Under My Skin

When I met my best friend Carol I was a tom boy who worked at an indie record store.  I remember telling her how much I liked her bag and then chatting with her about the cassettes she was purchasing.  I was an painfully awkward 18 year old who was trying to find herself.  I had few female friends and was anxious to meet more as I grew tired of the constant testosterone fest my life was at the time and had been for most of my teen years. Most of my friends were guys who shared the same interest in hard, fast and heavy music, but they tended to not have a softer side interested in things like bleaching hair and finding the perfect scarlet red lip stick.

Carol would come into the store probably once a week and we got to know each other better.  She told me that she had a part time job at the Body Shop at Regency Mall (the fancy mall of the era) and I did not even know what that was.  When she told me that it was as store with cruelty free makeup and skin care I became interested and asked her to “take me to do whatever it is girls do”.

I remember walking into the store and becoming entranced with the smells and packaging of the products.  Carol and her co-workers kindly guided me through the process of creating a “skin care routine”.  I remember being particularly excited by the concept of “exfoliation” where I removed dead skin cells from my face with these beautiful beads made out of a Japanese grain of some kind.

I fell in love with the ritual of having a daily routine of cleansing, toning and hydrating.  It relaxed me and gave me a form of control over at least on element in my chaotic young adult life.  Peels and masks appeared in my bathroom much to my boyfriend’s surprise.  Gone was the girl who drunkenly fall asleep in her cat-eye liner after staying up late partying post Buzzoven show.  I was turning into a woman who used a chamomile cleanser to take off her cat eye nightly for fear of premature aging and clogged pores.

My skin changed as I aged and what once was a calming ritual became a painful experience. I developed adult acne.  My first bout was when I was 21.  These small little whiteheads formed all over my forehead.  They disgusted me and I felt a shame I had never known in my younger years as I was blessed to have only gotten the occasional pimple.  I eventually braved a trip to my doctor to address the issue.  I was given a medication that dried my skin out horribly and made me flake all over the place but did get rid of the acne.  The experience opened my eyes to the emotional pain that millions of people experience due to skin conditions.

For a couple years I got to enjoy calm and clear skin and went back loving my skin care ritual.  Sadly this did not last long as in my mid 20’s my skin decided it wanted to develop horrific hormonal acne.  I had painful cyst like pimples generally on my chin.  They did not pop and they did not go away for long periods of time.  My doctor had no suggestions for me- hormonal acne was not as well understood as it has become over the last few years.  I did not have the money to seek out a specialist who may have been able to help so I tried countless products that more often than not caused more damage than good.  I was back to feeling ashamed and angry at what I saw when I looked in the mirror.

Also I had just started beauty school.  I was immersed in an environment that worshipped beauty and here I was walking around with zits raging with puss desperate to be popped. I felt completely out of sorts and far from attractive.  In addition to my skin shame my beauty school was not one that represented my personal esthetic or style.  There were only a couple other “punk” girls and as I soon found out I had little in common with them as they came from a different part of the scene, one that I did not grow up with in little ol’ Richmond Virginia.  I went to school in Costa Mesa California – an affluent area close to one of the largest luxury retailers in the world, South Coast Plaza.  The beauty norm at my school even for the “punks” was very “Real Housewives”, not a small chested, skinny girl with a short and choppy bleached blonde hair style and raging acne.

It had been a long time since I felt this bad about my appearance and wanted to change things.  I invested it what was then the best product for acne prone skin- a Pro Active type system.  I was so broke that I couldn’t afford the real thing- so a Target knock off had to do. I was fortunate and my skin cleared after about 2 months.  I kept using the system after I needed to not understanding that these products are not intended for long- term use.  I did some damage to my skin in terms of scarring and making my pores more prominent due to the harsh chemicals used to treat acne in these types of systems.  I started to feel as if I was never going to find a happy routine and place with my skin again.

It is only recently that I have found that happy place.  I started working in the cosmetics industry for Benefit and was exposed to more information about skin.  I made friends with several aestheticians one of whom really broke things down for me.  Her name is Sabrina and if you live in Austin go see her at Vain salon.  She taught me that you have to find balance in your skin care routine and that a good routine is not going be the same for each person.

She got me in the habit of using a Clarisonic and a better quality of product than I had been using (she mostly uses Eminence and sells it at http://www.sauveurskincare.com/online-store).  I saw that my skin was an investment.  It was an investment into my happiness.  That I felt my best when I did not have to cake concealer on but had a natural glow.  And that I was better off achieving that glow through wise skin care purchases and facials than via heavy foundation.

I am writing about this because the most common request I get from people who read my blog or who follow me on instagram is to give them my “skin care secrets”.  There are no such things as skin care secrets. There is no one way to achieve a great complexion.  Sadly much of what is out there is misleading marketing and a lack of scientific standards for effectiveness of products. There are also unrealistic expectations put on us as a society via social media and advertising.

I have battled with myself whether or not to write down the products that I use and what my routine is.  I do not want to propagate a false hope that if you use x,y and z product suddenly your skin will improve and your life will be better for it.

I have chosen to make my skin my one “vice” if you will.  I recognize that the products I own, use and review are not going to change the world.  They will only enhance mine to a certain extent.  They are little luxuries that I will give up in a heartbeat if a larger need comes along in my life.

However just as how back when I was a young adult my skin care practice is something that I can count on.  It is something I can control.  My life is no less chaotic now than it was at 18.  I crave my nightly cleansing routine as it makes me feel as if I am washing my day down the drain and starting anew.

My recommendation for anyone reading this who has a skincare issue that makes you feel embarrassed and ashamed is to seek out a good facialist and a good doctor.  Do not spend money on various product hoping for results.  Get down to the real source of the issue.  For those reading who just want to add a little glow and maybe get rid of some unsightly black heads and battle annoying fine lines I still recoomend getting a good facial and getting your skin examined. Even if your schedule and budget won’t allow for this to be a regular thing you can at least find out what kind of skin you have, and perhaps what products may be best.

I will be putting together a list of things I use that have been game changers for me, and I feel can benefit most every person out there.  And yes, I will post that list before Christmas if you want to hope Santa brings you some holiday glow.

Happy holidays to all my readers. Go out there and have some fun- just wear a strong SPF while doing so!!



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