how it all began

My bathroom looks like a Sephora sample refugee camp. There is just no way around this. If I don’t put a sample out where I can see it, I forget about it and it languishes for all perpetuity, a wasted existence. Needless to say, the samples tend to accumulate faster than I can go through them, and like dust bunnies or cockroaches, they appear to multiply. My SO has wisely learned to just shut his mouth and look the other way, but the other day he just stopped and looked and said, “How exactly did you get so obsessed with your skin? I don’t remember you being this way [when we first dated back in college]”.

Well, no, in college I drove a Jeep with its top off for most of the year and mastered the art of driving a stick shift, maneuvering a beverage, and smoking at the same time. I had grown up rather isolated where my sole feminine role model was my mother, whose idea of skincare was a good tan, O.G. Oil of Olay, and regular enthusiastic use of a Buf Puf. She never wore much makeup to speak of and believed all hair issues could be solved with braids and/or a bandana. (Okay, I still subscribe to this.) I didn’t have sisters or cousins or girlfriends to teach me the art of makeup growing up, so I had catching up to do in college. (The catching up extended into medical school, wherein I had an extended phase of turquoise glitter eyeliner, something most women outgrow at age 17, not 27.) I learned a good deal of makeup skills in college from a girl from Texas, who espoused “the higher the hair, the closer to God” as she teased her ash-blond bob into frothy perfection. I could never tell if she was kidding about the God part. We would throw things (bras, eggs) off her 7th floor balcony at passersby and then go do our makeup. We even did one of our guy friends, just half his face, all blue eyeshadow and glossy red lips, and then took a ton of shitty pictures with a disposable camera after he agreed to the clip on earrings and feathered hat, making kissy duck faces 20 years before we had a name for it. Ah, the 90s.

The fun and games continued into medical school and even slightly beyond. The glitter eyeliner, the rockabilly red lips, the swinging pendulum of hair color from blonde to red, red to blonde. It literally never occurred to me that these sorts of shenanigans might be not entirely appropriate for the professional workplace, OR that they might look silly on someone pushing 30. Hashtag arrested development, okay? I know. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I continued tanning through the first part of medical school. I KNOW! My first inkling that Father Time was not on my side was in a MAC store somewhere in LA, when I was an intern, so age 28, 29? I needed face wash, and asked for my usual green gel cleanser, which was supposed to be best for my oily, shiny, acne-prone skin. The salesgirl looked me up and down and said, maybe you’d be better off with something a little less drying and handed me a bottle of some creme cleanser. Of course this happened in LA, right? I was a little put off and a little offended, and remotely, a little concerned.

Around this time, my BFF and I were going to do an autopsy, and had the morgue camera out in case anything significant needed documentation. Mind you, this was before cell phones had cameras, and so it seemed perfectly novel and kitschy to take a morgue selfie all gowned and gloved before we got started. It looked really cute on the tiny digital camera screen and it made a super cute MySpace (!) profile pic. That is, until I saw it blown up on my computer screen. Warning!

M&C autopsy

PUMP. THE. BRAKES. What in the hell was going on? And I’m not even talking about the utterly tragic eyebrow situation that was happening*. The little swath of exposed skin that I had was…. spotty. Mottled. Wrinkles!? Dare I say… leathery. Seeing the forehead situation on my big computer screen was a giant slap across that hyperpigmented face. I was mortified. It was the first time when I realized all the total lack of concern for my skin was beginning to catch up to me.

Soon thereafter, I came across some ad for a Botox special in the freebie weekly newspaper where they advertise happy ending massages on the back page. It was something like $125, an unfathomable sum at that time. Seeing as I was still thoroughly traumatized by the morgue selfie (and outcome of a rudimentary photoshopping attempt), I was D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E. I was scared shitless, but I did it. The doctor was a bit of a jerk and didn’t have the best grasp of the English language, but I did it. The results with Botox, as we know, are impressive and quick. And so it began. Somewhere during this time, my dermatologist first tag teamed me with prescription retinol and hydroquinone. Knowing that the dermatology residents virtually slathered their entire bodies in retinol kept me using it, even though its results were less than dramatic.

I piddled around with that for a few years when the new, friendly, normal provider I’d began seeing for injections started raving about this crazy cream made of foreskins. She wouldn’t shut up about it. I think I eventually bought it hoping she would stop talking about it, even though it was stupidly, horrifyingly expensive. I wasn’t even through my first tube of it before shit got real. My skin changed. People I knew and people I didn’t know would comment on my skin and demand to know what products I used. (Wanting to just have a link to give people, as opposed to having to think and write shit down, was the main reason I wanted to have a TopShelfie on ITG: pure laziness.)

And then before I knew it, my bathroom looked like Sephora’s and Barney’s stockroom just vomited all over it.

And now it’s your turn: what was your gateway drug?

*Life lessons: any eyebrow worth Instagramming now is going to look STUPID in five years, and laughable in ten. So don’t. Just don’t.

7 thoughts on “how it all began

  1. Great topic! The product that made me obsessed with skincare was La Prairie Radiance Cream. I was 26 years old and people were commenting on my skin and how good it looked. It was a sample and I ended up buying it but I’d have to take out loans if I were to keep up with the cost!! I’m 40 now and using the TNS Recovery Complex (thanks to you- you’re skin is amazing!!)

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  2. Hello, I to am always searching for the fountain of youth. I starting following a lady on You Tube called Hot and Flashy…she had a review on 3 Vitamin C serums…I had been looking for one at the time….Paulas Choice, Timeless and Skinceauticals. She used each for 3 months and video taped the progress. The winner was Timeless, ordered online. It has identical actice ingredients as Skinceuticals BUT its only $24.95 and 5 off with a coupon code from Hot and Flashy. Skinceauticals is $162!!! I purchased the Timeless….been applying in morning for one week. LOVE it and the price….also I drop it on the back of my hand then apply to my face and neck area….in one week the age spots on the back of my hand have faded.

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  3. Late to the game but…

    As I’ve been breaking out since I was 10, I’ve always had something of a facial care routine; i’ve been washing my face and wearing sunscreen since that first zit crested on my face. However, I didn’t get super hard-core until my late 20s, when I lived from my then-fiancé’s family in Japan and was inundated by skincare products. Once I got back to the US, I went to an aesthetician and spent an unseemly amount of dough on serums and moisturizers and eye creams. I don’t remember the exact gateway product, but I do remember seeing cleansing oil (before it was big) for the first time, eyes widened in anticipation of a new horizon of beauty products.

    Fwiw, your picture is cute! I’d never look that good in that kind of lighting.

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