Beauty habits and standards are hardly a rare topic of discussion in female spaces. From discussing the ramification of trends (who decided removing fat pads on 20-something faces is cute?) to opinion pieces on why we should say screw it and chuck any devices in the bathroom bin, it’s one of those topics as a woman you almost can’t escape.
Hell, you’d find more information on trends and gadgets than you would practical information on, say, how to deal with reproductive health matters or surviving menopause. As I was standing over the bathroom sink tonight, massaging my jawline and cheekbones with my NuFace, I got to thinking about my own regimen and standards for myself. Mainly I got to thinking about how those have been evolving so far.
My skin was always a massive insecurity for me growing up. Acne flared up seemingly overnight when I was 10, which was the cherry on top of being one of the first girls in my elementary school class to start puberty. At that point I was the only one to be breaking out, and there was some teasing and bullying. Moving schools after fourth grade helped, but the damage was done. I was convinced I was a beastly child, doomed to always be ugly, that everyone was talking about my face behind my back. The acne spread like wildfire no matter what my mom or I did, and it wasn’t until I was in my later 20s I finally found my miracle solution to my problem – adapalene. Better late than never, but 18 years is 18 years (isn’t that a Kanye lyric?)
My other skin insecurity was the fact I’m fair. I’m blaming this on being a young girl in the 90s and early 2000s, when tan, tan and more tan was the rage. My mom is naturally darker complected, and since my mom is pretty – high school and college friends have told me this – I concluded that meant tan dark skin = pretty. I was (and still am) close in shade to cottage cheese, so therefore, my insecurities had me convinced I was ugly.
Fast forward to my 20s. The short ‘n sweet version is that I was still insecure about my skin, but hiding it under makeup and trying to look hot. I started going to tanning beds my freshman year of college to shed that old pasty coloring, which was something I continued doing on and off for my 20s. I was bouncing around different dermatologists for the solution to my acne woes, which never came. And candidly, I was terrified of that vision I had of myself as the ugly girl coming true, where I would wake up one day with a face I hated and would be powerless to do anything to fix.
Now here I am, at 31. I have time and money I didn’t have then to be high-maintenance.
And I am.
I’ve been seeing my esthetician Athena for the past four or five years for general skincare maintenance, in addition to investing in at-home treatments such as my NuFace Mini. Last winter I decided to switch it up from adapalene to prescription-strength tretinoin, and there’s been an extraordinary difference in how my skin looks and feels. Acne scars from childhood are gone, which I never thought would happen, and my skin looks so luminous and youthful. I think I look better at 31 than I did at 21. Actually, on the skin front, I know I do.
At one point in my life I would have thought professional services and expensive gadgets were the realm of women who were vain or rich. Those women were high-maintenance, while I was a low-maintenance, not-too-many-frills, tomboy at heart. In all honesty though I was a jealous, judgmental sad sack who was hiding behind Not Like Other Girls syndrome, and if I had the resources back then as those girls did, I would absolutely have been getting everything on me primped and polished. One of the great things about growing up, regardless of what you look like, is getting over yourself and the Not Like Other Girls baloney we’ve all bought into once. That on its own has been incredible character development.
Now I get my hair done regularly and have monthly facials, in addition to researching gadgets and pouring over the skincare aisle at Ulta. I have a dedicated but flexible beauty routine, and I’m having fun on the high-maintenance side of taking care of myself. And the best part of it all? As cliche as it may sound, I really am doing it all for me only.
Remember the beauty standards I mentioned at the beginning? Unless someone points ’em out to me, I genuinely have no idea what they are anymore. Frankly there’s too many to keep count of and they’re notoriously fickle, and more importantly: I accept me as I am. I see the beauty in my skin, the paleness and the freckles and even a few scars I have on my back and cleavage. I want to take care of what nature has given me. I don’t want to transform myself into someone else, or some uncanny valley spoof of what a woman “should” look like.
There’s no room for insecurity or self-hatred here. Only self-acceptance and wanting to honor what nature gave me, as well as the genetics of my maternal side doing me a big one on the shape and size of my nose.
So Reader-friends, I’m embracing the high maintenance beauty life because I have no interest in picking myself apart and wasting my time in self-loathing. I hope you all do the same. And drink plenty of water. Because that’s important in general.
Yours in life and writing,