Friday, April 28, 2017

My skin may not be perfect, but it's nearly free

For years, my skincare regime has been free. Sure, during the teen years, I got pimples and used a range of acne-fighting products, but no single product probably cost more than $6. And then I grew out of that stage, and my skin seemed to have a natural balancing act. Showering daily prevented breakouts. Extreme exercise and sweating occasionally led to a few pimples here and there. I used no face soap and no lotions, except for some Bath & Body Works delicious smelling body lotions, just for fun.
And then as I reached my mid-30s, I realized that natural balancing act of my skin wasn’t really working out as well. Not that my skin was getting oily, but it was getting dry. Everywhere. My face suddenly was aging (though I blame the introduction of children and lack of sleep on that more than anything). I didn’t really feel like I needed daily face moisturizer, but on the two or three days a week I did get a morning shower and remember to put it on, a few people actually complimented me. (I am very suspicious of compliments—I’d rather assume I look OK all the time rather than have someone tell me that on this one particular day I ACTUALLY look good.)
This year for my birthday, I suggested to my brother and my sister-in-law that I needed some new face lotion, and since Julie and I had had a conversation similar to the above-stated paragraph, I thought maybe she would have some insight on a product she could buy me or recommend. But instead, they got me a 3-month subscription to Birchbox, which really surprised me and has been both fun and eye-opening.
If you’re unfamiliar with Birchbox, it’s a subscription service that for $10 a month, will send you 5 sample-sized beauty products. They can tailor the items to you based on a survey you fill out, or you can choose to pick one specific item per month and they supply the rest, but generally you’re getting salon-quality products you haven’t heard of before, and then you can buy a full-size item from them if you’re interested.
These products have been astounding, because I have as much experience with beauty products as an Amish woman. In addition to not buying beauty products, I skip the pages of all my magazines on beauty products (and downright wish that wasn’t a part of what seems like every single magazine geared to women). I’ve been taking my time using my little samples, partially because I don’t always understand what they are, and also because I’m guilty of feeling like I need to “save” my special products for a special occasion. But sometimes that special occasion just needs to be celebrating a shower after skipping one for two days. Or more.
The first product I used was Real Chemistry’s Luminous 3-Minute Peel. I got the kids to bed early, Josh was working late, and it seemed like a girly thing to do: put on a face mask and then pull it off and feel my pores totally cleansed. But this product is a peel, not a mask. Apparently one is not always the other. Instead, this was a gel that you put on a damp face, sort of massage into your skin, let sit for 2 ½ minutes while (using “Real Chemistry”) the gel bonds to your excess proteins (i.e., dead skin) and then you wash it off. Oh. My. Goodness. My skin felt AMAZING afterwards. My neck felt like baby skin. I pulled out the sheet that came with the box to see how much this product costs, imagining myself getting weekly at-home face peels. And the cost is $48. Yeah. Not gonna happen.
I’ve also been using this tiny little bottle of Beauty Protector’s Protect & Detangle. The bottle makes 23 promises on how it improves your hair, but basically it’s a leave-in conditioner/detangler. I like it better than the children’s Suave detangler (in green apple scent) that I was previously using, but this is $23.50 for a full bottle versus $3.99. And it doesn’t even smell like green apple. It smells like a fancy-pants salon, which is not me.
I haven’t used anything from my second box yet, mostly because of their intimidating nature. For example, the amika Nourishing Mask, which the description card says is “packed with sea buckthorn berry (which is chock-full of omegas) and jojoba oil, this paraben-free mask intensely hydrates strands while repairing damage and sealing frayed ends.” A mask for hair? I had no idea. I had to read that one about three times before my brain figured out it was a hair product and not a face product. One of these nights I’ll get around to trying it. There’s also a BB cream, which I feel like I saw a lot of commercials for BB creams during daytime television while at the gym like three years ago, but I’m still not sure what the BB means. Is this a moisturizer? Because that’s what I’ve been looking for. A full-size bottle, at 1.6 ounces, costs $29. But I suppose if it lasts me a full year, as did my last night-time moisturizer (that I usually used a few mornings a week because I don’t even bother to wash my face at night), then that’s probably not so bad. (Though I don’t think 1.6 ounces would last a year.)
For my third and final box, I decided to take advantage of the option to pick one item specifically after they give you descriptions of three possible products you could receive. When I saw this one, I thought it seemed like a good fit. Read this description of Living Proof PhD In-Shower Styler: “Air-drying doesn't mean you have to go product-free. Enhance your strands with this convenient in-shower styling cream that adds texture and definition with magnetic texturizers and cationic resins while also making hair easier to manage without looking or feeling like you put any product in it. Formulated with a hydrophobic resin to control flyaways and the brand's patented thickening molecule, PBAE, for fullness, it gives your locks effortless movement and body that everyone will think is natural.” What are “cationic resins?” What does “PBAE” stand for? I have no idea, but since I do air-dry my hair 99% of the time, I figured I should give it a try.
I don’t mean to knock on anyone who does use beauty products and enjoys them, but I’m just flabbergasted that this is what we’re doing with our science. Can’t these great minds pursue real problems? Are taming hair flyaways and intensely hydrating strands really of utter importance?
It’s been a fun gift, and just crazy to think that there are people out there using $48 dead-skin removal products (and who knows what else!), but it’s not the life for me. When I’m 40, I’ll look 40, and when I’m 50, I’ll probably look 50. But not that phony kind of 50; Real 50. 
I will miss getting these beautiful little boxes

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