This week, I want to talk skincare, following on the heels of yesterday’s Ipsy review. Because it may seem a little strange that someone is learning about things like skincare and makeup for the first time in their mid-30s. I have reasons for the delay: namely, I have the Worst. Skin. Ever.
Example #1: Unidentifiable Rashes – I can’t tell you how many rashes I’ve had in my life that have no identifiable source, treatment, or logic. Even as an infant, newly born, my mom would rub honey into the soles of my feet because it was the only thing that even slightly made a difference to the random rashes I was getting there.
Example #2: Acne (and not the normal kind) – I broke out in regular acne as a tween, like many folk. I have it to this day. It’s a constant struggle. Nothing makes a difference to it, not changing foods, not changing skin routines, not chemical or topical treatment from dermatologists. Granted, my mother is nearly 60 and she still has acne, so likely this is just never going away.
Unfortunately, when I got pregnant with Laurence in 2003, my acne changed over from “normal” to that deep-rooted infectious kind that hurts and is scary to look at, and which can only be treated with Accutane. (Pic to right is only the beginnings of it – it got much, much worse.) So a couple years later, when I was cleared to undergo the treatment, I spent nine months on Accutane (much longer than normal, because I could only handle the lower dose – the higher dose gave me severe bone pain, and whoops, turns out that’s a deadly side effect, bone weakening!). I thought, hey, this’ll clear up my skin. Guess who still has acne, eight years later…
Example #3: Eczema, and Dyshidrotic Eczema – Eczema has been part of my life since babyhood. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve been on every topical and steroidal cream on the market over the last thirty years. But what’s worse is the dyshidrotic eczema, or what used to be called “bad sweating.” It’s a kind of eczema that manifests in tiny water-bubbles under the skin that itch like crazy. They pop up without warning, especially in warm weather, and don’t go away again until they feel like it. Nothing helps. Usually, they crop up in ten different places on my hands and fingers all within a day or two. Ugh.
Example #4: Pityriasis Rosea – This is a disease so rare that it has no known cause, treatment, effect, or cure. Basically, it involves lopsided oval rashes that pop up wherever on your body, all at once, and then they stick around for six weeks before disappearing again. They don’t hurt/itch, but they certainly make people look at you funny (especially when you’re a swimmer and they think you’re contagious). But it’s not contagious, doctors don’t think. Then again, it’s so rare they have no real data. Bizarre thing is that when I got it, so did my mom, my two sisters, and my aunt (who didn’t live with us, and hadn’t been in our house recently). My brother (who did live with us) did not get it, nor did any of the extended family my aunt lived with (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins). Nor did any of the people I swam with on a daily basis. Weird.
Example #5: Hives, warts, bizarre skin-clump growths, moles, and more! – This just scratches the surface of my plague of constant skin issues. Hives because I went outside in the rain, hives as big as dinner plates that moved around my body until I took days of steroids. Warts and athlete’s foot despite precaution. Moles as a reaction to an anti-depressant! Some sort of skin growth on my finger that looked like a wart but wasn’t, and had to be cauterized. The inability to wear earrings because the holes are continuously infected (even now, when I haven’t worn earrings in 15 years), and even when I did wear them, I had to wear special materials if I didn’t want to die from the pain. Only recently did makeup stop causing me to break out in hives. I can only use lotions and toiletries with natural ingredients/scents. Etc.
In other words, my skin is a freak-show nightmare that has no end in sight. I just have to learn to live with it.
The worst advice I ever got from a dermatologist involved precautionary skincare. To keep from breaking out in eczema, he suggested I use special creams on my skin twice a day to keep it hydrated. First off, this only helps normal eczema, and not the special super-duper Manda kind, and second, the “creams” he wanted me to use were…disgusting. In the morning, I had to put on super-thick prescription cream (because regular lotion was too thin). It left me feeling oily and gross all day. At night? Straight up Vaseline, all over my entire body, face to toes. In the month or two I actually followed this regimen (without any improvement, I might add), I probably went through more Vaseline than any person goes through (or should go through) in an entire life. It. Was. Disgusting. Needless to say, I quit that regimen.
Unfortunately, what that dermatologist taught me was that skincare was pointless. Why bother with my skin if 1) the “care” makes me feel terrible all the time and 2) doesn’t make a significant different anyway? What I’ve discovered in recent months is that not all creams are made equal. Palmer’s cocoa butter is very, very thick, but it soaks in fast, and leaves me smelling lovely all day while keeping my skin moisturized. Naobay oxygenating cream (thank you Ipsy!) is perfect for my face twice a day. There are good products out there. I just had to find them, and that doctor gave me a 20-year delay in finding them.
Dear younger Manda,
Skincare is important, but please, ignore that damn doctor. Find stuff you love, and take care of your skin. It may not make a huge difference, but it makes some, and believe me girl, you need all the difference you can get.
Love, modern-day Manda