While it’s fun to read about the beauty habits of celebrities, I find it most helpful to learn about the beauty habits of women who have lifestyles, ages, or budgets similar to mine. In this series, I’ve asked amazing women I know to share their beauty routines. These are women from across the country, different ages, lifestyles, professions, and beauty/skincare priorities.
Age: Late 30’s
Location: Washington, DC
Tell me a bit about your skincare and/or routine.
FIRST – thank you, Alison, for giving me the chance to share this info! I’m a sucker for reading about routines and personal experiences with beauty products, so thanks for asking me to write about mine!
I dry brush before I get into the shower. There are lots of benefits to dry brushing, but I do it because I have little bumps on the back of my arms and legs. Dry brushing keeps those bumps at a minimum. Plus, it’s a routine that signals to my brain, “GET READY, GIRL. WE GOT A DAY AHEAD.”
I use a small-batch bar soap for my body while in the shower, typically produced by an Etsy seller. (*We will come back to this soap thing later on because it’s a whole thing.)
Everything after that is up for grabs. I don’t have a set routine, instead, I have products at the ready. I look at my skin and ask myself:
- What does my skin need right now?
- What is my schedule for today? (i.e. do I need or want to wear makeup?)
- What’s the weather?
- Then use products according to those answers.
I take off my makeup and wash my face. I ask myself “What does my skin need right now?” and then make decisions about what products to use overnight. It’s usually either tallow balm, rose hip seed oil, or a light moisturizer.
Tallow balm saved me this winter when my skin was dry and freaking out. This isn’t a product for vegetarians and vegans, unfortunately, because it is rendered from animal fat. I was honestly skeptical when I first started using it, but it has made a big difference in calming and moisturizing my skin.
*Now back to the soap thing. The book The Green Beauty Guide dramatically changed my relationship to skincare. I read about probable carcinogens found in many common personal hygiene products. I grabbed my brand-name bar of soap and my jaw dropped when I discovered that one of the first ingredients listed was a byproduct of a known carcinogen. I decided at that point that my family was going to buy soap from independent sellers as often as possible.
Buying soap from independent sellers is pricey. It’s typically between $5-$8 a bar, which adds up quickly. But, my philosophy about using natural products has become, “Do the best you can with what you have.” It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. So, I will buy three bars from an Etsy seller and the next two from Trader Joe’s. When I’m able to buy from independent sellers I am thankful and know that my money is (almost always) going to a woman-owned business.
Reading about green beauty has filtered into other areas of my life. I haven’t made the jump into natural makeup, but I’m not so worried about that right now. Again, I’m doing the best I can with what I have. In the future, I might make different decisions.
Has your skincare and/or beauty routine changed due to age, lifestyle, career, etc.?
Absolutely! I’ve always had problems with acne, specifically cystic acne. It was embarrassing, but it became quite painful as I got older. A few years ago I read an article on the (now defunct) website XOJane that changed my skin. The author also had cystic acne and noticed that she got breakouts right after she ate a specific type of cheese. She decided to stop eating it and her skin started to clear. After reading that article I decided to stop eating all dairy for just two weeks and MY SKIN COMPLETELY HEALED. I was dumbfounded.
The results were so dramatic that I decided to continue my no-dairy experiment. Here we are years later and I’ve never had a cystic acne breakout again. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? Because I still can’t!!
Now, there is a sidenote to this story. I still get the occasional pimple, but it is never of the cystic variety. It tends to be small and goes away in a few days. (Considering my skincare history it’s not a big deal.) I also discovered that I can have about a tablespoon of a milk product each day and not suffer any skin consequences. But, for the most part I stay away from dairy. (Many people ask if I miss cheese. I thought I would, but I don’t. Who knew?)
This past year I had another discovery about the connection between food and my skin. I went on an anti-inflammation diet in an attempt to help with chronic pain. Eating anti-inflammation is another huge topic, but the headline here is that I stopped eating refined sugar. I’m not a person who set out to have clean eating as a lifestyle choice. It was a decision made out of desperation. I was scrambling to find something – anything – that would help calm chronic pain.
An unintended upshot to cutting out sugar was that my skin started to look GOOD. It began to have a glow. Friends started to ask what products I use (and I’ve never been stopped to ask about skincare).
What I’m eating now shows up on my face! It especially looks good the day after I eat broccoli or spinach. It’s easy to determine when I need to eat more veggies or drink more water because my skin is very reactive to what I consume. It’s both fascinating and weird to experience a food-skin connection in a very real, very immediate, way.
What is the best skincare or beauty advice you ever got and from whom?
Some of the best skincare advice was given to me by Becky Waddell who owns the DC-based store Take Care. I was writing an article about her shop and she started to talk about how we wage war against our skin. Her store contains natural skincare products, and she gently pointed out the language of products that we typically use – it’s always anti-wrinkle, anti-aging, acne-fighting. We see skincare as combat.
Her approach to skincare is very different. It’s personal and thoughtful, but most of all it’s kind. I never stopped to consider kindness when it came to taking care of my skin. Her warm and open approach was a revelation.
What is your must-have holy grail beauty or skincare product?
I don’t have one! I do a lot of experimenting.
What is your biggest beauty or skincare regret or embarrassment?
I took Accutane when I was in college. It worked! I was told that it would clear my acne for five years, and exactly five years later I started developing cystic acne again.
I think Accutane is an answer for some people. But, now that I know that the cause of my cystic acne was dairy, I really hate that I put my body through taking that medication. It makes me angry that I had to unearth the link between food and the health of my skin on my own and it took YEARS to discover. The answer was so simple and I put my body through unnecessary pain for clear skin.
What nugget of skincare or beauty wisdom do you wish you could give to your younger self?
“Don’t eat dairy. And, by the way, invest in IT Cosmetics, girl! Do it now! They are going to be bought by L’Oreal for over $1 billion in 2016!”
Anything else you’d like to share?
Your approach to skincare, to beauty, is 100% a-okay no matter what you do.
We live in a world of strict parameters when it comes to beauty. If we get work done – a facelift, Botox – we are judged. If we do nothing and let the wrinkles settle in we are judged. Too little makeup and we are told that we look sick. Too much makeup and we get called a tramp.
There is only one way to win in a system that sets us up to fail, and that is to not play the game. Freedom is the conscious decision to not enter into an arena that presents false options.
So, use beauty and skincare products. Or not. Get work done. Or not. You are allowed to create your personal definition of beauty. Loving yourself on your own terms is a radical force.