Holy Grail (skip if you have a Y chromosome, are <30, or lack vanity)

I’m super-excited because I think I may have found the holy grail of beauty products: the first skin care product I’ve used that actually delivers what it claims: baby soft skin. [Footnote: For 12 hours.] I burn easily. Sunscreen doesn’t “agree” with me. I often bruise myself getting out of bed. It’s a middle aged vicious cycle: I drink water obsessively — cue the women’s magazines — but forget to start until dinner time, so I spend the remaining waking hours frantically guzzling huge volumes of liquid. But since I have the poor vision/pathetic sleep cycle of a 48 year-old, I stumble around in the dark all night, searching for my bathroom door. Hence: florid bruising on my sensitive, un-luminous lizardish parts.

Clearly, I need something soothing for my skin, right? And yet… I’ve also drunk the kool aid on EXFOLIATION. This is the big Kahuna in an aging female’s arsenal. The exfoliator enthusiasts exhort us to brighten our “dulling” complexions on a daily basis, which means basically rubbing/peeling/sloughing/husking/flensing/keel-hauling the upper layer of skin to “boost” collagen development and remove all the nasty imperfections and “fine lines” (as if!).

Despite what the “derm” industry would have you believe, there is no Venn diagram that encompasses both the skin flaying and calming processes. I know because I’ve been on a hunt for this miracle, and it just doesn’t exist. You have to get out the big guns to do that and I won’t go there. YET.

So I’m on an endless, puny little quest to find over-the-counter products that do the impossible, restore approximately 20 years to my face. Currently I’m using the expensive and celebrity-endorsed Skin Ceuticals line. I know deep in my heart it’s a total scam but I am partial to celebrity endorsements in OK magazine. I also fervently believe the testimonials from 47 year-old celebrity moms (of twins, conceived ‘naturally’!), who have regained their “bikini bodies” four weeks post-partum with a little yoga and blended juice drinks. Hahaha.

Anyway, about Skin Ceuticals. I recently spent a lot of money on three tiny vials of a clear liquid that looks like tap water. One vial has an iodine smell that brings me back to my five year-old self, hanging around my dad’s lab at Brandeis. We’d go swimming together after he finished his work, but I always got lost in the women’s changing room, so my father would give me a big smiley face sticker to put on the locker. He also gave me rides on his back in the pool. He’s a big guy and a former competitive swimmer; it was really fun. But I digress. (And it’s possible this only happened once. Or didn’t happen at all. I also have a middle aged brain.)

So I’ve got the icky smelling clear liquids I’m applying to my face every night. Vitamins C and E and something called Ferulic and a”bi-functional resurfacing and replenishing serum” that’s supposed to “retexturize and reactivate” me somehow. But my husband likes it when I smell like flowers, not medicinals, so I actually wait until he’s fallen asleep and then I get out of bed to apply the fake pharmaceuticals — bruising my thighs and hipbones in the process.  I forget this step most nights but I do like to imagine I’m sticking to the regime, generally speaking. I want to see those “results” in 4-8 weeks. (I can expect to see a 57% reduction in ugliness.) I want to believe in this snake oil!!

But just in case it doesn’t work, I highly recommend the Micro-Delivery Peel System by Philosophy. It only costs half a week’s wages and it really smells great, like orange flavored  baby aspirin, and it gives you this wonderful phony sense of efficacy because step 2 involves some kind of “warming” foam (it’s activating the skin resurfacing crystals!) and…

I think it works. I really do. Seriously. It works. For approximately 12 hours. But, hey, I feel great during those 12 hours! A stranger at the bank just complimented me. I’m not making this up. And last time I used it, a man in Shaw’s said, “Hi, pretty lady!’ for the first time in 18 years. This was after I bribed him with money and alcohol but still… I don’t get those kinds of remarks from strangers anymore. The last time I got a gratuitous, street-side compliment was a “Nice rack!” shout-out from a skeevy, visually impaired guy ten years ago as I was pumping gas (wearing, inadvisedly, a halter top in a last-gasp effort at… something.) Someone actually offered me a senior discount on my 39th birthday, which was worth the humiliation for the lifetime of hilarity it’s provided my kids and whole extended family. (And I spent my 40th birthday falling into an oil slick in the Whole Foods parking lot after buying the supplies for my own dinner. But I digress.)

So, try the microscopic delivering peel system is what i’m saying. But just in case it doesn’t work for you, here’s another piece of gratuitous advice: Enjoy being 48! It’s fantastic. I’m serious. It’s really fun to feel relaxed and powerful, if those were things you lacked during your skintastic days. Everything just falls into place. All the neurotic tics and fears and worries of youth? … they’re either gone or they’ve gone dormant (like my collagen producing skin cells.)  Everyone says this but you have to be 48 to believe it: life gets better. And all the studies are beginning to show that older people are HAPPIER than young people. So I’m actually – honest to god – looking forward to 58 and even 68 or 78, if I’m so lucky. (Okay, I’m sure there’s a point of diminishing returns but it’s got to be a long way off.)

My grandmother just died at 97, and she was the most beautiful woman I knew. I’m still pretty much enslaved by my skincare habit — and why shouldn’t people look as nice as they can at any age? But there’s a point in life where you really do begin to internalize the cliche that beauty is what’s under the skin. I’m getting there.

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director/author. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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