So I’ve been trying to put together a lengthy post on the care and handling of acne, and just…my life? is getting eaten away? by…stuff? I don’t even KNOW you guys, I wish I had anything to show for the last couple of weeks but all I have is a too-short draft that includes the phrase “the vital importance of your bed linens” (scintillating!) and a library book I actually finished reading before it had to be returned (accomplishment!) It’s not like I’ve devoted this time to writing the novel instead (which continues at its glacial pace) or cleaning my apartment (HAZMAT team on standby) or socializing (hermit status on lock), so I don’t know why I don’t have more for you, sorry.
But here’s what I do have: bits and bobs of info that may be of use to you. Huzzah! Let’s go.
Social Media Recommending
This is just a very generic housekeeping note on the topic, because lots of you know me through Twitter where I have somehow become The Unofficial Skincare Consultant To Romancelandia. (I am proud of this title!) Please believe this is not prompted by any one of you, but is instead a response to stuff that appears in my mentions almost every day!
I try to make a point to never, ever give advice to someone if they didn’t ask me for it, especially if they are a stranger. (Incidentally, this doesn’t just apply to skincare advice and I HEARTILY RECOMMEND you adopt this policy when considering whether you should offer your unsolicited wisdom to someone on the internet at all, ever, thanks.) So sometimes if you tag me into a conversation on skincare, I won’t chime in unless I feel like that specific person wants specifically my opinion on a specific thing. Because you may have noticed that I don’t do a ton of blanket recommendations. Lesson One, way back when, was all about how there is no One Thing, remember? No matter how simple the request, I need to know lots of other things - skin type, allergies, preferences, goals, budget, rest of routine, etc - before I can confidently recommend anything.
This is just me letting you know why I maybe didn’t jump in to answer your friend’s question when you tagged me in. I don’t want you thinking I’m ignoring you or being an info-stingy bitch, is all.
ALSO if you recommend this newsletter - which is often done, and aren’t you all just lovely? - it can be really helpful to link to the introductory post. This is not just because it lays out exactly the kind of advice I tend to give out and warns off anyone who’d hate my style, but mostly because it simplifies everything for the beginner. I went back and linked to the individual posts on the 4 categories, see. So it truly works as a primer of sorts, for anyone who doesn’t quite know where to begin to scale Mount Skincare. That particular post is like a roadmap - a Skincare 101, if you will.
Highlights From the Open Thread
In case you didn’t visit the open thread from a couple weeks ago, I wanted to highlight a couple of things that maybe you want to know!
Gwen asked about pressing vs rubbing vs tapping vs hiring small children dressed as putti to lovingly pat the products onto our skin with their rose-petal lips as we sleep. Et cetera. Also, there were - and always are - questions about what order to use your products. Please remember my Don’t Be Precious philosophy of skincare as you stand before your products and wonder if you’re doing it right! That philosophy is, roughly: “Fuck it, just get it on your face.”
It really, truly doesn’t matter nearly as much as people tend to think. In terms of sequence, the most important thing is: Cleanse first, moisturizer/SPF last. Everything else goes in between those two. Let’s think of it like a sandwich, okay:
Bottom bread: cleanser
Innards: whateverthefuck you want, in whatever order you like, you can put your lettuce on the bottom if you want, you wild woman
Top bread: moisturizer/occlusive
Sandwich baggie: SPF - because just as you wouldn’t put an unprotected sandwich in your backpack, you would not take your unprotected face outside. Right? Right.
The question of HOW to apply - pressing or tapping or whatever - is going to vary according to your personal preference, the textures involved, and what makes practical sense. It’s like quibbling over how to apply the mustard to your sandwich. Maybe you prefer to spread it from a jar with a knife evenly over the bread. Maybe you prefer a squeeze bottle and a precise pattern of concentric circles between the layer of cheese and meat. Maybe you’re making egg salad and the mustard gets stirred in with all the rest of it. It’s your choice! Just don’t put the mustard on the OUTSIDE of the bread, I don’t care how much of a foodie you are, and definitely do not put it on the outside of the sandwich baggie.
Make your sandwich how you like it, with as much or as little attention and energy as your life allows. Don’t over-think it, my lovelies. You’re doing great.
Facial Hair Removal
This applies to waxing, threading, and laser hair removal, all of which are actually pretty traumatic for your skin: do yourself a favor and refrain from AHA exfoliant in the area you’re going to be targeting for hair removal, at least for the 3 days before said removal and the 24-48 hours after. If you, like me, DREAM of only needing to wax/thread once a month (hah! more like once a week) then it’s worth skipping that area entirely with the AHA if your skin protests.
Everyone’s skin is made more sensitive with the regular use of an AHA because the whole purpose of it is to force the protective layer of dead cells (aka epidermis) to shed itself more effectively/often. Which means that you’re making the protective layer thinner (this is not a bad thing, especially because it’s also making the deeper layer of living skin - the dermis - thicker and healthier…if I’m remembering the anatomy of this shit correctly, but anyway you get the general point.) It’s like taking off a sweater and only having on your undershirt - you are a little more exposed to the elements, okay. When using an AHA you need (a) 100% commitment to consistently protecting against UV radiation, and (b) to be careful of harsh treatments. Ripping or zapping out hairs = harsh treatment.
Incidentally, retinol has the same sensitizing effect as AHA exfoliation, but depending on the strength of the product, it’s possible that refraining for a few days prior is not enough to avoid The Ouch. If depilation is painful or rash-inducing, just try not to put your retinol on the hairy bits, if you can? Or switch to shaving. Shaving works too.
I think I didn’t mention this in all my blathering about exfoliants, so let me tell you now: Don’t put your exfoliant under your eyes. It’s extra thin skin there, so extra sensitive - to say nothing of the not-so-great idea of putting those ingredients so close to your eyes, because if it gets in your eyes: ouch. But really, the most common problem is that it’s gonna dry the fuck outta your under-eyes, and I really doubt you want that particular area to look like the rippling sands of the Kalahari.
The only reason to put exfoliant under your eye is if you have milia, and then only if you don’t have insurance and/or can’t afford a quick dermatologist visit - and even then, only if you’re both very careful and very patient.
As with so many things: stop at the orbital bone. Thank you!
Adele mentioned that she loves a particular product for her dry skin but that I wouldn’t like it because of the fragrance - and she was right, although I DO love the product in question as a hand cream. I just strongly advise against it on the face because it’s packed with fragrant oils and other sensitizing ingredients. HOWEVER, the reason the product is so good for really dry skin (and works in ways that many other face creams don’t) is because it’s jam-packed with lanolin. And there are products out there that have the goodness of lanolin without the badness of fragrance.
I bring this up because if you find that a product is working for you in ways that nothing else seems to work, BUT you wish it weren’t so very XYZ, then please realize there is probably some key ingredient that is making the difference, not the entire product. That’s not always the case, of course, because formulation is magical and sometimes it’s the precise combination of ingredients that does the trick. But often someone will be like “OMG I used a serum and now my face glows like never before IT IS MAGIC” and I want to be like “okay, but it’s the lactic acid that’s magical, not that particular exact product.”
So this is just a reminder that in the same way that looking at the ingredient list to identify the Bad Thing My Skin Hates is a breakthrough, so too is looking to find the Good Thing My Skin Loves. You can always feel free to ask me what’s so special about a particular product, I will totally be your investigator because I love that shit, man.
Stop licking your lips. Stop it. You’re only hurting yourself. Stop.
Let’s talk about my favorite hydrating thing, Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion. Many of you have already heard me wax on about it, but for those of you who haven’t: this is my beloved. (Okay, one of my beloveds.) It hydrates and brings the plump and bounce back to my face every morning, all for an absurdly low price. It’s full of glycerin, urea, AND 5 different weights of hyaluronic acid - I mean allegedly, I don’t read Japanese, so I’m going on faith here - which means it attracts moisture like whoa.
Caveat: Some people have a problem with this product clogging or irritating their skin, which is usually due to the algae extract in it (that’s the aphanothece sacrum or, for those of you who DO know some Japanese: suizenji nori . Thanks, Google!) If you are one of those people, you have my deepest condolences and my advice to try out the original Gokujyun in the white bottle (NOT Premium), which doesn’t have that ingredient, Allegedly.
Other caveat: Some people find other products are more hydrating for their skin than this. More power to em.
Terminology: In Asian skincare, they use the word “lotion” differently than we in the rest of the world do. (In Asian skincare, lotion = cream. Usually. It’s complicated.) So don’t let that throw you - although you could use it as a lotion if you wanted. I use it right before my moisturizer and/or SPF. You can use it as a toner, immediately after washing, if you want. Dealer’s choice. Mustard in your sandwich. Moving on.
Usage: This is why I bring this up, because very often I will hear people talking about this product saying like, “It doesn’t take much at all, just a little drop” and people: why do you think it comes in such a big ass bottle? SO YOU CAN DRENCH YOURSELF WITH IT! Just utterly and completely soak the entire surface of your skin in it.
Observe this promotional video, which features the non-Premium version, but the same principle applies:
You don’t have to create a veritable lake in your palm, as this would seem to imply, but definitely aim for somewhere between a drop and a flood. It absorbs pretty quickly, and you can do it in more than one layer - which is a popular thing to do, the whole “multiple layers of hydrating product” thing.
Here’s how much I use:
I even measured for you this morning and it turns out I use a very scant teaspoon, probably like 4 ml. I slap it all on at once and then let it absorb as I brush my teeth or go to make the coffee. It’s never led to pilling or left a weird residue or anything like that, it just soaks right in and leaves bouncy happy skin in its wake. That’s how it works for me, anyway.
So for those of you who use it sparingly, just try the full drench, okay? One time. For me.
Speaking of reducing plastic consumption, I canceled my Facetory subscription. It’s just too much packaging and waste, especially for something that 90% of the time I only use because it’s there, not because my skin needs it. Sheetmasks are so non-essential, and my conscience was killing me.
Also on the topic of not being an asshole to the planet, please don’t be seduced by a skincare fridge (my god, when will they stop trying to convince us we need these things) and PLEASE resist the new thing that is new on the market - the first (actually maybe second, I think?) of many, I’m sure: a personalized skincare-making gadget with cartridges and pods, like a Keurig but for lotions and serums. Ya know, this thing. I actually find it loathsome - yes! loathsome! I am really worked up about it, wow! - and I sincerely hope you won’t even consider it.
As long as I’m closing this out with environmentally conscious bits, let me point you to TerraCycle, where you can (sometimes, depending) send in a bunch of recyclables that your local recycling company won’t take. They partner with a bunch of cosmetic brands, so it’s a nice thing to do when you have a pile of empties you’d like to discard in the best way possible. They’ve partnered with Deciem (aka The Ordinary) and Paula’s Choice, for example. Clearly I need to start lobbying CeraVe.
I will be back to talk about zits eventually, hopefully very soon, but obviously I can’t promise anything, time has no meaning.