Skincare staples at almost 40

This post probably feels random for most of you, but bear with me.

One of the things I decided to do when I turned 30 was take better care of my skin. I noticed it was changing, and it was only going to change more as I aged. Drugstore products worked mostly well, so I started using a retinol to counteract the crow’s feet and laugh lines. I used scrubs, foaming washes, whatever was on sale. For most of my teen and adult years, using “whatever was on sale” worked.

However, when I turned 35, my hormones threw a party. As someone who never dealt with acne as a teenager, minus a spot here and there, I was appalled and offended that at 35 years old my face had lost its mind. It wasn’t even regular, run-of-the-mill acne. It was cystic acne, that painful, deep-rooted, takes-a-week-to-surface acne that flanked the sides of my face. It was painful and ugly, and I didn’t know how to fix it.

Fast forward five years and my skin feels normal again. I still get a spot now and again, but not only have I learned how to take care of my skin, I’ve also learned how to prevent more spots (so far).

Part of it, I believe, is diet and general healthcare. I drink a lot of water. I try not to eat a lot of sugar. I don’t touch my face a lot. I exercise, get enough sleep, and so on. Basic healthy things.

The other part of it is skin care. The first thing I did when I switched up my skin care routine was stop exfoliating. No more scrubbing and scratching my face because I needed it to CALM THE HECK DOWN. I also needed an antibacterial component to attack the acne, so I started using Cetaphil and I haven’t looked back.

[Not pictured is the Cetaphil antibacterial bar soap I use in the shower.] I use the foam wash morning and night at the sink, followed by the unscented lotion to moisturize. If I need to use makeup remover, I do that first, but I’m not using anything else to actually wash my face. Cetaphil is amazing and it’s enough.

Each morning after washing my face, I apply Mario Badescu’s Glycolic Eye Cream underneath and around my eyes, even above and between my eyebrows. If I’m going somewhere right away and want to apply makeup, I skip the eye cream and use It Cosmetics Feel the Moment Primer Serum all over my face instead.

At night, I use the Peptide Renewal Serum in the same places, as well as my neck. If I feel an acne spot starting to form, I use the Drying Lotion. If you catch the spot early enough, it will never surface. It’s weird magic.

These products are small but mighty. A little goes a long way, so while I normally wouldn’t spend $45 on a tiny dropper bottle of something, I can tell you honestly that I used the same Peptide Renewal Serum from July 2017 to mid-January 2018.

To help combat the dark scarring (thanks cystic acne!), I’ve used Murad’s Spot Serum with a lot of success. (This is a travel size. I’ve never bought the full size.)

Finally, I recently discovered a makeup product that I love, love, love. NARS tinted moisturizer is the ideal answer for someone who doesn’t want full-coverage foundation but prefers a little “veil of color.” Added bonus – it has sunscreen in it. It works like a BB Cream, but it’s actually a moisturizer.

I recognize that my skin is likely to change even further after I turn 40, but right now, it’s holding up. Minimal fuss with a little attention to trouble spots seems to do the trick. 

Signs of Life Day Three

When I was 15 years old, I was easily 70 lbs. heavier than I am right now. I was unhealthy and insecure, but when I started Rollerblading on the weekends in an attempt to lose weight (hey, it was the 1990s!), I never thought it would lead to a lifetime of enjoying exercise.

Fast forward TWO DECADES and I’m still at it. Though my Rollerblades have long since been retired and replaced with running shoes, a gym membership, and a yoga mat, I still enjoy the mental and physical release exercise gives me. It is for my brain first and my body second.

It’s a curious thing, then, to still struggle with body image, self-esteem, and all that emotional garbage I’ve been carrying around for most of my life. It makes no sense whatsoever, but that is the nature of the beast. It is my lot. But I continue to exercise – and continue to love it – because this is the one body I have. There’s no swapping it out for another.

So today, after my workout was complete, I did the thing that I never do: I snapped a photo of myself at the gym. I felt silly doing it, but in that moment I wanted evidence that I am alive and healthy and able to do many things. 

One day I will not be able to do this. Today is not that day.

Signs of Life is a blog series I’m writing for February 2017. It was born out of desire to replace the negativity and despair that’s been bogging down our friendships, families, and communities after a tumultuous election season. This series won’t solve the world’s problems, but I hope it will create a speck of light and positivity when and where it is needed. 

Favorite thing: Soap & Glory’s The Righteous Butter

Some body butters leave me feeling like a big ball of grease, so much that I’m afraid to sit on furniture on account of leaving behind a leg stain. But there’s something different about Soap & Glory, and that makes it worth mentioning.

Soap and Glory The Righteous Butter

Full disclosure: I didn’t buy this. It came free with an online order from Ulta, and after it arrived I tossed it in a drawer to inspect later. Fast forward a few weeks, I remembered it existed. When I twisted open the container, something beautiful and fragrant came wafting up, filling the bathroom with the most lovely and clean aroma. I’d just washed my hands so I took a small amount of the body butter and rubbed it all over my fingers, palms, then wrists, and all the way up to my elbows. A little goes a really long way.

Three things I love: 

1. It’s not greasy. I glides on silky smooth and leaves my skin feeling hydrated and soft. I can’t say the same about other body butters I’ve tried.

2. Soap & Glory’s “Original Pink” fragrance is delectable. I want it in other forms – soap, shampoo, perfume, laundry detergent, air freshener…

3. Price. This 1.69 fl. oz. container was free, but a full 10 oz. is only $15. Because so little is needed with each application, those 10 oz. would last a long time.

Favorite thing: It Cosmetics Feel the Moment primer serum

I became a fan of It Cosmetics last year after discovering its matte eye shadow palette, its luminizing creme stick, and a CC cream I really love. Earlier this summer I perused the It Cosmetics aisle at Ulta and found this primer serum. I’m always on the lookout for a good skin product that will fight the signs of aging and keeping my skin looking fresh. I tested the serum on the back of my hand and noticed how little product it took to spread around a large area. It smelled divine. If it really nourishes, hydrates, preps, and primes my skin, then it’s worth a try.

It Cosmetics Feel the Moment

This photo was taken about two months into using the first bottle of serum and you can see I was just a little over halfway through it. (I’m on my second bottle now.) That makes me feel a little better about the $38 price tag. (On the website it’s being sold with a second primer, but I bought it by itself in Ulta.)

Three things I love:favorites logo

1. It feels amazing. After washing and drying my face each morning and evening, I apply a very small pump of the serum and spread it around my face. It’s like weightless silk. Not oily at all.

2. Because so little is needed for one application, one bottle lasts a long time, even applying twice a day.

3. My skin isn’t oily first thing in the morning, which is something that other night creams have caused. With other products I’d wake up and look like I’d just dipped my face in a pool of olive oil. With this serum, my skin still looks clean and fresh first thing in the morning.

Though this is advertised as a primer under makeup, it’s wonderful as a stand-alone product. I use it twice daily in conjunction with a retinol eye cream.

Favorite thing: LUSH Big Sea Salt Shampoo

We don’t have a LUSH store where I live, which is probably for the best.

LUSH Big Sea Salt Shampoo

Last November, when we went to Chicago for Thanksgiving, I introduced my sister to LUSH. I obsessively sniffed every fizzy bath bomb in the store and tried stuff and daydreamed about how much I could buy if I had a ba-zillion dollars. It’s not the most expensive stuff in the world, but they aren’t at Walmart prices either.

For those of you unfamiliar with LUSH, they are known for cruelty-free, all natural hair and body products made of ingredients we can all pronounce. Some products are so fresh that you have to keep them refrigerated or they spoil. LUSH began thirty years ago (or so) with offering a handful of products through The Body Shop. Now it’s its own thing and people go nuts over their stuff.

My sister kept a mental note about LUSH, so when my birthday came around, she splurged on something I probably wouldn’t buy myself: the Big Sea Salt Shampoo. It has all kinds of natural ingredients like seaweed, lemon juice, coconut oil, and orange oil, along with the big chunks of sea salt. You pull out a small amount and massage it into your scalp, thereby producing a surprising amount of lather from a couple of kitchen ingredients.

Inside LUSH Big shampoo

The real magic happens after I dry my hair. It’s legitimately more voluminous, which was a wonderful surprise.

Three things I love:

favorites logo1. The fragrance is unlike anything I’ve smelled in other products, and that’s a compliment. It’s noticeably un-chemical-y. It smells like I made it in my kitchen and added a few drops of essential oils for a bonus.

2. A little goes a long way. The first time I used it I wasn’t sure how much was necessary for my hair length, so I definitely used more than needed. By the second, third, and finally fourth time, I was down to a dime-size amount and it was sufficient. I’m making this thing last.

3. LUSH quality and commitment. Though I prefer cruelty-free products as a whole, I can’t always afford to be picky. Granted, you get what you pay for. I can spend $4 on an all-chemical shampoo made in mass at a factory that works decently, or I can spend $25 on something handmade with ingredients that are so fresh that they have an expiration date. I like the principle of using LUSH, and if I were able to justify incorporating their products into my budget, I’d totally do it. Until then, it’s only a treat.