Should I pity the women who lived prior to the now and the near now, I wonder? How did they deal with the unimaginable tragedies of dry skin and aging? They weren’t nearly as blessed as we are vis a vis the available choices to deal though I don’t remember Laura Ingalls devoting any space to the topic in the Little House books.
I imagine it was bear grease or some domestic type of goo until Pond’s appeared on the scene. But no site-specific lotions, no activated serums, no peptides, no line up of little bottles on the bathroom counter separated into day and night. No nine-step protocols, no jade rollers, no skin needling.
I can’t help but wonder if we’re better off; does obsessing over texture and lines improve the quality of our lives? It improves the quality of the skin, but how much energy should I be putting into that endeavour? There’s a line between self-care and self-indulgent vanity and we are regularly encouraged to cross it.
I had a shower this morning which is a win when you’re depressed. Actual soap was used, and grooming occurred. I even lathered up the loofa with some rejuvenating cream that promises to unring aging’s bell on the body skin I’m told by advertisers I regularly neglect.
Post-shower, I wanted coffee. I was a little behind my self-imposed schedule having stayed in bed ‘til the indulgent hour of seven. Rather than a wake-up hour sipping java in front of the computer, I jumped into the shower without, something I was seeking to remedy.
I dried off, dressed myself with great speed, and hustled to the kitchen. So intent was my focus that I forgot the next steps. I forgot the eye cream and the vitamin C serum and the little ampule of peptides that do something or other and the moisturizer.
I didn’t remember for a solid hour. I finally felt a bit of tightening around the eyes, recalled the abandoned protocol, and scampered down the hall to address the issue.
Creams applied and skin rolled, I stepped back and gave the matter some thought. The tight feeling was gone, and I look better for sure, but do I look four-products and a facial massage better? Granted, I’m not a top-of-the-line La Mer consumer but I’m not dollar store mystery products either. But I started to wonder: does the cost of the grease make that much of a difference? Would things be the same if I switched over to an eight-dollar bargain jar? Will the peptides work better if they come in an over-priced albeit pretty, pink bottle?
I wonder if the now-ubiquitous facial routine is like smoking. You’re not an addict because you smoke, you smoke because you’re an addict. I wonder, do I use so many products because I have dry-ish skin, or do I have dry-ish skin because I use so many products? It’s probably not totally that, but I bet there’s an element.
I think about my mother’s skin and my grandmother’s skin and the effort they put in and the results they had. My grandmother had decent skin until she died, and my mother looks very good for her age, and their routines were bare-boned indeed. It’s wash with soap and a washcloth and moisturize with the cream that was on sale. A relatively green routine before that was even a thing.
My mom and I went to a beauty-night at one of the local drug stores recently, one of those things that are a cross between a fun night out and a hard sell by representatives from a variety of product lines.
The lovely people at Biotherm flagged us down to offer a technical-looking skin analysis. Using a handheld scanner, they’d measure a variety of skin characteristics and tell us what we needed to do to improve. Luckily and shockingly coincidentally, they offer products that match every discovered problem.
My mother’s skin routine is, as mentioned, two steps. Wash. Moisturize. She doesn’t tone. She doesn’t prep. She doesn’t treat. Not even an eye-specific cream. You’d think Biotherm’s little scanner would ring the alarm. Instead, it came up empty. No problems. Nothing to suggest. Her skin is in great shape. Yes, there are wrinkles – she’s seventy-six – but you really couldn’t ask for a better review. Mine wasn’t nearly as good for all that I dabble with multistep programs.
There are real changes to the skin as you age. Some of it is dependent – lifestyle, diet, heredity, and personal habits (do you smoke?) factor in – and some of it is genetic; the same things happen to everyone, more or less. The fat deposits under your facial skin disappear as you age. Skin loses elasticity as collagen and elastin decrease. The epidermis thins, leaving the skin more transparent. Skin becomes more fragile and easily bruised, a consequence of the dermis and epidermis compressing over time.
But I wonder about the length women go to address these changes and if we’d look significantly different if we stopped listening to face cream companies and simplified our routines. Do we really look so much better than the women of yore of comparable socio-economic status, for all the time and money we spend?
Men’s facial skin fares a bit better in the aging stakes. It’s the beard. Or rather, the removal thereof. The regular facial shaving men engage in provides a nice daily massage (this would suggest I’m on the right track with the roller). It helps lubricate the tissues and stimulates collagen production. But men age too. And they’re getting generationally less hairy, so this benefit is ceasing to be as relevant. Why then aren’t there equally expensive and borderline compulsory facial treatment programs for men to stave off the scourge of advancing years and deepening wrinkles? Why don’t men need a nine-step program? Of course, as companies expand, men are being more enthusiastically targeted.
I know the people selling the creams swear theirs are the best and the results will be better than with any other brand. They offer lots of comparative evidence and before and after photos which show remarkably little difference.
The sales pitches work though. They work because plastic pollution in the oceans is bad, the rising number of homeless people is bad, struggles with our spouses and children are bad, and life is hard and challenging and unfixable. The problems of black circles under the eyes and dry skin on the neck, on the other hand, seem surmountable especially given cosmetics firms’ commitments to ensuring us that is the case.
It’s not that I don’t believe we should care for ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to look after our bodies. We owe it to ourselves to look after our spirit. Selfcare, grooming, and attending to our appearance gives us a lift, a bit of a boost. We’re biologically programmed to try and put forth the best versions of ourselves, after all. But should it really captivate so much of our worry, time, attention, and money?
And I’m not fully convinced of the efficacy. I suspect that the increase in time and money spent versus how things were fifty years ago is not reflected in a proportionate improvement in appearance.
But I still ordered the new hyaluronic acid from Amazon.
Do you believe more expensive products are inherently better than cheaper ones? Is name-brand something you value?