Photo: Constance Bannister Corp/Getty Images
Currently, there seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to skin care. One school is hypernatural and all about taking a real avocado from your kitchen and putting it on your face as a “mask.” The second involves taking a dermatological prescription for acid and throwing it on your face in a sanctioned attack.
For years, I embraced acid. The first time I went on Retin-A I was in high school. I was trying to burn off my pimples. One day in tenth grade, I distinctly remember talking to a peer on the way over to gym class and shaking my head in a very exaggerated way (I was probably saying, “I’m going to hide in the bathroom during gym!” because I did that all the time) when, just then, I saw a piece of my own skin flake off my nose and settle on the ground like a snowflake in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. And although that was very embarrassing, it also proved to me that my skin care was really working!
Recently, however, I got pregnant. Did you know that real doctors tell you that you are not allowed to use any kind of acid during pregnancy? Apparently, it’s bad for the baby. Maybe acid was bad for you, too, the entire time, but they only tell you when you are bringing life into the world, which I kind of appreciate, because who cares otherwise? Anyway, if you are a pregnant, there are a million different blogs talking about the horrors of all conventional skin care and how it’s going to harm your unborn baby and how you really need to use yogurt as a natural yeast-infection remedy, et cetera, et cetera. Normally, these sorts of polemical diatribes are not persuasive to me, but when I was pregnant, I was weak. All of a sudden, I started to have concerns about my beloved friend Chemicals. Was my body the equivalent of a Superfund site? If so, that actually did seem bad for the baby. And so I embraced organic skin care.
As I am not a very crafty person, I decided I wasn’t going to use real ingredients from my kitchen on my skin. I knew that that would only end in me staining my maternity shirts and throwing out a lot of perfectly good avocados. I decided I had to go purchase the clean-beauty products that Goop is constantly referring to. At least that didn’t require any extra work.
Now, organic skin-care products are actually kind of expensive, but whatever, I did a lot of research and a bought a lot of them because I’m rather vain. I used a moisturizer with sandalwood nut oil in it. I started putting a serum on my face that smelled like the inside of a bodega that sells flowers. I purchased an eye cream that claimed to have truffle extract in it, but really looked and smelled like whipped cream. Then I watched and I waited.
And guess what? My skin has never been worse. Non-chemical skin care sucks. I got two new wrinkles on my forehead because I couldn’t use the acid that I had been using to burn them off anymore. Then I got a series of small yet concentrated pimples all over my chin, which normally I also burn off, but now I had to moisturize with something called “alfalfa leaf.” That just made the pimples rejoice and settle into the trenches they had been digging in my face. Eventually, I had to get someone to lance them at a facial place near my house. Even she, a professional facialist, seemed grossed out. “They are still oozing,” she said at one point.
Because what IS this stuff without chemicals? What does it even do? Without the continual burning of acid residue on my face, it just seemed like I bought a series of different Vaselines for 90 dollars each. At least chemicals have a kind of integrity: You can feel them working away on your face and eating it. What is the point of paying to have pimples? Take control over your life!
Unfortunately, my dalliance with organic skin care is not over. You actually need to avoid acid while you are breastfeeding too, and so I am still slathering myself with linseed oil. Apparently, it has an organic acid in it, but I am positive that’s a lie. I feel nothing.