Bob Vila Can’t Help You Now

From the previous posts over the last week, you can all tell that I’m pretty much a super fan when it comes to exfoliation. In my thirties, I’ve been afforded the luxury of being able to go a bit easier with it, but in my late twenties, I was still burning through Buf-Pufs like they were going out of style. I was using moisturizer with Alpha Hydroxy Acid in it to try and get even more skin to slough off.

Back then, slow-paced Sundays would be about calling a “spa day.” I would do my nails, put on a clay mask, an exfoliation mask and spend the day basically attempting to pickle myself in the name of not really having anything better to do. Also, in those days, I was keeping a palm sander in my bathroom, as I’d discovered that a nice 120 grit was not a bad idea on heel and toe callouses.

Eventually, two and two got put together.

I stood in the shower, gleefully exfoliating my face with a piece of sandpaper. It felt so tingly! So clean! It was DELICIOUS, I tell you. I could fairly feel my skin being all aglow and free of dead skin cells. I was all proud of myself for my cost-saving and delightfully out-of-the-box thinking. Screw expensive Buf-Pufs! I’ll get my cleansing pads at HOME DEPOT.

When I got out of the shower, my face felt a little hot, so I put on some moisturizer to try to calm it down. Just one problem. I had recently switched from Oil of Olay to a moisturizer with ACID in it.

I think, for a solid minute, all I could see was plaid.

There was just this all-consuming burning, burning that should be written in ALL CAPS. Burning that sent me running into the bathroom to see whether everything was really OK or whether my face was melting off like cheese on a pizza that aims to take a couple layers off the roof of your mouth.

“OK, remain calm. Just get this stuff of your face. Just rinse it off in the shower.”

AHHHH! Hot water!!! More burning!!!
Cold water!! Cold water!!!

I went to bed that night with my face slathered with the Neosporin that also numbs pain. Lying there on my back with my face throbbing, waiting for a couple of Nytol to kick in so I could sleep, I thought “perhaps this was not the best idea.”

When I got up to go to work the next day, I looked like I had spent a day in the sun without sunblock, and felt like it too. This at least gave me a decent and plausible lie for when people asked what had happened. I got too much sun. Yep, that’s the ticket. Too much sun. I certainly did not attack my face with hardware. No, sir.

The burning slowly subsided into my face being like a hard, itchy mask. Despite liberal applications of aloe vera gel, my face peeled off in thick pieces, revealing fragile pink skin that peeked out at me from the crusty, brown, dead skin above. When my entire face had finally peeled down to new, tender growth, it was as smooth as a baby’s butt.

I never sandpapered my face again.

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.