Red, bump, itchy.
My face was not doing well. The dry, desert air was assaulting my skin.
Last year, in the middle of my sabbatical, I decided to move to the desert with my sister.
Immediately, the cleansers and lotions I relied on for years became my enemy. My skin was parched in the heat and the products I had always used only made things worse.
Looking at replacing everything, I had to face the reality that I had an expensive skincare routine. I wasn’t working, so if I wanted to justify buying new products, I had to really understand what I was spending my money on.
Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, niacinamide, azelaic acid, hyaluronic acid.
My bathroom cabinet was filled with products that sounded as if they belonged in a science experiment, not on my face. I couldn’t even tell you what each one did. Over the years, after a YouTube doctor or a fresh faced friend expounded on the virtues of the latest miracle serum, I’d add it to my collection of tiny clear bottles without much thought.
None of the serums or creams seemed to make a huge impact, but I thoughtlessly bought into the idea of building up a preventative skin care routine.
The only time I felt a seedling of doubt was during a happy hour a few years ago with my coworkers. Between sips of spritzers, the conversation turned to everyone’s recent Botox treatment.
“It’s good to get Botox early,” one of the woman my age told me, showing off her latest injection with her stiff eyebrows and smooth forehead.
I don’t know what age I thought was appropriate for Botox, but I hadn’t expected to have this conversation before I turned 30. Still, the thought of injecting my skin with a toxin before I even noticed a wrinkle on my face seemed to scream marketing, not preventative healthcare.
This was only the beginning. More and more of my friends started talking about anti-aging products, procedures and injections.
I’m not without vanity, I’ve happily worn makeup since I was a teenager. If I never got another pimple, I’d be thrilled. When my face grew irritated in the harsh desert air, I was desperate to find a remedy.
I had to admit though that my skincare routine had shifted away from keeping my skin clear. Suddenly, it was about freezing my face in time too.
When my skin freaked out, I took a close look at all the products I had accumulated over the years. Most seemed like they were at worst irritating my skin, and at best, doing nothing at all.
My first inclination was to buy a new set of products to accommodate the changes in my skin. I found myself adding and then removing a $48, 2 oz bottle of moisturizer called “youth to the people” to my online cart,.
I did this a few times before deciding to look inward. I didn’t want to build a habit of dipping into my savings for what was clearly a luxury good.
Taking a step back, I knew that I didn’t believe that my lotion needed to have kale and spinach to be effective. If I was being honest, I didn’t really believe that hyaluronic acid was the key to looking young.
What was the secret to looking younger? Was it the perfect cream? The perfect injection? The perfect laser?
Deep down, I didn’t believe skincare innovation was all that great. Sure, if someone invests a ton of money into their looks, maybe they can slow down the clock a little.
At the same time, my mom is 63, never thought twice about her skin and she looks great. She doesn’t look 30, but she’s aged well. My dad too. That’s after growing up in India and never wearing sunscreen.
If I got to my 60s and looked like them, I’d be pleased.
So if I was happy with how I was aging, that left the question of whether or not I wanted to keep throwing money into creams and serums that came in small bottles with big promises.
Digging deeper, I thought about how my sister, friends, and old coworkers were religiously investing in everything anti-aging.
I realized that my fear wasn’t that I would look old one day. I don’t even notice things like crows feet or dark spots on other people. A part of me used to hope that getting older meant I could care less about my looks.
My real fear was that everyone else around me would take all the right steps, tap on all the right serums, rub in all the best moisturizers and look effortlessly youthful, while I was left behind, the only one visibly growing older.
Without even realizing it, I had developed Fountain of Youth FOMO.
If everyone around me was not obsessed with the lines and creases that come with aging, I don’t think it would have occurred to me to care.
I realized I may care about my looks, but I don’t care about stopping myself from aging. I’m not trying to rush into it, but I’ll happily save hundreds of dollars a year by not continuing to invest in it.
My acceptance of aging must have put some crazy manifestation into the world. Soon after I came to this conclusion, I was unexpectedly gifted a lifetime supply of cleanser and lotion. Nothing fancy, but exactly what I needed to combat the dry climate.
Maybe it’s mystical thinking, but I like to believe the universe rewarded my decision to embrace the natural aging process.
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Last week a lady at the mall tried to sell me an exfoliator for $435 -- she had quite the nerve 😂
Thank you for writing this! Botox has become ubiquitous, which is scary considering there is some research associating it with reduction in empathy.
This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from psychologist and author Harriet Lerner:
"Our society doesn't promote self-acceptance and it never will. First of all, self-acceptance doesn't sell products. Capitalism would fall if we liked ourselves the way we are now."