I hesitated for a while before writing this post, because I’ve had a skincare routine for only two years, which makes me an utter amateur compared to my favorite beauty bloggers. Before the age of twenty-four, I did almost nothing to my skin. I never moisturized, because I didn’t know that women under forty used moisturizer. I wore SPF only during the summer. I’d always had good skin, so it never occurred to me that I might need to put anything on it. Why should I when it looked like this?
Nineteen-year-old me in biology lab. Look at that fresh-faced, rosy-cheeked little jerk. I call this photo “Our Lady of the Arthropods.”
I forget why twenty-four was the turning point for me. Maybe it was the melancholy realization that I could no longer claim to be in my early twenties. Maybe it was that my discovery of makeup meant more time in front of the mirror, and more mirror time meant closer examination of my epidermis, and wait, were those lines under my eyes? Maybe (probably) I was just reading more beauty blogs. In any case, I decided I needed some moisturizer, and moisturizer led to moisturizer-with-SPF, which led to cleanser, which led to eye cream, and suddenly I was re-enacting “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” on my face. At the moment, I have a pretty basic routine, but it keeps my skin happy and it’s entirely cruelty-free. I hope that’s enough.
My skin is on the dry side of normal. I’ve never had a real problem with acne, though I do tend to get one or two small pimples every month, because my hormones can’t spare me even one PMS symptom. Thanks, guys. The only serious skin problem I’ve had to deal with is eczema, usually around my ears and eyelids. I haven’t had a flare-up in a couple of years, though, which indicates that my skincare regimen is doing me some good.
Now for a breakdown of the products pictured above, which form the backbone of my daily routine.
1. First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
I started out using Lush Celestial Moisturizer as my all-purpose moisturizer, but I soon realized that $24.95 for 1.5 ounces was unsustainable on my budget. So I transferred my affections to Ultra Repair Cream; it’s a delightfully affordable $12 for a 2 oz. squeeze bottle at Sephora. (There’s also a 6 oz. jar for $28, a slightly better deal, but I favor the bottles for their portability and their more sanitary squeeze mechanism.) It turns out that I actually prefer Ultra Repair Cream to Celestial. It’s lighter, despite its heavy-duty-sounding moniker; it melts into the skin instantly; and it has a pleasant herbal scent. At first I thought the scent was rosemary, but now I’m pretty sure that it’s eucalyptus, since eucalyptus appears on the ingredients list and rosemary does not. I don’t care; I still think of delicious rosemary focaccia (which I can never remember how to spell) whenever I put it on. I use this moisturizer every night before bed, as well as during the day when I need some extra moisture and am not going outside immediately.
2. Eucerin Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen
For almost two years, I was using an SPF 30 sunscreen without broad-spectrum protection. I consider myself pretty well-informed about beauty and skincare, yet I didn’t realize that my sunscreen needed to filter out both UVA and UVB rays. In other words, I was protecting myself against sunburn, but not much else. Which makes me wonder: How do normal people find out these things? Did all of you have skincare mentors or something? Was my mom supposed to tell me about ultraviolet rays? Anyway, Eucerin has been working really well for me. It’s lightweight, it has a slight but not overpowering sunscreen smell, it’s cruelty-free, and I trust that it’s helping me fend off the inevitable (aging, wrinkles, entropy, decay, the heat death of the universe).
3. Lush 9 to 5 Cleansing Lotion
My love for this product amuses me, since I went straight from college to graduate school and have never worked a 9-to-5 job in my life. 9 to 5 is a thin, milky lotion; I massage it into damp skin and wipe it off with a moist washcloth, and it leaves my skin feeling far less dry than traditional foaming cleansers do. It also does a good job of removing my makeup, though I don’t tend to wear a lot of eye makeup and I wouldn’t trust it to get rid of an elaborate smokey eye. It has a delicate floral smell that I find pleasant but a little old-ladyish–I’m not a huge fan of Lush’s floral scents. I use this lotion twice a day, when I wake up and after I come home in the evening.
4. Lush Angels on Bare Skin Facial Cleanser
Angels on Bare Skin is a dry, crumbly paste of ground almonds, glycerine, kaolin clay, and various essential oils, primarily (and, scent-wise, predominantly) lavender. It’s an example of what Lush does best: quirky, unusual skincare products that require you to get a little messy. Or, in this case, very messy. Put your hair back, for the love of God (I like to use Angels just after a shower, when all my hair is up in a towel). Pinch out a pea-sized amount of Angels with dry hands, as moisture in the jar will hasten spoilage. Mix in a few drops of water to form a paste. Rub this paste all over your face; some will get stuck in your hair and eyebrows, despite your best efforts. I like to leave the paste on my face for a minute or two, to let the kaolin draw out impurities:
Then wash the stuff off, creating yet another mess, because the clay granules and almond shards will gunk up your washcloth and drop all over the sink and the floor. Oh, and did I mention that a 3.5 oz. jar has a shelf life of three months and you almost certainly won’t use it up in that time?
Yes, Angels on Bare Skin is what the British call a faff. But I love it, God help me. I don’t use it daily, because I don’t want to over-exfoliate and I’ve heard that lavender oil increases the photosensitivity of skin. But my skin feels so soft and smooth and clean after its Angels treatment. Not sure whether I’ll repurchase this, given all its drawbacks, but I’ll definitely consider it. Sometimes I like making messes.
5. Burt’s Bees Royal Jelly Eye Creme
I picked this up at Whole Foods a few months ago after realizing that 1) I should probably start wearing eye cream and 2) most eye creams on the market were leagues out of my budget. Does this stuff work? I don’t know. I confess that I often forget to put it on before bed, but when I do, I tap it lightly around my orbital bone and hope for the best. My eye region looks exactly the same as it did before I started using this cream, so I choose to believe it’s doing its job.
Writing about eye cream makes me uncomfortable, because aging makes me uncomfortable, and so does my prejudice against it. I’m a 26-year-old grad student with almost no disposable income or visible signs of aging, yet I’ve been tempted to spend $135 on a tiny jar of eye cream. Our culture has a way of making us feel like it’s already too late. I didn’t start moisturizing at 12. I didn’t start applying sunscreen daily at 15. Has the damage already been done? Can I only ever play catch-up?
The thing is, you can never really know whether your anti-aging routine is working, because you can never really know what you’d have looked like without that serum or retinoid cream. If you look younger than your age, it may well be due to genetics and nothing more. And, in the end, I’m going to age. We’re all going to age. A sad event last year reminded me that aging is a privilege. Not dying young is a privilege. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to look young; I always joke that I’m going to become a Miss Havisham figure in my old age, with my twenty-something selfies pinned on every wall of my apartment. I wouldn’t have a beauty blog if I weren’t vain. But I don’t want to fear getting older. After all, I’m much happier today than I was at nineteen, with my youthful glow and unwrinkled skin. The teenager you met earlier in this post was shy, inexperienced, and insecure. The last seven years have changed me for the better, and I hope the next seven years will do the same–and if they do, a few fine lines will be a small price to pay.
Plus, makeup and beauty and skincare should be fun.
And with that vision of surpassing beauty, I bid you good day.