facing forward (# 51)

My alcohol free summer has saved me several hundred dollars, at least. I’ve been voraciously buying books for my Kindle, so that has eaten up some of the savings. Then, I started thinking it would be nice to try something new and different.

Over the past few years I have become increasingly dissatisfied with my skin. Part of that was because drinking alcohol, the notorious antibeauty serum, was dehydrating me and drying everything out from the inside. Part of it was the fact that my skincare routine has been in the same minimalist rut since my early 20s, when I decided that the best thing to for my skin was pretty much nothing but fingertip scrubbing with shower water and daily application of Oil of Olay for sensitive skin SPF 15. Sure, I would use this or that product from time to time, but I didn’t regularly use anything to cleanse my skin. Benign neglect ruled the day.

Well, over the past few years I started noticing little white bumps, which are called milia, as it turns out. Google revealed that milia result from dead skin cells that get trapped under the skin especially when oils, makeup, moisturizer, and whatever else gradually builds up.  Milia can be avoided pretty easily by regular cleansing and exfoliation.

I disliked the way my skin was starting to look close-up and feel–kind of bumpy all over. There were a few small bumps that seemed permanent, which my doctor identified as a “clear mole” and an “overactive oil gland.” But the rest of the stuff seemed like it didn’t absolutely have to be there. It seemed like there should be a solution.

So I decided to use some of my sober gains to get a facial, something I have not done in about two decades. I told the aesthetician that I had been noticing distressing changes in my skin and I wanted to learn how to face the future and take better care for the long term. I believe this was some of the best money I have spent in a long time.

This woman was a wizard. She confirmed what I had learned about milia, and she told me that it’s okay to take a minimalist approach to skin care but you have to do something to emulsify and wash away that stuff that builds up on the skin. That could be anything from using an oil like coconut or almond oil and rinsing with warm water, to using a cleanser of some sort.

This skin wizard was able to remove most of the milia (you need to get rid of the white bumps sooner rather than later because otherwise they become less encapsulated and more rooted and fibrous, more integrated into the skin). She did such a lovely delicate job that even right after she finished my skin did not look stressed, just a little spotty at the toughest areas. By the next morning, everything looked and felt perfect.

This facial experience was just what I needed. It tangibly improved a situation that had been bothering me. It also felt fitting to use this extra money saved by not drinking on an extra boost for my skin, which has already benefitted considerably from me not drinking. Lastly, I learned new things about how to take care of myself that I can carry forward into the future, clean, clear, and freshly scrubbed.

UPDATE: I am adding a link to an article about skin care products called “essences” that I happened upon today.  I purchased an essence (spray mist) after my facial and I have been using it since, although I didn’t really “get” the purpose of it. This article explains it’s role as a primer for the skin very well and describes how essences have long been a part of Asian beauty rituals. American beauty ritual, by contrast, are far more aggressive, based on stripping skin dry (typically with alcohol-based products) and then slathering on moisturizer. In Asia, it is more typical to prepare skin for moisturizers by moistening it in the first place. In any case, I am pleased to report that my skin is still feeling and looking great with my simple new routine.