My Skin Story

Now that we have this little minx of a blog up and running, it seemed like a good time for some backstory about my skincare obsession. When and where did my fascination with all things skin begin? When did it become quite impossible for me to begin or end my day without all these steps?

As the wise Will Ferrell once said in Kicking & Screaming (didn’t see that one coming, did you), “I was born…a baby. A clean slate.” A true American mutt, I had no idea what my mashup of ethnicities (Italian, Croatian, Polish and Irish, mostly) would mean for my appearance. Like all babies, that was the best skin of my life and I was on a smooth, babyfaced roll until fifth grade, when the Lady in Red decided it was time to turn me into a miniature woman. On April Fools’ Day no less.

One quick surge of hormones later and I soon found myself with the junior-high body special: a stacked chest with an always-shiny face full of zits. To make matters worse, I was attending a private Catholic school (Go Gaels!) where anyone caught wearing makeup was made to wash it off in front of the principal.

There was nowhere to hide and somewhere around the time an annoying punk staring at me on the school bus asked me to turn my head so he could count the zits on the other side of my face, I knew it was time to head to the dermatologist.

This was the moment I got my first skincare routine: a cream cleanser full of benzoyl peroxide that turned my face beat red, a Differin-like gel that made it peel off and a night cream from the devil that had to be refrigerated, burned like hell and bleached my pillowcases.

I saw many a dermatologist throughout high school who all gave me their surefire solution for my acne. I also jumped on the Proactive scam train and picked up any cleanse/tone/treat regimen Sephora had on offer. But truth be told, the only things that ever really got rid of it back then were birth control and, later in college, Accutane.

My first foray into premium skincare was Clinique. I bought my first eye cream from the counter in Macy’s when I turned 18. When I graduated college, I bought my first anti-aging face cream there, too. What can I say, I like to plan ahead. I also had years of acne scars to deal with. When I was a broke intern, Craig surprised me with a trip to the Clinique counter at Bloomingdale’s. That’s when I knew he was the one. Just kidding, but seriously, way to know your audience, Craig.

Between BC, Clinique and some other finds, I was able to avoid the dermatologist until my late 20s when my hormones shifted again, meaning my skin did, too. The stress of a wedding and a move to Japan with its subtropical climate also threw my complexion for a frustrating loop. Worst of all, I stopped using hormonal birth control since I thought it would be easier while living abroad. Begrudgingly, I went to see a dermatologist in Tokyo when nothing seemed to be working, and while their solutions helped for a little while, it didn’t make sense to me to use products meant for teenagers on my almost-30 face. I also realized skincare regimens weren’t one size fits all. After interviewing some estheticians for a freelance piece I was working on, I knew it was time to branch out on my own.

So, I started experimenting and, more importantly, studying. I used my journo research skills to learn more about ingredients like retinol and vitamin C, procedures like chemical peels and microdermabrasion and how to safely use all these tools so that clear skin now doesn’t mean damaged skin later on. I tried things and made note of the results. I looked for patterns and really got to know my skin (a luxury of underemployment).

It’s a practice I’ve continued. I don’t purchase products on a whim or just because they’re popular online. I do my deep dive before I ever open my wallet. This also applies to the makeup I use, and am trying to use less and less of as I get more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve heard that’s what your thirties are for. Perhaps I’m on my way…

What I’ve learned is my skin will continue to evolve throughout my life, so what works for me now may not be the answer in the next decade. I’ve also become more in-tune to how my diet impacts my complexion (future post on that to come). Spoiler alert: dairy = zits.

Throughout all the ups and downs, my relationship with my skin has been complicated, to put it lightly, and I wish I could say I was kinder to myself during those moments when it seemed my body was turning against me. If it sounds shallow, I can’t really help that — while I know there is far more to a first impression than how we look, it’s an undeniable component of how we introduce ourselves to everyone around us and how we feel. Whatever it means for you to be happy with that outward appearance — if it’s 12 steps or it’s one, that’s just fine.

Whatever the reason(s), my skincare routine now is something that helps me feel ready for the day and prepared to wind down at night. It’s my meditation, and I’m leaning fully into the #selfcare movement, damnit.

However much time or money you choose spend on your skin is the right amount for you. And to all my high-maintenance bitches out there, I salute you (raising a jar of La Mer Eye Concentrate).

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