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24 Jul

Self-Care in the Beauty Aisle


It started with a DIY turmeric face mask that my daughter discovered somewhere on the Internet. It was a miracle mask, apparently: it would help acne, rosacea, clogged pores, dullness, and give your skin a lovely radiant glow (probably because turmeric has a distinct golden tint that – fair warning – can stain.) She asked if we could make it, and because it was about a thousand times more interesting than slime — and because I am nothing if not a sucker for cheap miracle treatments — I said yes.

So we made it, and it was fun, and the mask itself was actually kind of awesome (it did feel lovely on the skin and I swear it did seem to make our skin look better. At the least, it did provide a kind of glow, that I promise was not just turmeric stain.) So we played around with other DIY treatments (did you know that there’s about a thousand things that you can do with aloe vera?) and from there it was a slippery slope into the world of skincare chemistry. 

DIY remained part of it — I’ve made a few different variations on that turmeric mask since that first time — but it’s since become a much broader landscape of exploration. I’ve always loved skincare (browsing Sephora or even a Walgreens is a source of much peace and happiness for me) but the DIY point of entry — because you’re approaching whatever you’re making as a recipe — got me interested in actual formulations. I went from being a casual consumer of skincare to, I guess, a kind of hobbyist. 

And I found two things: 1) that it is actually really fun, in a productive-distraction kind of way, and 2) it has made a very noticeable impact on my skin *and* on my general wellbeing. Thinking about actives and emollients? I find that shit relaxing.

Anyway, there are about a million things that I could say about what has turned into a hybrid hobby/self-care practice, but for now I just wanted to share my favorite discoveries:

1.) Skincare routines are fun and effective. I fell down the rabbit hole of r/skincareaddiction at Reddit early on and through that space became a devoted convert to the Art of the Routine. Finding the routine or routines that work for you is like finding the ideal workout or writing schedule — you feel like you’ve conquered something and in the process made your life easier. 

I didn’t start with routine that I customized for myself — I was introduced to Y’our, who sent me a trial customized skincare system, which was an awesome point of entry to the world of skincare regimens. They develop a morning and evening routine for you, based on a personal skincare profile that they guide you through, and custom formulate the products based that profile. Then they send it all to you with clear explanations of the ingredients and of the routines to follow, morning and night — it’s a subscription model, and it makes developing a routine REALLY easy. Once I got it underway and learned more, I made my own adaptions and additions (I added a tretinoin step, for example), but it’s still my anchor. And the sunscreen that they customized for me is now 100% my holy grail sunscreen (see below.)

2.) Sunscreens don’t have to be a compromise or a chore. I’ve always been a pretty faithful sunscreen user, but a grudging one — so many of them clog pores, sting eyes, make make-up run, make your face feel greasy, leave a white cast. Y’our’s sunscreen was the first that I’ve used that is a genuine pleasure to use that I think actually makes my skin look better, in addition to protecting it. And no stinging eyes, no greasy feel, no white cast — it’s like a lovely day cream that goes on beautifully and makes my skin feel great. And because it’s a pleasure to use, I use it religiously. (It’s so important to use sunscreen religiously.)

The other sunscreen that I really like and keep as backup is CeraVe’s Facial Moisturizing Lotion (AM) with SPF. And I love Algenist’s Repairing Tint & Radiance Moisturizer SPF 30, which I layer over my Y’our sunscreen instead of foundation. 

3.) There’s no one-size-fits-all for acne! I still get occasional breakouts (peri-menopause is bullshit), but I dug into this one for Emilia. What I learned was that the effectiveness of any treatment for acne very much depends on the reason for the acne — is it, for example, hormonal or fungal? Fungal acne doesn’t respond as well to standard treatments — it DOES respond well to formulas designed to treat fungal skin issues, like sulfur (sulfur-based soap has been a game changer in our household) or — wait for it — Nizoral, which is an anti-fungal dandruff shampoo. I sometimes get hairline breakouts and a little application of Nizoral overnight can literally make them disappear.

We also love Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion and The Ordinary’s salicylic acid as a spot treatment. Anyway, if you or your kid’s acne isn’t responding to other treatments, give a thought to what kind of acne it is and go from there.

4.) The most expensive skin treatments are not necessarily the best. Some of them are very good, but you’re mostly paying for marketing (you already knew this.) I’ve used Creme de la Mer, for example — and it’s lovely — but I’ve also found that classic Nivea (in the blue tin) does just as good a job around the eyes (with the bonus of having a bit of a highlight effect) and Vaseline is a great occlusive (traps moisture) and doesn’t cause breakouts. Rosehip oil is also very hydrating, can reduce the appearance of scars, and doesn’t cause breakouts. That sulfur soap that I mentioned above that was so effective on Emilia’s skin and lasts forever? It was $7.

5.) Homemade/DIY treatments really are super fun, and some of them are really effective. I went through a stage when I was around Emilia’s age of being obsessed with concocting my own beauty treatments (in part because my Catholic parents were leery of vanity and didn’t approve of spending a bunch of money on one’s appearance), so there’s admittedly a bit of indulging my inner child here, but still. Honey, yogurt, turmeric, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, lemon, cucumber — odds are that you’ve got the makings of some awesome skin and hair treatments right in your kitchen, and it’s just as fun to experiment with beauty recipes as it is with meal recipes (assuming you find the latter fun — I actually don’t so much, but I do love the former.)

Anyway, here’s that turmeric face mask recipe. I’m making one again tonight.



Y’our gifted me a three-month trial supply, but not a word said above is exaggerated. Their sunscreen formulation seriously changed my life.

Other links are affiliate (the Y’our links are not), through Amazon.

Header photo by ANDI WHISKEY on Unsplash