Crawling back to Retin-A

I went off Retin-A close to my wedding, because I couldn’t guarantee a flake-free face for my big day no matter how careful I tried to be.

So why am I crawling back to my frenemy prescription now, when winter’s flaky dryness is just around the corner? Because I miss my best-ever pore cleanser! Sure, I don’t miss the flaky scaly feeling, but I’ve been in breakout city lately. (I think this is largely because I’m using crappier stuff to try and save money and not waste existing products and samples, plus I’ve been horrendously lazy about skincare and beauty ever since the wedding.) I want a faster track to clear skin, since I feel like pores that never used to get clogged are now exacting their revenge on me. Nothing has ever worked as well as The Big A in the past.

I’m not sure how long this fling will last, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a whirl now that no big important events are on the horizon. Hopefully if I get a bit more aggressive with the physical exfoliation, too, my angry pores will chill out by next year.

Here are the major tips I have for making Retin-A work for you!

-Don’t forget to amp up the sunscreen when using Retin-A! When your skin is unnaturally exfoliated, that newer tender skin is extremely photosensitive. Use a good high PPD option like Burnout.

-Wait at least 30 minutes between washing your face and applying the stuff! Even with the supposedly gentler microsponge version is still very prone to causing red, peeling, flaky skin if it’s applied while there’s still moisture in your skin. Plus, it’s more easily absorbed into the blood stream if you apply it on still-damp skin, and this can result in liver toxicity.

-Don’t ever, ever use it during the daytime! Because of the photosensitivity I mentioned in point 1, this is just a no-no. Retin-A is a nighttime only treatment, and your face must be thoroughly cleansed of it the next morning.

-Be consistent, but don’t be overzealous. Retin-A will always catch you in a bad cycle if you apply one day out of four. However, in the very beginning, it can be good to back off and go every other day — just make sure to be CONSISTENT about every other day, even if you’re a bit flaky or dry in the process. Every time you quit for more than a one-day gap, you’re setting yourself waaaay back on the Retin-A adjustment clock. Keep at it and you WILL get through to the happy skin phase eventually.

-Consider diluting or protecting your skin. If you find that your skin reacts poorly to Retin-A no matter how closely you follow these tips, then consider moisturizing with a very heavy/occlusive cream before applying the stuff, or consider diluting your Retin-A with a bit of heavy or oily moisturizer. (I actually found an oil- and wax-based balm called Surfer’s Salve that blends nicely with my Retin-A — I blend during the first few nights when my skin is getting used to the treatment, and then I ease off. And my dermatologist uses Cetaphil lotion.)

Best of luck to all of you beauties battling winter skin issues!

The post-marital fuglies

Well, the big day has finally come and gone! The day was lovely, but now it’s time to get ugly. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t view marriage as an excuse to completely let myself go or anything. But this wedding has involved an INSANE amount of primping and stress and spending on our parts, and my new husband and I will both be pleased to relax a bit now that the show is over. (Though we DID both get spa treatments on our honeymoon!)

Non-beauty inevitabilities that I officially welcome back into my life:

Yellow teeth
— those Crest 3D WhiteStrips HURT! And my teeth look just fine all normal-colored, thank you very much.
Dry cuticles and unkempt nails — Sometimes you gotta be lazy!
Acne AND bacne — thanks for holding out for so long, epidermis! You can even throw some KP my way if you must.
Tan lines — gone are the days of swaddling myself in a goddamn cashmere wool wrap in 96 degree weather just to keep my back and shoulders line-free! OK, I still wear it sometimes as it’s great sunscreen and looks lovely — but I no longer feel OBLIGATED to wear it rain or shine.
Mosquito bites — I’m amazed you guys didn’t cover me in pink welts before the big day. Thanks, buddies! Have at it. I will tackle you with prescription-strength steroid cream and continue to catch you easily mid-flight.

Things I now bid adieu to for the foreseeable future:

Bustiers/corsets with boning — GOD PLEASE THE HORROR. I still have a scar from where it poked at me all night, from BEFORE the wedding! Boning is bullshit.
Spanx — I can finally both digest and breathe, to say nothing of going to the bathroom in a reasonable time frame.
Heels — OW.  At 5’11” I’m done with that discomfort for a WHILE. (Though I’ll probably dye and keep my 2.5″ Jimmy Choo and/or Angela Nuran wedding heels, and re-wear them eventually!) But as of right now, I can’t feel the outer edge of my damn big toes because of my wedding-day footwear worn for a mere 2 hours. *&^@$@#! heels!
Manis/pedis — I gotta start saving my money again, and plus, I kind of miss my OWN neglected polish shades! And no more dremel for a while. Nails on a chalkboard. And no more soaking my fingers in acetone for ages to get the tough gel polish off.
Makeup artists — I love being pampered and all, and Carina and Swink both did an amazing job — I just kind of miss looking like ME. I normally never do foundation or blush, my eye makeup never looks as perfect as theirs, and I’m just *used to* my own shades and formulations. Plus it took like a year to get my false lashes off, and a few real ones came with each cluster. QQ Owie!

The fall of Horst Rechelbacher

My GOD does Aveda suck now. I mean, this isn’t exactly news to my regular readers, but they’ve sucked for quite some time now — right around the time that good old Aerin.  One of the ways in which they deviated from their original glory is to start offering BS marketing ploys, namely the Pure Privilege system. (Privilege my ass, when I have to pay $10 to enroll.)

Turns out this system has a teensy catch — your points expire if you don’t use the account frequently enough.  So, even though I paid my $10 for this privilege, I’m about to have my account shut down and my existing points voided.  Why is this, you ask?  Because Aveda has literally not made a SINGLE product that I can or would use, in the past TWO YEARS.

And it’s not for lack of trying, trust me.  Back when they came out with their Smoothing Collection a couple years ago, I bought the shampoo and conditioner duo to give it a try.  And it wasn’t totally horrible — it kind of made my scalp freak out, like most dimethicone-heavy smoothing formulations do — but it delivered similar results to that holiest of hair grails for me, the Redken All Soft collection.  However, it smelled so incredibly foul that even my fiancé begged me to return it!

And recently, I returned to the scene of the crime to try and buy a tiny trial-sized item just to activate my account, and I of course got into a discussion with the Aveda sales gal about the company’s downfall and crappy products.  (I can never keep my mouth shut when they start to pry or go for a hard sale.) She badgered me into buying a bottle of the Style Prep Smoother, which had a different but still bleh smell, and which TOTALLY did not work on my coarser, wavier hair.  WAY too much cetyl alcohol content for a leave-in product — it dried out my ends like crazy, despite the fact that she swore it made her hair more moisturized.  And shockingly, I hated it and returned that too.

So what’s a girl to do?  I went down to the local Aveda today since they’re having yet another Double Points Extravaganza!!! event, and I went with the intention of actually making a purchase that I would keep.  Yes, lately I’ve been missing having a salicylic acid-based acne spot treatment, so I went with the intention of checking out their relatively new acne line.  Well, my faithful three readers, guess what I discovered?

Every single acne product contains dimethicone — one of the MOST comedogenic ingredients that acne-prone people fear.  OH my GOD, how the mighty have fallen.  You can have your expired Pure Privilege points, Horst/Aerin.  I know it took me a long time to finally break things off with you, but it is SO OVER now!

Borrowing from Bare Escentuals

I recently caught wind of the Rare Minerals acne-fighting mineral powder concealer by Bare Escentuals, and now I see that it’s been voted a Sephora best-of.

I’ve always wanted to avoid anything by BE, since they are notorious for including the chemical bismuth oxychloride in their formulations.  (Many people are quite allergic to bismuth, and it causes a rash-like reaction that takes ages to clear up.  I’m not eager to find out whether I should count myself in those ranks or not!)  And bismuth aside, this stuff definitely has some other ingredients (like dimethicone) that would aggravate my breakouts.

However, the idea of making a powder concealer that contains acne-fighting ingredients definitely intrigues me.  I’ve been trying to figure out a good BHA solution for ages and ages, and concealers that help dry up and bust blemishes definitely appeal to me.  And since my problem with salicylic acid was always figuring out how to get it to dissolve in a liquid base, the idea of being able to leave it in its powdered form is a definite bonus!

I’m going to try this out with my Everyday Minerals concealer set.  I’ll mix the shades that best match my skin for covering blemishes, and I’ll add a few drops of manuka essential oil (gentler than BE’s tea tree oil, and less stinky), and a bit of powdered salicylic acid.  I may also try adding some powdered zinc oxide, both for extra sun protection and for its soothing properties.  (I just have to make sure it doesn’t lighten the mix too much.)

If I can track some down, I might also add powdered sulphur, since that’s the acne-fighting ingredient that always shows me great results on individual blemishes.  However, sulphur’s smell really turns my stomach, so it may be worth while to leave that out of the mix.  It looks like I’ll be making up to four different batches to test this idea out, so I’ll post updates soon.  Thanks for the great idea, BE!

Chronicles of a Skin-Flayer, Part I

So I was finally able to try out my new Clarisonic last night.  I didn’t really want to internalize all the information about how to program it to scrub at different speeds or for different lengths of time, so I kind of just plugged it in and hit go.  My first impression?  …Underwhelmed.

I used the thing on my forehead, nose, chin and cheeks like it suggested, but I guess I was expecting it to be “scrubbier.”  Instead, it’s fairly gentle, and kind of tickles — the same way the Sonicare toothbrush did before I got used to it.  It was particularly ticklish to use it on my nose, as the vibrations kind of resonate even more through the bony bridge… but it wasn’t unbearably ticklish, just kind of odd.

When the auto-cycle was done, I wound up firing it up and using it for another couple minutes, because it didn’t feel like I needed to “take a break” or anything.  And I didn’t even get to my neck or decolette, so I think I’ll try using it in the shower today to see how badly it tickles my throat.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it feels so, well, subtle — the company (and many users) specifically point out that it’s less irritating than traditional “scrubbing” forms of exfoliation.  And I definitely do feel a result the next day — my dry, patchy Retin-A-crazy skin feels smoother and more eve and calm.

I can tell it’s going to take some time to really get a feel for how this thing does, and what kinds of results it produces.  For now, I’m hanging on to the receipt just in case… but I suspect I’ll fall in love with it sometime soon.  I’ll keep you posted!

Dr. Hauschka Pure Care Cover Stick vs. Cover Stick Puncto

Dr. Hauschka recently released the new Pure Care Cover Stick in the US, but I only realized today that it’s meant as a replacement for their old Cover Stick Puncto. Had I realized this, I probably wouldn’t have purchased it — the old Puncto went bad on me surprisingly quickly, and the color was never quite right. (I’m much too pale for an 02, but just a shade too dark for an 01.)

I bought the Pure Care in 01 to try it out and see if it’s any better with my coloring than the Puncto was, but they look like they’re exactly the same. And they feel the same. And they smell the same. The only real difference seems to be the packaging — which is good, really, as it *does* expose the product to less oxygen, so theoretically it might protect it better from going bad.

Either way, I was pleased to learn today that my local Whole Foods allows you to return any cosmetics or skincare product you try and don’t like, as long as you keep the receipt. This actually really surprises me, but I’m thrilled — especially since they foolishly don’t have testers for many of their products. So I’ll be returning this, and thus returning to my Great Concealer Search.