Kicking the Beauty Habit

Goodlifer: Kicking the Beauty Habit

Like most girls out there who read women’s magazines and joyfully shop at Sephora, I had an enormous cabinet filled with beauty products — smoothing, clearing, slimming, tightening, anti-wrinkling, cooling, warming, you name it. Still, I had awful pores and bad acne. What gives?

As any well-read woman would do, I took the advice of beauty columnists and Sephora reviewers and tried more and increasingly expensive products, hoping to find the miracle cure that would make my skin beautiful and healthy. Nothing worked, not even a strict organic product routine, my skin seemed to get worse by the day.

When I went to my new primary care physician for a routine physical, I had gotten so used to my skin problem, grudgingly accepting that this was how my face would look for the rest of my life, that I wasn’t even going to mention it to him. I had been to all kinds of dermatologists before, and they had all put me on prescription medicines and creams so strong it felt as though they would burn my skin off (sometimes I guess they sort of did). I was fairly jaded. At the end of the physical, the Doctor looked at me and said “what about your face, is that under control, do you have a dermatologist?” “No,” I said. “Well, do you want one?” he responded. I said “Yes, please” and got a referral and an appointment the same week.

The morning of that first appointment I washed my face with the organic stuff I had been using for a while and put on some — also organic — moisturizer, thinking I would leave my face as clean as possible for the doctor to look at. He asked me what my problem was and I sheepishly responded “well, acne.” “It’s all the stuff you put on your face,” he said, “stop that, you have beautiful skin.” I started protesting, informing him that I only used the best products, organic everything and mineral make-up. He looked up from his clipboard, took one look at my face, swiped his index finger across my cheek and said “Feel this. Yuck!” I was shocked and mortified, were these products meant to make be beautiful really making me ugly?

The doctor gave me anti-inflammatory pills and put me on a strict regimen, I was to wash my face with a psoriasis shampoo called Clobex twice a day and use nothing else on my face — no moisturizer, no make-up, no nothing. I was very skeptical at first (psoriasis shampoo, really?) and mortified to have to show my less-than-perfect face naked in public. The first ten days were pretty bad, I was constantly self-conscious, trying to avoid eye-contact and hiding my face behind my hair. On my second visit to the dermatologist, he said I looked a bit better, but wasn’t totally happy with the progress. I was allowed to stop using the shampoo, and instead wash my face with a gentle scrub. He also prescribed me a cream. “This is the stuff we give to teenagers, the strong stuff,” he said. If this last regimen didn’t make my skin better, he also talked about putting me on Accutane, a medication with a very good track record of treating severe acne, but also some pretty scary side effects (joint pain, cracked lips, thinning hair, birth defects, depression, suicidal tendencies!). I was determined to not have to resort to this.

Two months later, I no longer take any medication and my skin looks so much better. I still wash my face with Pangea Organics face scrub every day and occasionally cheat with some mineral make-up, but I use no moisturizer except when I get really dry. No products I don’t really need will touch my face. I found it helpful to check sites like GoodGuide to see what is actually in the products I was using. Rule One: make sure the ingredients are not directly harmful (it can be very scary stuff); Rule Two: be sure to pick products that are as natural as possible.

My new beauty routine. Soon, only the Pangea scrub and the mineral make-up will remain.

My new beauty routine. Soon, only the Pangea scrub and the mineral make-up will remain.

When I got into funks and voiced self-deprecating thoughts about my skin, my boyfriend would tell me that he thought all these products I was using were clogging my face up. I always dismissed him as being tragically uneducated about the science of beauty, and told him he was ridiculous and just didn’t understand. Now, two months and many doctor and pharmacy bills later, I know he was right. The beauty product industry is just that — an industry, built on profiting from women’s desire to look young and beautiful. Airbrushing and retouching of photography in the same women’s magazines that tell us what amazing products we should use to achieve this perfection (ironic, isn’t it?) have given us an unrealistic view of what a healthy face looks like. We all have flaws, and that’s ok! Chances are, the only person that ever notices them are you. It may be a bit cliché, but laughter and happiness are the best beauty products out there. And they’re free! So, take all that money you were going to spend on serums, anti-wrinkle creams and miracle moisturizers and go have some fun with it. Your skin will glowingly thank you.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Pure organic coconut oil. Takes off make-up. Cleans skin. Moisturizes skin.

  2. Great post. I went through a vicious cycle as a teen–I had acne, so I wore makeup to hide it, so it got worse. It was horrifying by the time I went to see a dermatologist. She prescribed strict no-makeup for 6 months minimum, dove sensitive skin soap (or equivalent), and a pill/cream combo. I didn’t wear makeup for years and years after that. Even today I still wear it rarely or in minimal quantities.

    Like you, I was fortunate to have a boyfriend (now husband) who didn’t want my face to get gunked up and was very supportive of my no-makeup policy.

    The sad thing is that the beauty industry makes it so hard to kick the stuff. In most cases, woman needs a professional face as much as a professional wardrobe. I’m just lucky to work in libraries, where it’s less important.

  3. Thanks for the great feedback. It seems many of you have had similar experiences and I hope that sharing mine can start a dialog that can help provide support and solutions.

    I went to the dermatologist again this morning; he told me I made his day because my skin looked so great, and, well, that sort of made my day!

    I also came across this post by make-up mogul Bobbi Brown today, where she talks about the true essentials of beauty. It’s interesting that she does not once mention any products, and make-up (her bread and butter!) appears only as a side note at the end.

    Food for thought…

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