Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rub The Lotion On Your Skin

Generally I'm not a huge fan of either our celebrity or product obsessed culture. There are times when I think Capitalism might just be the root of all evil. That and changing room mirrors.

However, I also like to buy things. It's clearly socialized, it clearly isn't a true "need", and it's obviously frivolous and silly to have a bajillion skin creams and about a hundred different shades of "pink" eyeshadow. As much as I'd like to tell you I'm the sort of person who only buys local, organic, and "upcycled"...I don't. And I seriously have way too many bottles of supposedly de-frizzing hair products.

So, one of the things I do enjoy is reading about what other people buy and use. One of my favorite blogs is Mindy Kaling's (http://theconcernsofmindykaling.com/) where she often posts about that sort of thing. Generally they are, very aptly, titled: Things I've Bought That I Love.

I'm going to shamelessly steal that idea for this post because I feel like writing about something A. fun B. girly C. maybe useful for someone else who likes to buy things but likes to have recommendations first.

This post will be about skin products. I have tried a LOT of these. Expensive, cheap, natural, fake, and pretty much everything in between. I try not to experiment so much these days as that just tends to make matters worse. I'm also on a budget and doing my best to be a good, thrifty freelancer, so nothing on here is going to be like that crazy $200 moisturizer (LaMer, I think) that so many people swear by. It might be like putting God on your face, but I'll never know because I'm not paying that much for something that gets used up.

My skin type is of the finicky variety that is multiple personality'd, and also disordered. It's very sensitive, acne-prone, oily in the t-zone, mostly normal in the cheeks, hormonally reactive, and it will get weird and dry and flaky in the right climate/right before an important event. I have never been able to get it to be perfectly balanced and it gets crazy pants oily no matter what. Even if it's doing it's best impression of an alligator, it'll still get shiny over it. I don't even bother trying to stop it anymore, I just make sure to moisturize (yes, oil skin needs it), stock up on blotting paper, and pretend it's a healthy "glow".

So! These are the products I use consistently that fall into the Not Cheap But Definitely Reasonable category.

1. Paula's Choice Beta Hydroxy Gel 2 %. This stuff is awesome. It's an exfoliator for your pores and it does what it says if you use it day and night. Keeps skin clear (nothing will keep it perfect, but this will definitely help), non-drying, non-irritating, and it even helps fade acne marks and prevent actual indented scarring because of cell turnover. I had an indented scar from getting injections in one spot for incredibly frustrating cystic acne a few years ago and this popped it out after a month. Which was a huge relief. Having acne scars like I do is embarrassing and upsetting, so it's nice when something helps keep more of them from happening. And me from crying and wishing I could wear bags over my head.

2. Paula's Choice Resist Smoothing Treatment 5% Alpha Hydroxy Acid. I use this at night a few times a week for extra exfoliation. It makes my skin super smooth, glowy, and further reduces marks and redness. It's also anti-aging. I don't totally understand the different between alpha and beta hydroxy's, but a combo is supposed to be good for you skin. So, I do what I'm told.

3. Cerave Moisturizing Lotion. This stuff is amazing. When I was using Retin-A this stuff saved my skin from irritation, flaking, and any kind of weather related crankiness. And it still does that, keeping my skin feeling soft and moisturized, never tight or greasy. You can find this at most any drugstore, it comes in a big jar or bottle, and it lasts forever. You can use it on face, hands, body, whatever. It's non-comedogenic and recommended by dermatologists. I haven't used another moisturizer in like 4 years, that's how much I love it.

4. Witch Hazel. I use this as a toner, especially if my skin is feeling irritated because it soothes it and never dries it out. Also it has the word witch in it.

5. DHC's Oil Cleanser. No, trust me, this stuff is great. I don't use soaps on my face because it just strips it, and this is my nighttime cleanser. It feels nice and soothing on, rinses totally clean, and removes clogs and makeup without making your skin feel stripped and crummy. You have to get it online, but it's actually very reasonable for the amount. And I swear, you can absolutely use it on the oiliest of oily skin.

6. Aspirin mask. If you didn't know, aspirin is made with salicylic acid, a common acne fighting ingredient. If you can find uncoated aspirin (I get Bayers AM) and dissolve it in a little water, it makes a gritter mask that reduces blemishes, redness, and irritation. You can use it as an exfoliator as well, though you need to be gentle as it has a rough texture. I tend to use just one or 2 tablets. See the next list for another DIY mask I do with this.

This is a list of Expensive Products That Are Worth It, as I've learned that if my skin likes something I should stick to it or it will get very pissed off at me and develop scales. It's pretty gross.

1. Dermalogica's Ultra-Calming Cleanser. This stuff is not cheap but you don't need to use a lot. This is my morning cleanser which gently soothes and removes product residue from the night. I don't use harsh cleansers because I'm not bathing my face in dirt and it's actually counterproductive when you have oily, sensitive, and acne prone skin. If you irritate it it just gets worse.

2. Dermalogica's Matte Sunscreen for the face, 20 SPF. This is the only SPF I've ever found that didn't clog my pores up immediately, smell like Rockaway Beach in August, or simply do nothing and let me get burned. This has held up in SoCal in every kind of weather and not made my skin dry or oily. My esthetician tells me that my skin has almost no sun damage, and I've been wearing sunscreen since I was a kid obsessively, every day, every season. I may look like a pasty vampire, but I'll take that over looking like I'm made of old leather at 32. It is over priced, but some things are worth it. Like not getting face cancer.

3. Murad's Clarifying Mask. This is one of the few clay masks that actually works for me, even though it has sulfur in it which can be irritating. What I actually do is mix aspirin with it and, for me at least, it shrinks pores, exfoliates, and often stops breakouts in their tracks. It also keeps the aspirin on better as it tends to flake off on its own. Be careful doing this kind of DIY, though, as skin is individual and what works for me could be a disaster on you. I'd do a spot test before putting it all over your face.

And then there are the Splurges.

1. Go to a dermatologist. If you have skin issues, that is. I can't stress this enough. If you're having stubborn acne, persnikety skin sensitives, or are just overall not finding things that consistently work, see a derm. Most insurance will at least partially cover a visit and it will definitely cover prescriptions. Obviously this is less viable if you don't have insurance, but a visit to a derm can actually be around $75 out of pocket for a consultation, and it will likely save you a ton in the long run by giving you product recommendations that will actually be effective. Most derms I've been to have also been super generous with the samples and don't just try to sell expensive stuff if you're on a budget.

2. Facials. I see an esthetician about once every month to two months who clears out my pores. Sounds gross, but, it's worth it to me. Picking at your skin is a bad habit that tends to make things worse, leading to deeper infections, bigger breakouts, and scarring. Estheticians (good ones) know how to do extractions that, while they don't feel great, heal up and go away without leaving marks or spreading bacteria. Plus, you'll look like you have baby skin when they're done, your pores are that clean and tiny. And, if you're lucky like me, you'll find one who is an obsessive sci-fi nerd and you'll talk about the latest episodes of Fringe while she degunks your face.

And that's my skin product rec's. Paula's Choice you can find at: paulaschoice.com, DHC Cleansing Oil at dhcskincare.com, Murad can be found at Sephora or Ulta, and Dermalogica can be found at Ulta or local Dermalogica skincare outlets.


  1. Beta hydroxy acids in skin stuff usually refers to salicylic acid (closely related to aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid) whereas alpha hydroxy acids are the acids usually found in fruits, milk, sugarcane, and the like. The beta is supposed to be milder, but both basically exfoliate dead skin cells.