(I've been working on a draft of this post for so long that I decided the only way to handle things is to structure it in the form of What to Expect When You're Expecting, i.e., as a series of stupid-ass questions followed by tl;dr answers. So.)
So, Poppy. Tell us about your skin. How would you characterize it?
Dry. I never had acne, although when I was a teenager, I thought I did.
So you're saying that you've always been a mindless consumer?
Oh, yeah. I started really young. When I was nine, I was
poring over my older sister's copies of Seventeen, and by 12, I was spending my
babysitting money on Noxema and Clearasil and Neutrogena and Seabreeze and Bonne Bell 10-0-6 lotion. They all worked, I suppose, because there was nothing wrong with my skin.
Eventually I graduated to actual make up and gave up on trying out new skin products, because I never really saw a dramatic change in my skin. No matter how much I spent, or what I did (or didn't do) it looked fine. Those were my complexion's salad years.
Then what happened?
Flash forward 40 years, and that is no longer the case. In addition to the usual signs of aging--crows' feet, nasal labial folds, and sagging, I'm also getting kind of creepy. Or something. Little by little, I have developed ... bumps. Milia, solar lentigines, and actinic keratoses.
Totally. As my uncle once told me "In our family, we don't so much age as turn into lizards."
What the hell are these gruesome-sounding things?
Read on--and click the links if you want to see the results of Google Image searches of each term. (This is NSFS--not safe for the squeamish! You have been warned. DON'T CLICK!!!)
Milia --Look like whiteheads, but are actually hard white lumps of trapped skin cells.
Solar Lentigines -- Fancy talk for liver spots
Actinic Keratoses -- Little translucent rough patches. dooce has blogged about these. (I'm only four years behind the trend!)
Now that you've grossed out the internet, Poppy, what are you going to do to make things better?
All of these gruesome-sounding things are annoyances, rather than
horrible problems. They're mostly caused by sun damage. Well, sun
damage, and in the case of the milia, the skin's slower turnover
I'm not saying you shouldn't go to the dermatologist; you should. I've just discovered a new one who is even more scalpel-happy then my old one, and I fully expect her to slice me and dice me like a Ginzu knife commercial. Good times!
But in the meantime, I've stepped up my skincare routine. Confession time: my Clarisonic died right about the time that I discovered Biotherm's Embrolyse cleansing water, so I started using it all the time. It's fantastic, but it doesn't exfoliate, and apparently, without exfoliation, and lots of it, my face starts to resemble the barnacle-encrusted bottom of a Boston Whaler.
And this made me unhappy. Like LPC over at Amid Privilege, I recently had a big event that promised to involve lots of photography, and I wanted to look my best. (She was getting married; I was celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary, but potato, potahto--we were both in the spotlight.)
What did you do?
For two weeks before our anniversary party, I used a Stridex pad both morning and night. Yes, this product is marketed for acne, but that's because the active ingredient in these pads is salicylic acid, which exfoliates the skin. Acne is caused in part by clogged pores, and exfoliation helps clear them.
What were your results?
Wow. I have never used a product that had a bigger effect on my skin. After two weeks of twice-daily applications, most of the creepy stuff
was gone, and whatever was left was very much reduced. Seriously, if I
had spent $300 for a peel at the dermatologist's, I would have been
thrilled with the results.
What made the Stridex so effective?
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid. No, I don't know what that means,
either. But unlike alpha-hydroxy acids (lactic, glycolic, malic, etc., etc.) salicylic acid isn't self-limiting. Alpha hydroxy acids may tingle a bit when they're first applied, but
eventually the pH of your skin will return to normal. At that point,
they stop working.
Salicylic acid, on the other hand, is strong stuff; it softens the keratin and just keeps exfoliating and exfoliating until your creepy bits are gone. It also works its way down into your pores breaks up clogs, which is why it's great for acne.
This is why wart removers are essentially a super-strong salicylic acid solution. Prescription-strength wart removers are 70 percent strength; over-the-counter wart removers are 17 percent salicylic acid.
What do you advise, Poppy Buxom, Goddess of Aging Skin?
If you decide that your skin needs some exfoliation, you try a salicylic acid pad. And you might as well go cheap. I mean, you could try the high end stuff. Philosophy's Clear Days Ahead pads are .50 percent salicylic acid and cost $31 for 60 pads.
Peter Thomas Roth sells combination pads with 10 percent glycolic acid and 2 percent salicylic acid. On Amazon, I saw these priced at $99.18 for 60 pads. You could go mental and try them.
Or you could be like me and go for a fast, cheap fix and use Stridex pads, with a 2 percent salicylic acid solution, at $5.00 for 60 pads.
Obviously, I suggest you start with the cheap stuff.
If worse comes to worse, you can use it on the bottom of your feet. Or download it on the nearest teenager.