Skin Tips from the Skin Nazi (Part 3: Seriously, Stop Touching Your Face)

Moisturizers

While I love my Kroger brand Fake Oil Of Olay, I don’t have a really strong opinion about what brand you should use. Just promise me the following:

1. You will use something that is oil-free.
2. You will use moisturizer even if you’re greasy. (You need it because of #3.)
3. You will use a moisturizer with an SPF. For the love of God, use something with an SPF. This is quite possibly the only thing more important than exfoliation. (Did I just say that? WHO AM I?!)
4. You will give some thought to a body lotion with an SPF. My hand to God, Lubriderm’s SPF 15 body lotion will not make you feel all gross and oily.

If you get a little peely in the winter, go ahead and get a heavier, non-SPF moisturizer for night. I like Night of Olay, which comes in a little jar that you can later use to store your earplugs so the cats won’t run off with them. Everybody has that problem, right?

While we’re on the topic, if you get peely spots under your eyes, you might want to try Garnier’s Anti-Puff Eye Roller. I question whether it will make your eyes less puffy (and I have yet to meet a product that helps with under eye circles), but it will give you a little moisture so you’ll stop having flakes in your concealer. Also, did I mention exfoliation 100 times yet?

Zit Cream

Pretty much all of the zit creams in the grocery are the same. 10% benzoyl peroxide abounds. Neutrogena’s On the Spot treatment is a bit gentler and good if you have serious acne or abnormally badass dry patches, but for everyday upkeep, “whatever’s on sale” will work for most of us. For the record, I tried ProActiv back in the day and didn’t find that it was any better or worse than my usual arsenal of Neutrogena products.

A word of warning:
Most zit creams are based on benzoyl peroxide. What this means is that you stand a very good chance of bleaching your pillow cases/blankets/etc. if you put your face on them after applying the stuff. I even had it make a bleached spot on my tank top at the gym because I blotted my face sweat. At the very least, buy a couple of white pillow cases so you don’t mess up other people’s stuff when you spend the night or learn to sleep with a hand towel covering your pillow.

Makeup

As with moisturizers, I don’t have any strong opinions about makeup, except that whatever you get should be oil free and preferably contain sunscreen. I like Cover Girl True Match, but that’s mainly because it’s one of the few makeups that comes in my shade: “Super Pasty White Girl Who Wears Lots of Sunblock.”

Don’t touch your face.

OK, look. I know you really, really want to pick at that zit. It’s taunting you. It hurts. But keep your freakin hands off it of it. Picking at zits can cause bruising that’s often worse than the zit was in the first place, and it can even push the contents of the zit down further into the skin, which can cause permanent scarring a la Edward James Olmos. Instead, before you go to bed (and after washing your hands really, really well) put a dab of zit cream right on the zit, let dry, and then go to bed. If you have an old zit that’s in the “dry and peeling off” stage, a little Neosporin will help it along. Just be careful and spot-treat: Neosporin has oil in it, so you don’t want that all over the place.

Don’t let anybody else touch your face.

Finger pads (all finger pads everywhere, all the time, no matter how clean you are) are ridgy little bastards that collect dirt and oil. To add insult to injury, you touch EVERYTHING with said ridgy little bastards. So, don’t let them near your face. I only touch my own face right after a shower and make a conscious effort to not touch anything else (phone, tv remote, computer mouse) with my right hand until I’m done touching my face. So, explain this to your significant other and point out that everybody’s hands are filthy, not just theirs, and then tell them to never, ever touch your face. If they forget and do it anyway, feel free to emit a high-pitched squeal. I hate to be the only one doing it.

Questions!

“Does greasy food mess up skin?”
No. Food grease and face grease have no correlation.

“Will birth control fix my skin? Make it worse?”
This appears to vary for everybody.

“Do I really need to use moisturizer with SPF? I barely go outside.”
Yes. Even if you work in an underground bunker, the amount of sun you’ll get driving to said bunker is enough to cause sun damage.

Skin Tips from the Skin Nazi (Part 2: Exfolation Fan Club)

CleansingIf you have badass acne and need serious oil control, go with the store brand of Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne wash. If you’re in the middle, L’Oreal 360 Clean makes an exfoliating formula that’s really good. If you’re over 30 (drier skin) or broke (360 Clean is 6 bucks when not on sale), just get a bar of Dove. Yep, plain old Dove. This is what the dermatologist told me to use 18 years ago, and I’ve come back to it recently because my skin has dried out a little with age.

Another part of cleansing that’s even more important than your cleanser is how you exfoliate. YES, you must exfoliate. You. Must. Really horrible zits, the ones that are huge and feel like they’re rooted in your spine somewhere, are caused by pores getting clogged by layers of skin. Skin clogging ITSELF. Diabolical, no?

If that’s what you’re working with, you’ll need to take your exfoliating pretty seriously, by scrubbing with a body scrubber or Buf-Puf. If you have normal skin or a few flaky areas, you can buy little exfoliating pads in bags at Target. Each pad is good for about a week before it starts to lose its roughness, and you can always bump up the exfoliation factor by coupling the scrubber with table salt.

If you need/want an astringent between washings, use witch hazel (in the first aid section) instead of some 5-dollar astringent made by Clean and Clear. Most of the name brand astringents are 70% alcohol, which will just dry out your skin and prompt your skin to be greasier than it was in the first place, as opposed to witch hazel, which is usually about 14% alcohol.

Skin Tips from the Skin Nazi, Day 1: Dermatologist Disco

The doctor squats down on his little 3-legged rolling stool. I’m sitting in a chair across the room and he rolls over to me, stopping when his face is about 4 inches from mine. He peers deeply into my nose and cheeks, as if looking for a speck of very important dust that he has misplaced.

“Not too bad right now,” he says, rolling back to a safer distance.

I am seventeen and this has been going on for years. My mother also peers at me from time to time, stopping me while I’m in the middle of saying something to get up in my face and examine my pores. I hear the one thing teenagers don’t get enough of is scrutiny.

As a kid, my skin was never what I considered “THAT bad.” I was small and sort of nerdy, and the best I could hope for was to be invisible. I cared about my grades. Having perfect skin to impress boys was something that seemed like a ridiculous waste of time as compared to getting a scholarship so I could go to school out of state. If my mom hadn’t offered to take me, I probably wouldn’t have ever thought to go to a doctor. I mean, who cared?

Incidentally, I had the same attitude toward makeup. While most girls were lobbying their parents to let them wear “just a little colored lip gloss,” my mom just turned to me one day and said “so, you want to start wearing makeup soon?”

“Huh? Uh, sure. Whatever.”

But you know. No foundation. Foundation was for sluts.

I never thought of myself as someone that people ever looked at. Even when I was in the front row for every dance team performance because of my height, my coach had to mandate French braids. Otherwise, the team’s co-captain (your truly) would have shown up with some kind of sad, low ponytail. As I recall, one of the few times I felt peer pressure in school was when I was pushed into having “mall bangs.”

I just kept my head down and nose clean and focused on my grades. “I don’t need to be pretty. Who cares about pretty? I want to be smart instead. Smart lasts.”

This may explain why, even at 34, I still think my hair kind of sucks. I’m still a little unsettled by compliments about my appearance. My skin and I have made peace, but only cause it’s done such a nice job of not wrinkling. I don’t mind it being so insanely greasy anymore because greasy just means not getting wrinkles. Still, when a friend complimented my skin and asked me what I do to it, I was a tad taken aback. After a few conversations, I realized that 20+ years of having nightmare skin might have resulted in learning a few things that more genetically fortunate people might not have needed to know until now, when aging and hormone shifts cause our skin to change. In the interest of saving you all (and maybe your teen kids) some trouble and sharing what took 20 years of trial and error, I thought we could spend this week going over some Tips From the Skin Care Nazi. Stay tuned!

Your Epidermis Is Showing

I was recently at a get together where a couple of friends were bemoaning being over 30 (or close to it) and still having to worry about their skin. As a knee-jerk reaction, I started to go into a reduced version of my Skin Nazi speech about exfoliation and staying out of the sun. But no. We were on party behavior and I didn’t want to monopolize the conversation, and I figured that this might make a decent blog anyway. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not a dermatologist and the only thing that makes me think I know anything about anything on this subject is having had to deal with it for 18 years. I’m still not breakout proof, but I’m convinced that I’ve learned something.

Cleaning.

I’m not going to tell you that your acne is a result of your face being filthy. Real, badass acne is the result of skin growing over itself, clogging pores. However, if you’re letting your cat walk around all day and then put his paw smack in the middle of your forehead, you’ll get what you deserve.

As far as soaps go, my fave cleanser was Neutrogena’s Oil Free Acne Wash for a long time, but has recently been dethroned by L’Oreal’s 360 Clean (the peach one with bits of exfoliating rock in it). The “scrublet” that comes with it is pretty useless, but you may like it if you find my methods too…harsh.

Exfoliation.

Speaking of harsh methods and acne being caused by skin growing over itself, I wash my face with a Scotch Brite sponge. The green side. You have to be careful with a brand new one, but after a couple days, you can scrub down. Note: I once attempted a night of exfoliation by using fine-grade sandpaper in the shower. It felt wonderful in the shower, but later my face felt like it was on fire. Then, it got crusty and peeled like a mid-grade sunburn. Sexy. There’s also something to be said for a good peel-off mask. My fave is the cucumber one made by Freeman.

Face Touching.

Don’t do it. Fingertips are havens for dirt and oil, even if you did just wash your hands. You can usually get away with letting other things touch your face (elbows, windows, plastic cutlery), but for the love of God keep the fingertips away. As I have said to many a dude, “it’s not that I think YOUR hands are filthy…it’s that I think ALL hands are filthy. I don’t even touch my OWN face unless I just got out of the shower.”

Picking.

I am a realist. I know you’re going to do it sometimes. Thus, in the tradition of the free condom giveaway, I’ll just say “if you’re going to do it, be safe about it.” Make sure your hands are freakishly clean. Don’t go on suicide missions. “Suicide Missions” here being attempting to pop something that is too far below the surface. At best, you’ll end up bruising your face, making the zit look worse. At middle, you’ll end up causing irritation that will make the zit’s life longer. At worst, you’ll push the pore clog further down and cause pock marks. You’re better off just exfoliating a lot and waiting for that thing to get closer to the surface.

Moisturizing.

Even if you have the world’s greasiest skin (and you don’t, because I DO), you should use a moisturizer. It gives the ladies a good base for makeup, usually supplies SPF, and may or may not discourage skin from producing its own oil. My fave is generic Oil of Olay basic stuff with SPF 15, and in the summer it’s a thin coating of Neutrogena’s Age Shield Face SPF 110.

Zit Cream.

My fave is Neutrogena’s On The Spot Treatment, but using it means accepting that it will bleach your pillowcases. I’m also not above using Neosporin on a zit that has died and dried up, but not yet peeled off. No, really, could this blog get any sexier?

De-Greasing.

What about in between showers? If your skin isn’t super oily, witch hazel and a cotton ball is a good idea because witch hazel contains a lot less alcohol than most astringents and won’t dry you face out. However, since I have the aforementioned World’s Greasiest Skin, I do a 50/50 suicide of witch hazel and alcohol.

Don’t Smoke. Stay out of the sun.

OK, this isn’t about zits. It’s just free advice. In the long term, smoking will age you faster (one site said 30% faster, but that seems questionable, even to me). Sun will also give you wrinkles, and enough sun damage will give you age spots later on.

So, my pretties, go forth and be…pretties. Just don’t exfoliate with sandpaper. Trust me.

Consumer Reports: Patterson House

We spend our entire childhoods sitting around fantasizing about all the cool stuff we’d be doing, if only we could drive and didn’t live with our parents. Then, we grow up and find out that adulthood is just shorthand for “people keep sending you bills, the cat puked on the rug, and the woman in your office thinks 80 degrees is room temperature.” Well, ok. You can eat cookies for breakfast and then call your mom to tell her all about it. “Hey, mom, I just called to say that I’m lying in bed, eating Lucky Charms with no milk. Love you! Bye!”

Being an adult also allows you to go to bars like Patterson House. It feels strange to even call this place a bar, though. It’s not smoky, not filthy, not filled with Tool Academy rejects and not a place where you have to throw your breasts on the bar to get a drink.

The foyer has shelves of books accessorized with lists of rules such as “preserve the sexy” (the dress code) and “no shenanigans.” Once you make it past the foyer (it may be a while, especially on a Saturday), you’ll be seated by a hostess and presented with an embossed, ribbon-tied menu.

The drinks in that menu are made with a certain level of pride and class. They’re sorted by flavor and designed to work with the alcohol, not in spite of it. In short, this is not a place you go to get drunk and exchange numbers with people (another of the rules is that guys aren’t supposed to talk to females unless the females speak first). This is a place to go and have an experience that happens to involve alcohol. Taste and experience is the endgame, not getting trashed.

As you may have guessed by now, all this means that the drinks cost a little more, but not much. A drink that would cost you 8 bucks at the Red Door is about 11 at Patterson House. That’s if you could get a Winter Sidecar at Red Door, which you can’t. Besides, you don’t drink a Winter Sidecar in a PBR-themed room while being pelted with Led Zeppelin and cigarette smoke. It would be wrong.

Because I’m a goth stereotype, I got something called Corpse Reviver #2. It’s not a Patterson House specialty drink, so technically it would be possible to get it at a regular bar, but I doubt that it would be the same. It’s citrusy and a bit like a punch in the face, but has a slight licorice aftertaste because of a smidge of Absinthe.* It’s a bit like a Blue Valium’s more interesting cousin. No, wait. It makes a Blue Valium look like a stripper who’s going to community college to learn data entry.

Aside from specialty drinks which will make you want to return several times so you can taste them all, the menu has some food. No chili cheese fries and nachos, my friends, but there are s’mores and sammiches. The cinnamon donuts we ordered were slightly crispy outside, hot and soft inside, and fairly akin to touching the hand of God.

Now that I’ve told you about the wonders of Patterson House (who, by the way, should let me do their web site), let’s make a deal. You guys will agree to not flood the place at times when I want to go, and I’ll agree to go early to avoid standing in the foyer for an hour. Deal?

*So the goth folk won’t bombard me with similar comments, I’ll point out that American absinthe is really just anise-flavored liquor. If you want thujone/wormwood, you’ll have to have it shipped in from Europe.

Consumer Reports: Gigi’s Cupcakes

For somebody who doesn’t make cake for a living and doesn’t really get excited about food in general, I sure care a lot about cake. I don’t need an occasion. I don’t need candles. I’m a little racist against ice cream cakes, but who isn’t? Then again, ice cream cake is still a dessert (if not actually a cake), so it is my friend…or at least my frenemy.

Given my love for all things sugary, several people have asked if I’d had a cupcake from Gigi’s. Jen and I had meant to go, but never got around to it, which was probably just as well. Gigi’s makes different flavors everyday, so there was the potential that I would become like a kid collecting Pokemon: I’d have to taste all of them. It could be dangerous. Like locking Christian Audigier in a room with glitter and a glue gun.

Alas, Audigier did get his glitter (thus giving the world Ed Hardy) and I got some cupcakes. I only ate half of one. See? I was good. Ish.

The cupcake in question was red velvet with a creamy vanilla filling. I won’t tell you my exact words, but I may have compared the filling to a substance that would be expelled by the son of God in a moment of joy. Since the cupcake itself was so soft and moist (this keeps getting more and more unladylike), I held mine by the icing. The icing had a little crust on it after sitting until evening, so it was totally holdable.

After nomming through the red/creamy goodness of the bottom, I was left with a palm full of cake icing. A palm full of cake icing. That sounds like something I would want engraved on my tombstone. “Here’s lies (evil)amy: lover of a palm full of cake icing.” It was delicious, and so sweet it made my dental work scream a little. “Oh my God…I think I need to be alone with this cupcake for a moment.”

As I was telling my mom of this wonderfulness, I looked up the Gigi’s in Lexington, KY. “Mom, you’re so screwed. It’s two streets from your house.”

“I’ll have to check that out sometime. Do they have carrot cake? Wait, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”

“Tomorrow is carrot cake day.”

“Oh, well, I have to get a cataract removed, and Kelly is driving me. Maybe some other time.”

“I bet Kelly likes cupcakes.”

“Stop it!”

(Cupcake day schedule is available at Gigi’s site.)

Sun Maid Raisins: pandering to the cyborg demographic.

As design becomes more aand more computerized, corporations (in their “slower than molasses” way) have been shaking the dust from their old logos and moving into “LOGO 2.0!”

Days Inn changed their old-school 70s sun to a “rays and gradients” affair which will probably eventually look as dated as…well, the old-school 70s sun. Still, a fake reflection or a sun ray never gave anyone nightmares. It’s not like they gave the sun a face and rendered it in CGI or anything.

Exhibit A: Sun Maid Raisins’ packaging from 1915, featuring a drawing of an actual person (her name was Lorraine Collett).

A couple more revisions took place in 1923, 1956; she’s starting to look a little demonic…

…but Sun Maid pulled their butts out of the “I make raisins, but also kind of want to eat your brains” fire in 1970, when they pur forth the maid that most of us know:

Does she look a little like a Geisha on Wellbutrin? Well, yeah, but the only thing that’s a bit freaky and 70s is that sun in the background. But wait! I promised you unsettling CGI nightmare monsters, and I intend to keep my promises. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to Sun Maid 2K! She has a freakishly large mouth! Arms made of plastic! Boobs from Soul Calibur!

She’s doing yoga, for Christ’s sake. Yoga in a BONNET. She’s even made her way into a commercial which, from the looks of the mouth modeling, is either a cut scene from Fable or a final project of someone who went to Nossi.

Xi, Axe and Jib

There are two kinds of Scrabble players in the world: the “if” people and the “is” people. The “if” people stare angrily at their letters, thinking of 7-letter words they could spell if they just had I-N-G. The “is” people do their best with the letters they’ve got, getting by on the crafty use of 3-letter words and multiplier squares.

I learned a little something about Scrabble during the time I spent working at Vanderbilt. The place was a huge machine, where it took five powerful people getting in the same room to fire a person. As a result, I spent five years at a job that I, with my German sense of efficiency, boiled down to one hour out of eight. What did I do with the extra seven hours of my day? I played a lot of Scrabble.

Unfortunately, the same five powerful people decided when to give raises. In the way that they could never agree that I was pointless, they could also never agree to give me more money. Even I didn’t have the balls to ask for a raise. It’s hard to feel entitled when a skit about your at-work backgammon habit is performed at the office Christmas party.

As a result of my years at Vanderbilt, I am now a person who doesn’t play Scrabble with friends. I play Scrabble with people who have pissed me off. I’m an “is” player. I’ll xi, axe, and jib your ass to death.

What I’m getting at is that, while it’s all well and good to be able to lay down “slaying” or “jazzed,” the game of Scrabble isn’t about what you could spell. It’s about what you can spell.

This came up years ago when record companies were approaching new media by suing the hell out of college kids. Now, as magazines and newspapers are soiling themselves and going out of business because of bloggers, paper costs and current lack of ad sales, we’re all running around like chickens, praying to jump onto the Next Big Thing before it’s over. I call this “MySpacing.” It’s cool for a while, but the party can only be so big and so fun before somebody invites some douchebags who come and puke into your return air vent. In the case of MySpace, it got overrun by friend requests from bands (are you also being stalked by Ligion?), corporations and people who over-customized their pages so hard that viewing the page crashes the browser. (PS: we hate you, we don’t want to watch all those damn videos, and you definitely shouldn’t have set them all to auto-play.)

Magazine industry, take a lesson. Suing people and whining isn’t going to change a market that has already changed without you. Hire some people who are entertaining and informative (or keep the ones you have), build a user-friendly site, and put all the crap that anyone would want to know in one place. Then encourage linking. Don’t hoard your stuff. It’s pointless anyway, because your kids are probably more computer-literate than you. Make it easy for people to link you and give you credit. If you really want to get crazy, hire someone to track the trackbacks, and have that tracker give props to everybody who gave you props. Hey, if there’s anything bloggers love more than making fun of Speidi, it’s validation. I know, this will mean validating people you not-so-secretly hate and mock. Suck it up.

You’ll have to pay developers and maybe designers (but you’ll probably just hire developers who THINK they’re designers…no one’s bitter), but you won’t have to pay for paper or shipping. From the looks of the graphic design industry, you’re all starting to get wise to this, because you’re firing all of my friends.

As for me, I am done shaking my fist at people who think that web development and web design are the same discipline (aside from the bitchy comment in that last paragraph). I can point out the douchiness of the “design is development” assumption all day, and it’s not going to change the market. The market wants what it wants. So, in the vein of music and magazines, I’m going to evolve. I’m going to become a developer.

I’m going to xi, axe and jib your ass to death.

Unless, of course, you hire me. That alone will save you 😉

2008 Spending Stats

As I was doing my taxes on Sunday, going through my big Excel spreadsheet where I keep all of my checking and credit card transactions, I thought of a fun experiment. A couple bounced checks in my college years led to my current semi-obsessive record-keeping via Excel. I’m not as diligent about this as my dad would be, but I haven’t bounced a check in over a decade (unless you count that time that I forgot a decimal point online and accidentally tried to pay $23,462 on my student loans). By the way, if I HAD paid $23,462 on my student loans, they STILL wouldn’t be paid off, but that’s a whole other Oprah show.

I thought it might be fun to graph out everything just to see where the fuck my money is going. Like, do I really spend too much money at restaurants? Which did I spend more on? Gas or food? These are the burning questions posed by the Excel spreadsheet. I left off all of the one-time house expenses, like closing costs and down payment, because they were skewing the data and I don’t buy a house every year (thank god).

I was stoked to find that I only owed 58 bucks on my taxes, even after counting the freelance work. This is good, because the money in my savings account may be needed in the next few months. That’s my “omgwtf” money, and it’ll help me survive without having to cash out my other 401k, also known as my “omgwtfBBQ” money.

Conclusion: I spend a little more on mortgage than I ought to (Suze Orman or somebody says this should be 25% and mine is 28%), but I only spent about 300 bucks on clothes, and I spend much more at Kroger than I do at restaurants, so I guess that’s good. Also, the student loan and car payments can still bite me. (Click the small pic to see the big pic.)