Skincare Journey Part I: What’s in the Mirror?

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Do you ever glance at yourself in a mirror and you’re surprised by what you see? Like – in your head you look fantastic – you’re having a good hair day, your makeup is flawless, you’ve got a pep in your step. You sneak a peek at your awesomeness as you walk past a mirror and what you see makes you pause.

How long has that mascara been smeared under my eye?  Is that a booger? In my hair?

In this situation, you do what any reasonable woman does: fix the problem and pretend you never saw that crap in the first place. The hair booger gets locked up for eternity in the box that houses all the other bad memories (like the first night you ever drank tequila) never to be heard from again.  It’s simple: fixing the problem erases its existence.

Something remarkably similar happened to me this past March on my 36th birthday. The day had started off just about as perfectly as it could: our four kids had prepared breakfast in bed for me, and then my husband promptly ushered them out of the bedroom so I could enjoy my overcooked eggs in peace. Anyone with as many kids as we have can attest that eating alone is very hard to come by, making it a glorious experience when you do. I took my time with my breakfast, enjoying the quiet and doing the math just to make sure I was actually 36. (I once discovered I’d been telling people I was a year older than I actually was; that was a fun – although jarring  – realization. No such luck this time around.)

As I was standing at my bathroom sink brushing my teeth after flushing the eggs down the toilet finishing my birthday breakfast, I caught a glimpse of myself that was shocking. It’s not like I was expecting to look glamorous first thing in the morning (everybody knows that soap opera crap ain’t real), and it certainly didn’t help that I had a mouth full of toothpaste. But instead of seeing a young, vibrant woman beaming with happiness on her birthday (which is how I felt on the inside), I saw a much, much older woman.

It was as if a virtual stranger was staring back at me.

Where did these forehead lines come from? Are those crow’s feet? Wait, is that a sun spot? Holy crap, is that more gray hair? Oh my God, I’m starting to look … to look … to look like DeDe (my grandmother). But … with pimples? WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?

Just as I was wondering if this could all be explained by some rare medical disorder scientists had yet to uncover (because that’s logical), I was overcome with a feeling of impending doom regarding basic math.

I am closer to 40 than I am to 30. Oh crap, this is aging.

This was way, way worse than a hair booger or smeared mascara — the wrinkles, the sun spots, the blemishes, the grays, my age — these weren’t issues that could be wiped away and immediately forgotten. I knew I could deal with the hair, but because I’d never paid much attention to my skin (I didn’t suffer from acne growing up — this was new), I had no idea if these things were even fixable or how much it would cost to do so. I didn’t even know where to start.

So I did what any reasonable woman in her mid-to-late-30s would do. Ordered the perfect skincare routine as a birthday present to myself and immediately saw a reversal in the aging process. It was like magic!

Ha! I wish. Here’s how it really went down:

I doused my newly found aging woes with (way too much) wine on my birthday, wallowed in self-pity for a few weeks, finally opened up to a friend about the scary old lady I saw in the mirror (who in turn confided in me about how she’d been getting regular Botox injections for years), decided that Botox was the answer I was looking for, and immediately started making emotional pleas to my husband, who’s quite possibly the most easy-going, loving man I’ve ever met … who is vehemently opposed to things like Botox and boob jobs.

The Good

I started learning about skincare, practically devouring the information in that subreddit like, well, an addict. I cursed myself endlessly for not wearing sunscreen basically ever. And vowed to change my ways once and for all.

The Bad

While I was busy learning about products, and how they work, and which ones are the best, and buying more skincare products than I’d purchased in my entire life combined, I ignored the advice I really needed to pay attention to: start slow. Slow? That was for whippersnappers who had time to spare. Time was not on my side, people! I’d seen my future and she was scary.

The Ugly

So I went full-tilt going after the immediate fix. I do not recommend that approach unless you’d like to go from this to this:

I am happy to report that my face no longer looks like either of those pictures, especially since I’m wearing a foundation that’s clearly too yellow on the left. And I’m going to detail what happened in-between Point A and Point B in my next post (scheduled for next week), but in the meantime I leave you with this advice:

  • If you have dehydrated skin, fix that first. A compromised barrier is eager to make things worse for you. Protect it.
  • Be patient. The journey to good skin can be tough; don’t make it harder by trying to rush it along. You’ll likely make things worse.
  • Wear sunscreen religiously. Every day. Even when it’s cloudy. Need help choosing one? Start here.
  • Stop being so hard on yourself. Whether it’s acne that’s your concern, or grey hair and wrinkles, no one’s looking at you as critically as you are. I promise.

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