Thirties Equals Skin Changes. Apparently.

Welcome to another edition of The Thirties Series, as I’m haphazardly calling it.

I’ve previously written about my reactions to being in my thirties here and here, in case you want to catch up. I’ve even written about a previous epiphany I thought I’d had about the right skincare products for me.

As evidenced by this update, I’m still adjusting three years in. And if someone had told me when I was in my late twenties that I would experience a major skin change by the fair age of 33, I would have scoffed and laughed in her face.

I have had oily, acne prone skin since….forever. I became aware of my skin type probably around the time I was in junior high. I didn’t know back then to buy products based on skin type; I merely bought for symptom treatment purposes.

In response to the ads screaming, “Keep your filthy teenaged zits at bay!” I would haul myself off to the drugstore to plunk down my little allowance on what I thought would work.

Back then, the types of products I purchased were Clearasil, Clean & Clear anything, foul-smelling Noxzema, and Oxy Pads. I never assumed they wouldn’t work exactly as advertised. I mean, YM and Seventeen magazines wouldn’t lie to me, right?

For the occasional splurge, I’d get my mom to buy me the Clinique Clarifying Lotionastringent, also known as “Clarifying Lotion,” which only came in one type back then, and it was pretty much just pure alcohol. I firmly believed that a stinging sensation must be a good thing. Fun times.

I grew tired of it, though, as I realized it definitely did not help keep the oil away. Of course I didn’t know that my skin was overcompensating being dried out by producing ever more oil.

When I was 25, however, I resorted to getting a set of Proactiv, since I was going through some kind of quarter-life adult acne flare-up that was not being kept at bay with traditional methods. It worked for the time I needed it and thankfully, I was able to move on from using it long-term. (I think it’s safe to say that it works by drying out your skin as if you’re in a tannery.)

This year has brought with it better physical health (I have no more gallbladders to suddenly crap out on me) but also a major change in skin type, something I clearly wasn’t anticipating.

I noticed it earlier in the year when my usual foaming cleansers began drying out my face really badly. I’d get out of the shower and my skin would be tight, red, dry, and flaky. Completely the opposite of what I’ve been accustomed to the last twenty years. The cleanser I was in love with, one by La Roche-Posay, was suddenly too strong and drying. I switched to Purpose by Johnson & Johnson, one of the mildest foaming cleansers you can buy. It’s basically baby shampoo for the face. I didn’t think I would need anything gentler.

Yet my face continued to kick and scream with tight, red, dry skin. At this point, I was blaming the water, thinking we had way too hard water or something. But we actually have pretty great tap water here in central Illinois and I needed to face facts and keep experimenting.

I finally tried the Oil Cleansing Method, which for a brief shining moment, I believed to be the answer to my problems. (I highly recommend trying it if you want to get away from traditional cleansers and you don’t have “problem” skin. Crunchy Betty really knows her stuff!) I was using pure Castor and Sweet Almond oils on my face each night and my skin was definitely moisturized and soft. I firmly believed that I would be “washing” my face with oil until I was a little old lady.

But it didn’t take long for my face to become irritated once again. Despite my oil method at night and rinsing only with water and/or a teensy fraction of a teaspoon of Purpose cleanser in the shower, I could not seem to emerge without having inflamed skin that was throwing a temper tantrum, begging for cooling moisturizer. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that moisturizer didn’t automatically calm my skin down. I began wondering if I was allergic to the SPF, which would have been a living nightmare for me, since I need to protect my fair skin. Even the “Ultra Calming” moisturizer I had bought wasn’t helping. (Can you tell I’ve spent quite a bit of money so far?)

It got to the point where my skin began feeling stinging and inflamed even if it wasn’t red (we’re up to August now). I’m sure feeling stressed about my skin wasn’t helping, either.

The only thing that was remotely working on my skin was Philosophy’s Miracle Anti-Aging Moisturizer, which I was using at night but began putting on before my SPF moisturizer in the morning, thinking that it would prevent my skin from breaking out and/or getting inflamed. To make matters worse, if my skin wasn’t inflamed, I was experiencing chronic acne on my chin, something I had never dealt with previously. I was getting desperate.

I began to do more skin research and landed on a website where I’d purchased a few treatment products previously but hadn’t invested in an entire line or anything. That website was Mario Badescu.

The information on the MB website is thorough and incredibly helpful. I suspected I was in the couperose/rosacea/combination skin categories and short of going to a dermatologist (something I could not afford at this point in time, so please consult one if you have the resources!), I decided to take one last stab and self-diagnose and treat my strong suspicions. I was still reeling from this new change but ready to plow forward.

Overall, here is what I have invested in. From left to right: Glycolic Foaming Cleanser, Keratoplast Cream Soap, Enzyme Cleansing Gel, Kera Moisturizer, Collagen Moisturizer SPF 15, and Silver Powder (the last being a gift).

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Some of the miracle workers.

The Glycolic Foaming Cleanser has been with me since before this problem arose. It is meant to be used twice a week in place of your regular cleanser, as the ingredients naturally exfoliate the skin. It smells great, is quite gentle, and really works. Even going through The Change, I have still used it sporadically since exfoliation is still important.

The next product is the one that has absolutely saved my skin: Keratoplast Cream Soap. This baby not only smells amazing but does exactly what it promises: calms red, blotchy, inflamed skin. It is non-foaming and rinses in a breeze. It leaves my skin feeling soft, smelling lovely, and most importantly: keeps the skin temper tantrums at bay! I can use this twice a day if necessary, since it doesn’t dry my skin out and gently prepares my skin for moisturizer.

Next up we have the Enzyme Cleansing Gel. This is also a non-foaming cleanser that I thought would be terrific because it’s designed for “All” skin types. HOWEVER: the fruit acid in this cleanser over-tightened my pores and I have found I can not use this one regularly. Oh well. It also smells really “green” and fresh.

The next two items are also part of my new miracle regimen:

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Hello, loves.

After trying samples of the above two moisturizers based on the MB recommendations and reviews, I bought the full-sized bottles.

The Collagen Moisturizer is lightweight and absolutely perfect for combination skin. I had tried a different SPF moisturizer from MB previously for oily skin and ended up throwing it away. This one will remain as my go-to until my skin inevitably changes again. The Kera Moisturizer is meant for dry skin that also gets inflamed. I take a teensy amount of this stuff and pat it on my cheeks, chin, and forehead. I find that it adds a little boost of moisture where I need it most and keeps my skin from stinging later in the day. I can’t go full Kera because otherwise my skin overproduces oil and then I’m blotting it like crazy midday. My skin is feisty like that.

Last up, there’s the Silver Powder. This is excellent for people like me who have pores the size of Jupiter. It unclogs and tightens them right up. A friend of mine uses this with her Clarisonic brush and swears by it. It has excellent reviews on the MB website.IMG_9881-Edit

I have kept away from using it as my skin adjusts to its new routine but I will be re-incorporating it eventually.

Summation points:

Based on my being a skincare product junkie for a long time now, I have bought all manner of things. One product I knew that might work in lieu of toner is La Roche-Posay’s Thermal Spring Water.

I know. It almost seems like it could be a scam but it really does work. It is not just water in a spray can. Its active ingredient is Selenium, which soothes red/inflamed skin. I have been using this stuff right before I moisturize and it locks in the moisture, keeping my skin dewy and happy. If my skin starts feeling remotely sting-y, I spritz myself with a travel can I bought and keep at work. And…it works!

La-Roche-Posay-Thermal-Spring-WaterSo, here’s a final rundown. This post is entirely too long but I really wanted to share all this in case anyone else is desperately seeking some skincare help.

  • Cleanse with Keratoplast (1-2 times a day); occasionally use Glycolic Foaming Cleanser for exfoliation.
  • Tone/refresh with La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water.
  • Moisturize with Kera Moisturizer and Collagen Moisturizer SPF 15.
  • Night creams/moisturizer: Philosophy Miracle Anti-Aging Moisturizer, Mario Badescu Chamomile Night Cream (only have a sample right now–gentle and REALLY moisturizing), Mario Badescu Honey Moisturizer (working with a sample, has a floral scent and is wonderful for combination skin).

The best parts about MB products: they’re not tested on animals, they utilize pure ingredients, they smell fabulous, they’re extremely reasonably priced, and they really work. It doesn’t get much better than that. They also have shampoos and conditioners and a men’s shaving line of products. I can’t talk up this company enough.

I feel incredibly grateful to have found a product line that does what it says it will and is keeping me from being a guinea pig at the dermatologist’s.

Mario Badescu….to the rescue!

Note: I applaud you if you read this entire post. It’s very TL;DR but it couldn’t be helped this time around. Gold star for you!

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Me Me Me: Observations on Facebook Brags

According to many a study out there, most everyone on Facebook is a narcissist of one form or another. And if you’re a frequent Twitter user, it’s probably worse.

I don’t happen to believe that narcissism through social media is linked merely to those two outlets. There are social networks out there I’ve never even heard of. But if you can have followers and if you have enough ego, you can certainly whip up an unhealthy dose of overinflated self-importance.

Ice cream flavor “Facebook”: the “taste of time-wasting narcissism.”

I happen to love social media. That’s probably not a shocking admission. I mean, I have a blog with my name in it. (Perhaps that’s the ultimate form of narcissism?)

But here’s where I want to focus on one specific aspect of social media narcissism, and those are the Facebook Brags. I’ve been watching a lot of The Newsroom lately, so if I come across as if I’m doing a monologue from an Aaron Sorkin production, that would be why.

The whole point of Facebook is to share one’s accomplishments, milestones, the occasional selfie, some vacation photos, a snarky observation or two, and even cute stuff.  And if you’re into debate, there are plenty of conversation-starting articles, too. It’s what makes Facebook go ’round. Facebook takes the narcissism to the next level by advertising every single change and/or update we make: Likes, comments, profile photos, cover photos, job description, etc, as if it’s all equally important; so to that extent, it’s not entirely our fault.

Where self-involvement becomes untenable is the constant (over)sharing of things a person is doing that are “above” his or her friends’ experiences. When your Facebook statuses are all brag and no substance, it makes other people you’re friends with (or “friends” with) want to click Hide.

Recent studies suggest that passive participation, as in, not actively participating, on Facebook makes a person more unhappy. Another blogger went into a lot of depth analyzing the different kinds of updates one can post and their underlying motivations, the main ones being narcissism, attention craving, jealousy inducing, and “image crafting.” Particularly on the subject of blatant brags, s/he writes:

Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re just excited and need to brag to someone. Even if that’s the case, the only people it’s okay to brag to in life are your close friends, significant other, and family members—and that’s what email, texting, phone calls, and live talking are for. Your moment of self-satisfaction is profoundly annoying to people you’re not that close with, and they make up the vast majority of people who will be subjected to the status.

I won’t lie–in the nine years since I have been on Facebook, spanning from my early twenties to my early thirties, I’m guilty of having penned most, if not all, of the types of status messages that Wait But Why writes about. Twenty-somethings are absolutely more self-involved than most other age groups. However, as I’ve gotten older, matured, and reigned in my baser impulses, I now much more carefully choose what I decide to put out there; so much so, that I have found myself all the more sensitive to brag after brag after brag, particularly if it comes from one person.

When I’ve realized someone is a Braggart 4 Life, each status message earns an eye-roll and some kind of thought along the lines of, “We get it, you’re fabulous and we should all be grateful to be associated with you,” and I categorize that person as shallow/superficial and on the outskirts of friendship. I’ve unfriended people for less reason than being a braggart, but I could see this type of behavior driving much of the unfriending happening around Facebook.

My point here is not to make anyone feel badly about using Facebook. I check it all throughout the day, even if I’m not posting anything, just to see what my peeps are up to.

The point is that braggy, douchey status updates, if someone just HAS to write one, MUST also be balanced out with other types of posts. It’s kind of like Newton’s third law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (ain’t that the truth)): for every hubris-soaked statement or photo you put out there, make the next two funny/snarky/sweet/banal. It’s that simple!

Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself without those who would share in your actual triumphs and joys. That’s a promise.

Breathes There the Man
Sir Walter Scott

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land!”
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonor’d, and unsung.

The Beauty of Quiet

The Purple Tree

Real silence: as rare as a purple tree.

I live in a two-story apartment, known commonly as a townhome in the U.S.

One thing that is sacrificed when you choose to live in an apartment building or complex is true silence.

Most people don’t care about white noise. Heck, I have a fan on every night that helps soothe the too quiet of the night. I crave silence during the waking hours, though.

Between being able to hear faint noises of neighbors or loud noises of neighbors’ dogs (I’m pretty certain everyone in my apartment complex has a dog), there are also street noises that reverberate back to our apartment. Sometimes it’s construction or a lawn mower.

These sounds aren’t unusual for city living, apartment or no apartment.

But I find myself cherishing the truly quiet minutes in my life. This morning, for instance, I heard a bizarre shrill sound. It kept repeating itself in a pattern. I followed my ears to the hallway, wondering if a small child or animal was being tortured somewhere. Perhaps my ears were playing tricks on me (I’ve had tinnitus in one ear for a few years).

It turned out to be a mosquito or mosquito-like flying insect, whose wings were making that infernal high-pitched squeal that makes me paranoid I’m going to get bitten, and also drives me insane. Instead of water torture, someone could play that whiny sound of a mosquito’s wings beating for less than a half hour and I’d certainly give up any information I had. That or whistling.

Despite having a moment of, “What IS that??” I realized that I was grateful to have such quiet in my apartment that my bat sonar could pick up on it. On any other occasion, it would have been drowned out by any number of things: the dog wooing, the blare of the TV, the sound and feel of others’ apartment doors slamming, music playing on my computer.

I come from parents who revel in quiet and silence, especially in the morning. At my house growing up, having the television on before leaving for school was absolutely forbidden. I never quite understood why. I just thought my parents were strict. Now, I get it. Aside from not allowing their children to develop an unhealthy habit of staring in a zombified stupor at the television for an hour before heading off to school, they also valued the quiet of the morning. To this day, my mother gets up at dawn to sit in solitude, peacefully journaling. My father has similar routines. He writes constantly and he does not play music or have the television on while doing so. (For him, music is something to which one intently listens. TV and movies are attentively watched.)

I love having music on to carry me through my day but more and more, I find myself turning the music off when I’m deep in writing. I’m also discovering I have a visceral reaction to loud, jarring, and/or repetitive noises. The other day, someone loudly pounded on our patio door, and I about jumped out of my skin. I frequently pause the TV to go,  “Do you hear that? What’s that sound?” It drives my dude a little crazy. It was yet another reason why our former neighbors were the absolute worst ones to be paired next door to, as their lifestyle was ALL noise.

Friends-Ross-quiet

Me, most of the time when it comes to other people’s noises.

Perhaps by the time I’m 70 or 80 years old, I’ll embrace any hearing loss that happens with age. I can swim in my own silence. For now, I’ll ask you to <mimics Ross’s hand gesture.>