Skin Care

This is the story of just how incredibly spoiled I am. I’ve decided that this blog can contain multitudes, and sometimes I am an earnest loser of friends, sometimes I am a graphic giver of birth, and other times I am a lover of beauty and glamour. So here we are.

My first office job was as an intern in the beauty department at the late, great, McCall’s Magazine, after my freshman year of college. A high school friend’s mom was the editor-in-chief (Hi, Sally!) and a fellow UW Badger, and somehow, for not many good reasons at the time- I was callow and silly but maybe charming, and her son liked me which may have been all that mattered- she offered the internship to me. How lucky was I? Extraordinarily.

I showed up to work for two elegant, impossibly pretty and well-groomed women. One of them, the Beauty Editor, was married and petite and blond. She was sharp, organized, and kind. The other, the Assistant Beauty Editor, was single and petite and dark. She was dreamy, organized, and kind. She once told me with an utter lack of guile that her goal was to marry a rich man. And so she did! She was fascinating- a real life Charlotte, two years before Sex and the City came out.

It was the summer of 1996, and there was not a computer to spare. I’m not sure we even had email; I did have a phone and a chair at a small desk attached to the cubicle. A bit of a dogsbody, I ran errands, organized things, and generally hung about two or three days a week, in the beautiful offices on lower Fifth Avenue near 17th Street. Once, I lent my hands to a photo shoot on natural ways to take care of your nails. The neighborhood was not yet a shopping destination as it is now, but was very close to Reminiscence, at the time one of my favorite vintage stores, and not too far from Pat Field either, my very favorite store besides Bendel’s.

So, with my sparkly raver backpack, my Cynthia Rowley seersucker shift dress, and my Charles Jourdan platforms, I had the fashion piece down. My big take away from that summer was skincare. Working on beauty stories in a book aimed at a not-so-young crowd imprinted one word on my brain and that was MOISTURIZER. It probably should have been SUNSCREEN. But I was, and am, a sun worshipper, unfortunately. And chemical sunscreens make me break out like no tomorrow.

In any case, I was pretty lucky to learn the moisturizer lesson so young, because my skin is now pretty good for someone so old! (Ok not SO old, but very middle aged.) In the days past, those of my earlier, pre-internship teens, I had developed a reliance on four products which at the time were the absolute be-all, end-all. They were, in no order: Noxzema, which I slathered on and used like a mask (Oh, the tingling!); Sea Breeze astringent which I sometimes splashed on like aftershave (Oh, the tingling!); Clearasil Salicylic Acid Pads (Oh, the tingling!); and to crown off the whole routine, Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, which I might now argue was neither dramatic, nor different, nor even very moisturizing, and which I stole from my mother’s enormous free-gift-with-purchase-at-Bloomingdales stash. As a result, my face was very shiny, very oily, rather irritated and prone to the occasional enormous zit. This zit loved the end of my not-small-nose. It was a witchy situation. Oh, the tingling! Thankfully, that summer at McCall’s I discovered French drugstore brands like Biotherm, and their lovely water based moisturizer.

As I continued through my career in “beauty”, I started getting facials- a perk of the job. And then, when I was no longer in beauty, I continued getting facials, further cementing my love and devotion to skincare products of all kinds. It was an investment to be sure; monthly when I was flush; quarterly when I could sustain; semi-yearly when I was counting pennies. But it was always a treat. I had a variety of facialists over the years from a variety of place: India, France, Russia. For a long time I saw the magical sisters, mostly Olya, sometimes Lena, at Lena’s spa, Maksim, then also on lower Fifth Avenue. I think there are probably no better facialists in the world than those two. They introduced me to Eminence, a clean beauty brand before “clean beauty” was a thing. They also very much weaned me off drying products for good. It has been my experience that it is true that drying out your skin causes it to get much, much greasier. Whereas keeping it nice and moist (ew), makes it lovely, dewy, and prevents breakouts. I should have known. As a very small child, I used to love to watch my paternal grandmother, Sarah, engage in her routine, which involved slathering unholy amounts of Oil of Olay on her face. She smelled wonderful and her skin was amazing.

Then, Edward arrived and time became an issue. On my way to the office one day, I noticed a place that offered inexpensive memberships for monthly facials, a sort of Dry Bar for facials. I hardly hesitated to join Heyday! And there I met Jacqueline, who was as magical as the sisters! She introduced me to an entire new suite of products, but most of all, Naturopathica. I have yet to try a single thing from that line that isn’t excellent, except for the Oat Facial Polish, which many people love, but for some reason makes me itchy. On the other hand, the Carrot Seed Oil is one of the best things I’ve ever put on my face, and will make a true “oil” believer out of you, if you have a fear of it, which I do understand. Going to Heyday is a pretty great experience; not all time great, but like a sip of great. By comparison, once, many years ago, I had a treatment at the original Naturopathica spa in East Hampton and it was a top three of all time experience. (One will always be the spa at Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda. It sits on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Getting a massage with the windows open it is as close to heaven as you can get in this mortal coil. The other was this strange, out of time, weekend Rob and I once spent in a tiny spa run by ancient women in Desert Hot Springs. There were hot springs and a scrub and a vigorous hour long scalp massage that melted me into the Desert itself. I slept for hours. Oh those child free days! I would change for them now but I’m glad I had them!)

It is but a small step from “I’ll just try this once” to full blown addiction. Is there a skincare users anonymous? If not, I should start it as the charter member. For now, especially now, I find I can not resist skincare products. Whilst under the care of Lena and Olya, I strictly relegated myself to products they recommended by Eminence. But now, I’m off the leash with the whole skincare universe at my literal fingertips… and I’ve splashed out. There’s this Eve Lom moisturizer I got at SpaceNK on sale; it smells like roses in the rain and makes my skin look like I’m English. Then there’s Tata Harper’s entire oeuvre. How I love every single thing; the insanely expensive limited edition body oil that is summer in a bottle and for which I waited breathlessly for a month, the hydrating floral mask, which makes my skin the exact texture of a soft petal and smells like one too. There are other too: One Love Botanical B Enzyme Cleanser- an OIL that CLEANS? And smells like Tropic Sun? What? I use it first, followed by Naturopathica Aloe Cleansing Gel. I DOUBLE clean. And it does work.

So yes, there it is, I am a product slut. Easy come, easy go, there’s so much to try out there! Like all good junkies, I have a code of sorts. It can’t be insanely expensive; I max out at $150, and even that seems- no, is- crazy. I will pay much more for serums and moisturizers than I will for cleansers. I am always searching for a new exfoliator. (Currently I am using one by someone named Dr. Loretta. These are 10% Glycolic Acid pads and are not not reminiscent of those Clearasil pads (Oh, the tingle!).) But the one thing that really pulls it all together, and this is the most insane part, is that they all must smell nice. Yes, I judge my products on both results and fragrance, but mostly fragrance. It’s why I could never purchase Good Genes, the Sunday Riley best seller. It smelled like dust. Sure I used it when it was gifted to me. And then I was done forever. I’ll do anything to make something that smells good work (so it’s painful to admit that the Oat Polish doesn’t work for me!) And so today, I will go and check the mail six or seven times, for packages of goodies await. (Unfortunately, the contents therein are no longer free, the way they were in my Beauty days.)