted everyday for our already swollen brains to master about what you should allow inside your body (Coffee Is Good For You! Coffee Is Bad For You! These ingredients in your deodorant will give you a panic attack!), the pendulum of what was good for you is now bad without a doubt plays into why even when in the Fresh aisle at Sephora, I somehow gravitate back to Make Up For Ever or Urban Decay.
Our skin is our biggest organ, but my biggest organ hasn’t always been my friend. I say this in defense of everyone out there that has dealt with disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, vitiligo, so-called brown and white spots, and so on. If you are fortunate enough to not have to deal with these circumstances, you have no idea how much, in plain English, it really sucks. You have months at a time in which your skin is fine, it almost feels perfect. Your skin-tone is relatively even, you’re not extremely dry, you put on one layer of moisturizer in the morning and you’re good to go for the rest of the day. Days like this make you want to just spread your arms like wings and fly away with a big smile on your face because finally (!) you know how the other side feels. But then there are the dark moments that really can bring a person down. When your skin ain’t right, it can be as emotionally damaging as an abusive relationship.
You feel targeted and defeated. It seems like it’ll never end. You look at the rash on your arms, legs, or rub your hands over the back of your neck and it just feels like an indirect punishment for something as you try to fight back tears. For those of you with “good” or “normal” skin, you couldn’t begin to understand feeling forced to wear a long-sleeve shirt or pants in the summer time due to embarrassment. To you, it’s just a shorts and a T-shirt day. For anyone experiencing said disorders, you try your best to ignore the feeling but you always end up saying to yourself “This is not fair”. Ailments of any kind make us feel this low. Soon afterwards, the reality sets in in that overcoming the emotional part of all this is what really demands the most of you.
Another reality button is that it’s hard to witness outsiders to these issues behave so ignorant, even when they don’t mean to. They expose their insensitivity by either looking comically confused or in offering pitiful looks your way. It feels both humiliating and infuriating. You then recall running back and forth to your dermatologist, putting ointments on top of ointments, and wolfing down water to flush out the system of toxins. Oh give me a break! And yes, we have our own version of the seaweed wrap that your most luxurious spas may be offering for a high price. For the rest of us, it’s called vaseline, cocoa butter or shea butter and an old sweatsuit.
Regardless if you weren’t born or developed a skin ailment, taking care of our skin is a lot of work. There are oils, and creams, and tricks of the trade, and while I’m not sure how it is for men, for women there a lot of pressure to the have the body shape of a vixen with the skin of a baby’s bottom. I’ve been aware of women going out of their way to look beautiful and stay beautiful with trips to the hair and nail salons, cleanses, and all the foolishness we continue to adhere to, while all men do is go to the barbershop. Points if they actually use lotion.
I will say that I do think that skincare is more simple than the magazines and beauty editors may have us believe. A lot of what already comes from the earth is accessible to us and that we can use to make our skin better. Even if a bit processed as well, I also don’t think one has to spend a lot on the products they choose to use. It really isn’t necessary to pay an upwards of $200+ on a cream! The average homo-sapien cannot afford regular jars of La Mer creme or the entire Cle du Peu, Sisley, or SKI-II lines. Just buying Clinique’s Dramatically Different Lotion feels like a splurge. There is also the importance of taking vitamins regularly and eating good foods and just keeping a positive mind on what you know you need to do. Just your hands a little more than you think you should. Keep your belongings clean. Wash or just throw away makeup sponges and brushes more often. Allergy season is here? Carry a water bottle and somehow get a lemon in there.
As much as I still very much adore makeup and the copious offers of colors and products, skincare is a lot like cooking for me right now. It’s something I want to make the time for because when I can, it is rewarding, but I label it all as “ehhhh” and just veg out on YouTube.
For too long, I used the excuse that I was too tired to not take care of my skin properly, and taking full advantage of it when it was, for the moment, doing me right. Again, it’s also a bit difficult when you are not home alone and your significant other at the moment is wondering why you’re wearing a sweater in 75 degree weather indoors, totally delaying your treatment. (Evidently, this person is also not that significant if supporting your tactics in keeping your skin great is odd to them!)
The process never ends if I want to be left alone in having to bother with my skin less. I personally like coming across ancient advice like old Chinese remedies and what the Egyptian queens did to stay fly, or the everyday village women of the Aztecs. Recently, in Marie Claire‘s Beauty issue, there are lots of pages that modernized ancient tricks for the modern woman. In O’Neill’s article, she included how she began to use ayurveda practices when she felt she at a last resort, and I had never known of these tried and true healings.
Makeup will always be a blast for me. Because I cannot finagle the talent to draw and paint, applying makeup is the closest I’ll ever get to being an artist of the visual kind. I know this is why for years I’ve been drawn to it. I also like the chance to experiment different looks and alternate your color schemes. Skincare is a bit more routine, but maybe it should be. Despite how difficult skin, whether sensitive or not, can be, to treat it right is not arduous but something to be dedicated to. It’ll always be a battle to say to another eyeliner, and while still young but getting older, in transitioning from a spring chicken to a fine wine, I’ll be doing myself a great service in spending a little less time perfecting my lashes and a little more time recognizing when it’s time to get a new loofah.