I used to have good skin. It was clear and smooth and soft. I never really did anything to it-- you know, washed it with a little soap and water, put on some sunscreen, when I remembered. Many of my friends and both of my sisters suffered with at least some acne, but I was already dealing with buck teeth, thick eyeglasses and a mop of mousy, frizzy hair, so I suspect the gods of puberty took pity on me and just let the skin thing slide by. Did I mention that I grew up in Southern California? In sunny, beachy Orange County, where the high school hallways featured surfer chicks and cheerleaders fit for the life-sized posters that junior high school boys had on the inside of their bedroom doors. Oh yeah, the rest of us were there too.
Back then, I was just glad that I didn't have to contend with dermatological woes on top of everything else. I had a friend who went twice a week to get UV treatments where she lay on a table as pulses of purplish light were aimed at her already scarred cheeks. Another got steroid shots on the days she wasn't getting her braces tightened and restrung with fresh rubber bands. Several of my friends started taking birth control pills as freshmen, ostensibly to stop the raging hormones that caused their tremendous acne, but really, who knew? All of them also layered on copious amounts of concealer and foundation which gave the illusion of smooth skin until about the end of second period, when the makeup started to smear onto their cowl-neck sweaters (yep, it was the '80's), leaving an unsightly, but obvious line right along their chins. I didn't wear make-up, because, by some cruel trick, make-up was the one thing that made my skin break out. I didn't even wear mascara, because just when my mom would finally let me out of the house with it on, my parents also finally let me get contact lenses, and the ophthalmologist made swear I wouldn't wear eye make-up. The lenses did less than I thought they would to minimize the impact of my mouth full of impressive orthodontia and my still frizzy and uncontrollable hair. On the upside, the dents that had been forming on the bridge of my nose from the heavy glasses I'd worn since seventh grade did start to disappear by the time my senior picture was taken.
A year after high school, I had my oldest son, and two years later, my second. I guess I can spin that little bit of personal history positively by noting that, with contacts and straightened teeth, my frizzy hair didn't keep me from finding a boy friend. I don't think I thought much about my skin again until my boys were in high school, and I found out that teen-aged boys are as deeply invested in the smoothness of their skin teen-aged girls are. I still never really did anything to my skin, and even if I'd had beauty products, the boys were using the medicine chest shelves for face-wash and medicated acne pads, zit cream, and so forth. They had to, because I don't recall anyone suggesting that the boys try birth control to improve their skin. As their mother, I have to say they've both grown up to be very nice-looking men, basically unscathed, at least by the acne.
Lately though, with grown-up children and age fifty on the horizon, I've noticed that my skin just isn't the same. And by not the same, I mean not young. Actually, I mean old. My skin is no longer fresh or smooth or even naturally blushed like it used to be. It's wrinkled and seems thicker and kinda blotchy and just, you know, not the same. The skin dial has spun from "low maintenance" to "shrieking cry for help" and I didn't even realize it was happening. Of course, I know the answer to any personal problem like this is shopping, and this has lead me to stalk the skincare aisle of department and drug stores near my home.
But here's a crazy thing I'm noticing as I peruse the well-stocked shelves at my local retailers. It's not about maintenance anymore, it's all about repair. Daytime repair, nighttime repair, hydrating repair, color-correcting repair. There are thirty or forty moisturizing creams, as well as freezing creams, sculpting creams, and firming creams. And everything that comes as a cream is also available as a serum, whatever that is. The boxes and jars carry adjectives like intense, transformative, regenerative, and revitalizing. Am I alone in feeling like a science project when I look at this stuff? Or worse, like a dilapidated house in need of remodeling. There are fillers and sealers and resurfacers and restructurers. Shouldn't these products should come with some kind of a tool kit? Or maybe a construction crew, because damn, I really need to get some serious work done. Just thinking about it stresses me out and makes me tired. And I know that's not good for my skin!
I think I did notice something called "blur" cream on the shelf crowded with anti-aging lotions and potions. That actually sounds like a friendly alternative to all the heavy artillery we've been talking about. But I don't need a cream for that: I'll just remove my current pair of thick glasses whenever I'm in front of the mirror: Voila! instant anti-aging.
Image is from this blog.