**Note: New to my series on acne? It’s important that you start here.
You should know from the start that if you’re considering Accutane as a viable option, it comes with a lot of strings attached. When I was on Accutane, as late as mid-2011, my routine tasks to keep my prescription included:
– Signing a waiver stating I understood people have thought about suicide, attempted suicide, and committed suicide while taking Accutane
– Signing a waiver agreeing to have an abortion should I conceive during my Accutane treatment and for a month following the completetion of it
– Monthly bloodwork, starting 30 days prior to treatment and the last test being 30 days after the completion of treatment (gotta make sure the liver is still working!)
– Monthly knowledge tests of the drug. Had to go online and prove I knew about the drug I was taking, and the dangers involved, and I had to pass.
– Prove two forms of approved contraceptives
– Monthly doctors visits and other various tasks and appointments
Make no mistake- Accutane absolutely must be the very last resort.
Understanding what Accutane is and does: Accutane is a very intense form of Vitamin A that comes in a pill form. (The blister pack of pills had a deformed baby head covering each. and. every. pill. Tell me THAT doesn’t make your lady parts quiver in fear!) The reason it works is because it shrinks the size of the sebaceous glands (oil glands) and causes a very rapid turn over of skin cells. If you’ve read the previous post on what causes acne, you understand that this, quite effectively, takes take of two of the three problems.
I started my first round of Accutane in January of 2009. In re-reading my previous writings, I realize it took a good solid 5 months for me to start noticing results. My dermatologist kept me on the drug for 7 months, but by that fifth month I distinctly remember my skin was more smooth and more clear that I can ever recall. It was pure bliss. It wasn’t till I felt good about myself that I started to change- a change that I didn’t notice then but looking back, realize it was quite drastic. I started taking much better care of myself, and my appearance. My hair and clothes and jewelry and nails and all manner of things got long-neglected attention. It’s like worrying about acne and dealing with my skin took up all the time and energy I had for myself, and once I didn’t have to worry about it anymore, once I felt beautiful, I really started treating myself like I was.
The second round of Accutane started somewhere in fall 2011. I don’t remember exactly when-
The thing about this drug is that it’s supposed to be the ONLY permanent solution. Hundreds of people have done it and gone on to have clear skin for life!! It never occurred to me that I would be back in the dermatologists office yet again, or that another round of Accutane was a viable and sometimes used option for particularly difficult skin like mine. At the time, I had been seeing the same derm for quite some time, and I remember flouncing out of his office and only making it to the next street light before I had to pull over because I was sobbing so intensely. I called a co-worker of mine and just garbled my way through crying, trying to explain what had happened. I couldn’t believe I had to do it again. The first time was bad enough- one morning during the first round I had made myself an egg sandwich for breakfast, and while I was eating it I noticed the bread had turned red. My lips were so dry and cracked I couldn’t even eat without bleeding all over my food! And sitting- sitting was terrible. The pain in my tailbone was severe, and sitting for any length of time was absolutely excruciating. Every side effect I experienced I had been warned about prior to starting it, but just because I knew it could happen doesn’t make it any less miserable. And I was miserable. I never told my derm about the depression, the pain, any of it- I was afraid he’d stop the treatment. The thought of doing a second round broke my spirit into pieces.
But, I sucked it up and did it again. Five months this time, just short of the 6 month recommended period. This time, the effects were almost immediate- I felt good about shorting that extra month. It was all clear skin and happy days. Same routine as before, blood work and waivers and knowledge tests and cracked lips. But my skin was clear again, and I had survived it the first time, so I just dealt with it.
In August 2012, my husband and I took a wonderful 17 day trip up the coast of California, hopping on a cruise ship in San Francisco that would take us up to Alaska and down back along the Canadian coastline. Early into the cruise part of our journey, I noticed the sides of my face were breaking out. No big deal- I had a skin care regimen at that point for the occasional flare ups. My skin never stayed super clear after I completed Accutane twice, but it was more manageable at this point. Only- on that trip- it got worse. I couldn’t get it under control, and before the trip was out both sides of my face were highly infected with all manner of pimples and pustules. Though none of it was cystic, it was really painful and gross and it truly covered both sides of my face. Of course, as soon as we got home I ran to my dermatologists office.
That’s when I got hit with it again- a third round of Accutane. This time I didn’t even have it in me to save my tears for the car- I began bawling right there in his office, complete with loads of snot and plenty of hysterical gasping. I had enough of a relationship with my derm and his cosmetics coordinator at the time that they were fully aware of everything that had had been done, the desperation, all of it. They knew my skin care routine and I remember saying between sobs “I don’t understand. I did everything right. I do everything you tell me to do. I get facials and medical grade peels and use professional product and have spent all the money you’ve asked me to. I’ve done everything right and then some. I’m compliant. I’m SO compliant!! Why does this keep happening?” They had no answers. That’s the reality- doctors really don’t know why we get acne, so they can only treat it as far as science tells them is possible.
To be clear- I don’t blame my derm. He gave me absolutely everything at his disposal to help me. His cosmetics coordinator, who I became very friendly with, was always checking in on me. They really did the best they could.
At the end of the day, I opted out of the third round of Accutane. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it again. Instead, I decided to once again try to find a regimen that worked for me, long term, that didn’t have an end-date. That’s the thing- my acne was always going to be here. If two rounds of Accutane didn’t fix it already, there’s a pretty good chance it’s not going away. The best I could do was not cure it, but manage it, and that would require a daily routine powerful enough to keep my skin clear but mild enough to keep going till I was old and wrinkly and didn’t care anymore.
**Note: New to my series on acne? It’s important that you start here.
What causes acne? Hell if I know. The scary part is doctors don’t really know, either. But let me explain-
Everyone who doesn’t have acne seems to know why you have acne. Have you ever noticed that? It’s like all those clear-faced people around you seem to have some advice to pass around. It’s a catch-22 tho- On one hand, if they had acne then you would know whatever it is that they did wasn’t working, but on the other hand, if they had clear skin, who knows if it was because what the did was working or if they wouldn’t have had it in the first place regardless of their skin regimen? As they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions…
So here you are, loathing the smooth skinned person in front of you who is lecturing you on Omega 3s or milk cleansers or light therapy…
(WHY IS IT THAT THEY ALWAYS ASK “HAVE YOU TRIED PROACTIVE?” Of course we have tried Proactive! You think that we have avoided the most heavily advertised acne product? You think we live in a shell in which the Proactive propaganda doesn’t reach? You think that we would willingly avoid a “miracle” product that is actually affordable?)
(…to that end, yes, I know you meant well. It’s not your fault anymore than it is mine. We know your trying to help. And we do appreciate it. Which is why I smile and say “yes” instead of bellow at you.)
… and you still can’t figure out why you and not them. Well, doc’s haven’t figured that out yet either- they know the ingredients to the acne recipe, but they don’t know where those ingredients come from.
Three things occur to create a zit- All three of these things happen in abundance when you have chronic acne. They are: bacteria, sebum (oil), and un-shed dead skin cells.
Almost all the acne treatments you will find on the market, regardless of their form, treats one of these three things. The product is either designed to be something of an anti-bacterial, to dry up the sebaceous glands, or to shed the buildup of skin cells.
That’s it. That’s what all those products do in one way or another. If it’s clever, like Proactive, it does two of those things- three if you buy their sulfur mask.
For example: The cleanser of Proactive is an exfoliant of sorts (shedding skin cells). Then you follow up with a toner (useless and damaging). You finish off with their Repair Lotion (which is a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, an antibacterial of sorts). If you use their sulfur mask, then your treating the hyper-activity of your sebaceous glands (sulfur reduces oil production).
I’m starting to sound like an infomercial, so let me clarify by saying I am not telling you to go buy Proactive. I’m using this product as an example because it’s widely known and contains treatments for all three parts of a pimple, therefore is an example of what logic should tell us would work. Unfortunately, that isn’t so.
If we know the pieces of the acne puzzle, then why is it so hard to treat? There are, literally, only three parts to a zit and we know what they are. Mystery gone, right? Here’s the kicker: those things have to be caused by something. Therein lies the problem- you can treat the bacteria, oil, and cell shedding, but all your really doing is treating the symptoms. It’s as effective as taking a cough syrup for a cold. The cold will still be there, the cough syrup just makes is bearable. It certainly does not make the cold go away. And if that cough is caused by something more severe, like a respiratory infection, then even the highest quality cough suppressant isn’t going to make the hacking go away.
And that’s when it gets really frustrating. What is the problem that is causing the symptoms? And that’s something no one has been able to figure out.
So let’s recap:
Three main components that create a zit:
- a) Bacteria
- b) Excess Oil
- c) Excess Dead Skin Cells
What do most products do, Rx or OTC? Treat the symptoms, but not the problem.
Why can’t we treat the problem causing the symptoms? Because we don’t know what the problem is.
Why me? Who knows? But, they haven’t figured out a cure for the common cold yet so it’s not like acne sufferers are the only thing science is missing. Next time I’ll talk about the different products available to treat the symptoms.
Get rid of acne: An Introduction
It’s important that you read this before diving into the rest of the posts, so that you understand a) what makes me such a know-it-all on the subject of acne and b) so you can understand how the posts are laid out. It also is important for you to understand all the legal mumbo-jumbo that I need to say, so some a-hole doesn’t come after me and try to sue me.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or professional in a medical capacity. I have never received medical training, except as part of a cosmetologists course curriculum. Before treating your acne, you should consult with your doctor. Any advice you follow, in whole or in part, from any blog posts or otherwise written communication from Amelia C, LLC, is your responsibility alone. Both Amelia C and Amelia C & Co, LLC, is not responsible for any reactions you may or may not have by following any advice, tips, suggestions, or writings written. Essentially: Don’t do or do, it’s all at your own risk and you agree to hold harmless the author of these posts.
How these posts are laid out:
Getting Rid of Acne: Intro (everyone needs to start here)
What causes acne: What. The. Hell. Why me?
Accutane: My personal experience
Does your diet cause acne? Yes, No, Maybe
At home acne treatments: Dumb things I’ve done
Medical Treatments: The dermatologist is my BFF
Clear skin finally! What I do and why I do it
Resources: Places I’ve gone to research and buy products
Covering acne with makeup: Professional advice on faking clear skin
Things to make you feel better about yourself: Media I turn to when I’m feeling particularly low
How to get rid of scarring: Because your face shouldn’t resemble post-apocalyptic earth
Great! Now that the housekeeping is taken care of, let me give you a bit of background on my own war with acne.
Sometime around 13, maybe 14, I started seeing a dermatologist for my skin. Funny- I don’t remember having really awful acne, but I guess it was enough to be treated. I was on a doxycycline, and some kind of gel, I think it was Differin. At any rate, though my skin was never the smooth, soft version of the cheer leading captain, I don’t ever recall being so abysmally horrified except for a few instances where a pimple was in a really embarrassing location- like the center of my nose.
It wasn’t until around 17 through my mid 20’s or so that what seemed like normal teenage acne made a horrific turn. Run-of-the-mill papules and pustules turned from a few offending spots into a full-on pizza face, complete with super deep and painful cysts. Cystic acne is a beast unto itself- those bastards form ponds of oil and bacteria far below the surface of the skin. Not only do you not get any satisfaction out of extracting them (the correct term and far less gross than saying “popping”) because they can’t be, but they last for f***ing ever and create craters and scars in your face. In short- bastards is a pretty mild term to describe cystic acne.
In 2004 I started cosmetology school, and the first section I read once I got my skincare textbooks was the parts on acne. By this time, I had already started my career as a professional makeup artist and was adding my cosmo license to my resume, so I’d have more freedom in the field of how and where I worked. Once I graduated in 2005, I had known a bit more about acne but I was hardly an expert, I couldn’t even treat myself.
Though my timeline is fuzzy, I believe in 2007 or so I went under the care of a dermatologist again. I hadn’t seen one since my teen years, and since I didn’t have medical insurance again till 2006 it never occurred to me that I could see a specialist without it. (Turns out you can, look into it. It’s not as costly as you think.) We did the rounds- antibiotics, Retin A, spiranolactone, so on and so forth. All very standard procedures for starting treatment of acne- start with the mildest and just work you’re way up the intensity scale till something works. Accutane was discussed as a possibility, but even if I could have wrapped my head around the side effects, I was terrified of the costs.
At the same time, I was also “self-treating”. And oh dear God, did I treat myself. I slathered my face in honey and did a kind of tapping facial that is meant to make the honey pull out the oil and bacteria and clogs. I covered my face in various professional sulfur masks (at this time, I had my license so I was able to buy pro product not usually available to consumers.) I steamed my face, scrubbed it with exfoliants, and even one time took a pumice stone to my face out of frustration. One of my better ideas (insert sarcastic font here) was to drink clay. I sh*t you not, I literally drank clay. I was at a aesthetics conference and there was this booth with products made out of calcium bentonite clay. The lady said her nephew diluted the pure clay with water and drank it, then his skin cleared up. I bought the largest jar they sold and gagged the sludge down till I realized I could beer-bong gravel and have the same results. I also tried making masks out of it, only to end up with the same results but with a super red face. Then there was the guy in line at the grocery store- a nicer old man- who said “I don’t mean to be rude, but you should really take zinc for your skin. Take such-and-such amount and it will clear up.” What a nice guy- I got out of line to go add a bottle to my purchases. If it was going to work, it sure did take it’s sweet ass time about it and I ran out of patience first. Of course, sooner than later I was bound to end up trying the Omega method- you know, where you swallow fistfulls of flaxseed or fish oil capsules. That one was the perfect combo of some research and some family telling me it worked for so-and-so. And since I was already so good at swallowing pills at that point, I tried one of those pre-packaged detoxes at Whole Foods. There was a phase where I was bouncing around from one aesthetician to another hoping that regular facials would do the trick, and a particularly holistic esti suggested a whole body cleanse. Not sure if I even did it right, but I remember not seeing any results and bemoaning the waste of money yet again.
While all this was happening, I was slowly building my makeup career. I’m here to tell you, one of the most shameful and horrifying experiences of my life are the days and days I had to go into a client as a professional makeup artist with severe cystic acne. More than once I bawled my eyes bloodshot trying to get ready for work- my amazing husband would then be required to come in and give me a pep talk just to get me to my clients that day. It was devastating. Even going to the professional beauty supply stores here in Las Vegas was a test of my grit and steel- if I happened to come in on some day where a skin care line had a rep there talking about products, it was like guerrilla warfare for me to get my supplies and bolt before some clammy hand thrust a pamphlet at me. One day some lady actually followed me down the aisle after I accidentally made eye contact with her. I really felt like stopping and shouting “Oh, I have acne? No shit, I never noticed! Thank you for pointing that out to me, from one beauty professional to another!”. But then I would have drawn even more unwanted attention to myself, so I did the old-fashioned duck-and-cover. I think she got winded and gave up, I didn’t look back to check.
The journey to clear skin is a long, painful, and humiliating one. I won’t kid you, it ain’t pretty. But after about a 15 year battle, I’m quite confident I’ve got it under control. And, for the occasional times that I don’t, I have a quick and effective plan of action. In these 15 or so years, I have tried EVERYTHING. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who has gone to such great lengths to resolve her acne issues. Here, I’m going to give you the low down on what I’ve done, what works, and what to consider. This series will be a blend of both current, updated info and writings I did back in 2009 when I first started talking publicly about my acne. Those posts had long since gone- they never seemed to make it through all the website updates- but lucky for you I’m quite fastidious and kept all my writing stored. To start things off, let me take you back to November, in 2009, while undergoing the treatment Accutane:
**Note: At first glance, it’s going to look like I’m fan-girling Accutane. I’m not. Snuggle up kids, you need to hear me out on all of it.
November 3rd, 2009:
In January, I entertained the thought of blogging about the Accutane journey I was about to start. I took photos of my face without makeup- the plan was to take photo’s every month to see how I was progressing and have a documentation of it. I chickened out when I saw the original photos- it was bad. I couldn’t bring myself to post them or talk about it.
But now, I’m nearing the end of the treatment. Accutane is recommended to run a 6 month course, and this past week I got my 5th month Rx. Just in the past few weeks have I started to notice a significant difference in my skin. There was a while there that I was so frustrated because it wasn’t clearing up fast enough, for all the hoops I had to jump thru to get it. (And trust me, there are A LOT of hoops!)
The reason I’m writing now is because I feel as if I’m finally, over a decade later, coming to the end of my acne journey. Like anyone who has acne, the longer it lasts, the more the desperation builds. For me, the sheer fact that I am in the beauty industry seemed to make it so much worse- the more successful I became in my career, the more ashamed I was of my skin. I have even been known to avoid jobs because I was too embarrassed about my face. When I would do clients makeup, my face would always be close to theirs and I felt like I had to explain myself. I could cover up color, sure- but if I had a lot of bumps, it was obvious. Some days, all I wanted to do was scream “It’s not my fault! I can’t help it!” I could go on about the humiliation, but that’s not why I’m blogging…
There is SO MUCH information out there on acne; it can be hard to sort thru. And again, desperate people do desperate things. So I’m going to lay out, very simply, what I have learned. I’ve had the added benefit of having access to professional products as well as retail products. I’ve also devoured any industry literature on acne that I could find… I think it’s only fair that I pass it along.
I’m going to divide this up into sections- I will do my best to do one a week. I’m going to start with the basics of acne. Again, the purpose of this is to simplify the options- sometimes there’s just too much information; I’m going to streamline it for you. I will chronicle what I know, as a professional and as acne patient. If I’m feeling especially brave, I’ll post pictures, but I make no promises…
If you have acne, subscribe to this blog. I may not tell you anything you don’t already know, but if anything, you’ll know that you’re not the only one out there who feels like this. Just knowing you have company may make you feel better.
If you’ve grown up in Vegas like most of the ‘Co has, you can appreciate the intense heat a whole lot more than visitors do. I’ve had some of our clients tell us that coming here in July is like sticking your head in the oven- it can definitely be unpleasant if you’re not used to it! But, for those of us who have spent many hot summer nights here, Spring is a sign of margaritas and pool time and planting tomatoes and opening the windows to let the stuffiness of winter breeze out.
The idea of spring cleaning may not sound that exciting to you- who wants to scrub the house when it’s so beautiful outside? But, if it’s gotta get done, you might as well make the most of it. If I’m going to be indoors and out of the public eye all day, it’s yoga pants and beauty treatments all the way. And it makes me feel super-decadent. Somewhere around 5 pm, my house smells amazing, my body feels amazing, and I’m sitting outside sipping wine and dreaming of hot summer nights. Here’s 5 spring beauty tips that you can totally do on your spring cleaning day, to lighten up both your body and your home.
1) Even the most intimidating scrub-downs can be a little more pleasant with a frilly, super girly rubber glove. Before you slip them on, coat your hands with an ultra-rich Shea butter or coconut butter. Really rub it in and thick, then pop your rubber gloves on and get to work. By the time you’re done, you’ve got your own home-made hand softening treatment. The heat from your body and the gloves will help the intense moisture really penetrate those dried out cuticles and the scaly patches between your fingers- which you probably have if you washed your hands plenty during cold and flu season.
2) I love all those hair treatment masks, but who has time for that? If you take a shower in the morning, you probably don’t have 30 minutes to sit around waiting for it’s magic to work. There’s a good chance your going to shower off all the grime from a day of cleaning anyways, and hopefully no one is going to stop by for a surprise visit, so now is the perfect time. Whip up a quick home-made hair treatment on dry hair (it’s OK if it’s dirty). Massage it into your scalp and down through your ends, then comb through with a wide-tooth comb. Pop a shower cap on (or a plastic grocery bag and clip will do!) and forget about it. When you shampoo it out, get ready for some seriously silky locks!
3) Boost your beach-body work outs with a watermelon detox. This isn’t the sexiest thing to talk about, but roll with it. We eat, and eat, and eat all winter long. Even if you’ve changed your diet and started your morning runs again, you’re body is still hanging onto all kinds of toxins from all that merry. Watermelon is a super hydrating way to detox your body and flush out your system. When I say flush, I mean flush. If you’re going to be toilet-bound for a whole day, I highly recommend you do it in the comfort of your own home. Detoxing clears up your skin, slims you down, and gives you a major energy boost. It won’t be pretty, but it will be worth it. Check out this recipe and guidance on how to do a watermelon detox. You’re going to be at home cleaning anyways, might as well clean out your body, too.
4) Pamper your feet and get your toes sandal-ready. It’s way too easy to skip those regular pedi’s during winter. No one is going to see your toes under those chic winter boots anyways. Although our feet don’t take winter that hard when they are bundled up, there’s a good chance that they could use a little pick-me-up too. Slather your Shea butter or coconut oil that you used on your hands onto your feet as well, and pay extra attention to the side of your big toe and heel. Slip on thick socks and your sneakers, then go about your housekeeping. At least you won’t be embarrassed when you make your first trip to the nail salon for summer!
5) Triple-treat your beautiful face. You don’t need to be in a spa to get the deluxe treatment action going on. Before you do all of the things listed above, before you start your cleaning, get your skin in order. Start your day with your normal face wash, taking a little more time than usual to really clean your skin. Your next step is to exfoliate- you always want to exfoliate before a mask to help with better penetration. My preferred exfoliant is 5-6 non-coated Aspirin tablets dissolved with a little water and mixed with a little cleaners. Scrub your face in small, circular motions, taking care not to press too hard. Rinse off your scrub and top with a mask that suits your own unique skin needs. If it needs to set for a while, get a jump start on your cleaning. Come back, rinse it off, and either follow up with a double pack (meaning, another mask for another treatment) or, if you’re all set, layer on a thick amount of moisturizer. You won’t be wearing makeup today, so here’s a chance to really hydrate your skin without too much moisturizer getting in the way of your foundation.
Happy Spring everyone! Looking forward to grill-outs, warm nights, all things coconut, and maxi dresses!
Authors Note: This article was written in 2010 and updated Sept 2013, and since then I’ve learned even more about the safety of our cosmetics. Specifically, the Safe Cosmetics Database. Something worth noting is that “hypoallergenic” makeup doesn’t mean much. It just means that the ingredients in the product do not generally cause a reaction in most people. Regarding the safety of mineral makeup because it’s “natural”… well, scorpions are natural, too. You going to rub one all over your face? The point is this: YOU, and only YOU, can determine what’s important to you in cosmetics. For me, I’m Vegan, so I recently switched most of my makeup brushes to synthetic fibers (in LOVE with Cozzette, if your interested). But, I despise mineral makeup. Use the information at hand to make your own choices about what cosmetics work for you.
A while ago, I was forwarded an email inquiring about lead-based lipsticks. You know how you get those chain emails where everyone is worried about a health or public safety concern and it’s the same email that’s been circulating for like, years? That’s what this was. Only, it was true.
The government, at best, loosely regulates the cosmetics and body care industry in Las Vegas. Loosely, at best.
Read that twice, girls and boys who want to be girls.
The stuff you shellac on your face and body every day really hasn’t been approved by a safety commission or regulatory group. Maybe some things kinda sorta get watched, maybe there’s some basic idea’s about what you can’t put in cosmetics, but it’s so loose and so unregulated that it really doesn’t matter. No one really cares if the emollient in your body lotion is a known carcinogen. I suppose you would, if you knew, but as most of us aren’t chemists we are none the wiser.
Cue hero music, enter the Environmental Working Group (EWG)
The EWG is a wonderful organization who has taken the liberty of collecting the very information that we are not privy to and putting in an accessible place so we as consumers can go and get an unpleasant education about our beauty products. By visiting their website Safe Cosmetics Database, you can look up the various goodies in your makeup bag and see how they rank on their comprehensive Hazard Scale. The scale rates cosmetics from 0, being the most benign to 10, being toxic sludge. It also includes in their crafty little ranking why that particular cosmetic was ranked as such. Case in point: My new favorite mascara, Lash Hugger by Tarte. Let’s see how it looks to EWG:http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/product/234542/tarte_Lash_Hugger_Eco-Friendly_Natural_Mascara%2C_Black/ Not bad. Not bad at all. Get’s a 4, which is pretty low, so that’s a good start. I know that the tube itself is made from recycled aluminum, which is a bonus. Still has hazardous ingredients but on a scale going up to 10, it’s pretty mild.
I try to go through this process every time I make a new purchase. It doesn’t always happen. If I need a product and there are no other options, I won’t look it up in the database because if I’m going to have to buy it regardless, why torture myself. If there are multiple options available, I always compare products through the database. You should do the same. Do that with your cosmetics NOW so that you know what to refill and what to change next time you run out of something. While your there, make a donation. It doesn’t have to be crazy, five or ten bucks is plenty. But these people are going to save our asses if we let them so let’s fund our own education.
Another thing that fascinates me about all this is that there are some cosmetic lines that are actually banned in the UK for toxic ingredients. So, it’s OK for us American girls to slowly slaughter ourselves with our own vanity because ignorance it bliss? I don’t think so. I’m not going down without a fight.
And when you hear me pull out the soap box, just remember: There is no real government investment in regulating the cosmetic industry.
Stress and Weight Gain: The Big Fat Truth
The magazine racks are nearly bowing under the weight of all those glossies with screaming taglines about sex, makeup, and weight. And all of them have valid points- weight gain, especially in women, is a source of both inner and outer controversy. There’s this massive sign on the side of this super gym I drive past almost every day promoting free enrollment for women. We get it, society! You can launch all the “real women” campaigns you want but when you market your gyms and shape wear and fit models and motivational boosters, it’s hard to drown out the noise and desperation to be thin. And until recently I saw all this grand marketing as just more propaganda mixed in with everything else shoved in my face daily. But when I suddenly ballooned out last week after weeks of dieting, daily workouts, and general good health I was reduced to tears and became very hyper aware of all the “think thin thoughts” around me.
Diet and exersize has been a part of my life pretty consistenly for the past five years or so. Not because I felt over weight or had body issues, but because I liked looking better in my clothes and I liked the light, springing feeling being fit gave me. No crazy diets or work outs, either. Mostly daily cardio and plenty of clean eating. I wasn’t stick thin, but I felt balanced and never felt totally denied. I wanted to keep that comfort level, so in Janurary when I quit smoking, I immediately went on a diet as well. No reason to bloom out just because I stopped asphyxiating myself. All was well, and I’m super proud to say that as of today I am still smoke free!!! Except…
I started on the patches with lasted several weeks, and then when I finished the cycle used lozenges as needed. A few days of lozenges just to ease myself into being smoke free and just like that, I am taking my first shaky steps on the tight rope that is living life nicotine free. My proud high lasted for a brief, shining moment before plunging down into the utter depths of the depression as my dopamine levels became almost non-existent. Allow me to explain: When one smokes for a significant amount of time, the body stops producing dopamine on its own and becomes dependant on the nicotine to kickstart dopamine release. When one quits smoking, it takes a while for the body to start doing it’s job again. It’s that period between that’s the hardest. Doctors try to counteract this by prescribing various anti-anxiety and anti-depression meds, but that’s just trading one substance for another. Eventually, if you truly want to be chemical free, you gotta get through the dopamine dip and let your body start doing it’s thing again.
So here I am, sitting around way stressed out. My anxiety level is through the roof, and suddenly everything seems cataclysmic and urgent. I know I just gotta grit my teeth and get through it, so that’s the plan. In the meantime, I am not as stringent on my diet as I was at the beginning. The intense and unforgiving 4HB diet designed by my fav author, Tim Ferriss is effective only as a lifestyle. And I just couldn’t hack it and be stressed out with low dopamine at the same time. So I modified the diet slightly so it wasn’t so intense, but still pretty good.
And then… last week… my waistline ballooned out as if I just had my way with a fair-ground full of fried oreos. Because, you know, when you’re stressed out the thing you want the MOST is to suddenly gain weight. I stared in the mirror naked and just cried.
It couldn’t possibly be the change in diet. Granted, I wasn’t eating super clean, but small and rare cheating may be cause for no weight loss or slight weight gain, but certainly not such a rapid weight gain.
My BFF Google had my back and it didn’t take long to figure out the culprit in the case of Sudden Weight Gain: A sneaky little bastard named Cortisol.
I’m no dietician or scientist, so rather than try to summarize it for you here’s some link hookup:
A quick spree under the term “cortisol weight gain” will give you even more info.
So I guess at the end of the day, there’s more to stress management than the superior feeling of being calm in a crisis. If you get stressed out, you’re probably going to put on weight. If you put on weight, you’ll probably get stressed out.
Take two chill pills and call me in the morning.
Confession: I LIVE for Vegas Summers. Where out-of-towners liken our heat to sticking ones head in an oven, I live for soaring 100+ temps. And after spending nearly thirty years in the sweltering Vegas heat, I’ve learned a thing or two about keeping your makeup in place well past margarita-hour.
The key to any water-resistant makeup is…wait for it… silicone. That’s right, silicone! And if not silicone, oil. Sounds strange, I get it, but hear me out. I know right now you’re picturing something like bacon fat in a frying pan, grease slowly dissolving under the heat into a runny mess. But let me ask you this- what would happen if you put salt water in that bacon grease? It would just bead up, right? Please don’t go slather your face in Crisco, just trying to give you a visual here. Silicone-based makeup is the sexier, savvier version of the old oil-based products. And it also happens to be the base of choice for most professional artists. We can use it for traditional application and airbrush application; it blends beautifully and leaves a silky but matte finish. Sweat and tears just bead up on its finish and roll right off. Eureka! Thankfully professional line Makeup Forever has the ultimate collection of silicone-based foundation, and Temptu has some stellar product as well. For home use, I suggest the Makeup Forever HD line.
The other not-going-anywhere product you need to have to survive our summers is eye shadow primer. Unlike other parts of your face, the eyes always have some kind of friction going on. Open, close, open, close. The lid of your eye is constantly rubbing on your crease. If you’ve ever come home and seen that unattractive line of makeup where all your carefully applied shadow has migrated to, you know what I’m talking about. Enter primer to save the day! Primer acts as a kind of adhesive, although it’s not. It locks the shadow in place from underneath, so that all those come-hither looks you’re casting about don’t skew your makeup.
Finally, the thing you need to take with you, your go to, your touch up maven, is blotting paper. (Please don’t over pay. e.l.f. makes a great blotting paper, cheap enough for each bag or clutch.) We can put anti-shine on you, we can use silicone-based makeup, we can use primers, but there is absolutely nothing we can do about your oil and sweat glands. You WILL get shiny. Blotting papers lift the moisture from your face without moving your makeup underneath. In a pinch, those toilet seat covers in public bathrooms work wonders. (Unused, please.) Unless your day exceeds 10+ hours, resist the urge to take powder with you. Oil/sweat plus powder creates an icky, cakey looking finish on the face. Gross. Far better to appear a little dewy and smooth than to look like water and flour had a fight on your face.
Amelia C & Co
I’ve been a smoker since I was 13. It all started in English class- this super cool girl who’s clique I was pining to get into smoked. Teenagers aren’t exactly charismatic, so all I was able to come up with was “Can I bum a smoke?”
Confession: I quit smoking for totally shallow, vain reasons. Now the big 30 is looming in the near future bringing with it all the emotions of middle age. (Does 30 count as middle age? I’m very stressed out about this!) A solid 60 seconds are spent in the mirror analyzing faint fine lines, I look forward to daily stock updates from my husband, and if I’m not careful I’ll find myself perusing baby name websites and plotting epic birthday parties. Oh, and wine is no longer an option, rather mandatory promptly at five pm as long as I am not wielding a curling iron.
So I had to quit. I didn’t quit smoking because of all the health reasons or obnoxious billboards. I didn’t quit smoking because it’s suddenly socially unacceptable. I didn’t quit smoking out of fear of lung cancer or emphysema or gum disease. I quit smoking because I am totally, utterly, unapologetically vain. If your like me, and the dramatic anti-smoking campaigns didn’t do it for you, try these very real reasons to quit smoking now on for size.
1- I am starting to see smoker’s lines around my mouth. Ew. I have nice, full lips and LOVE my lipstick. But my lipstick was starting to feather out from my smokers lines.
2- My hair would stink like an ashtray, but if I washed it too often my color would fade faster. I had some hair refresher spray, but that stuff made my hair feel waxy and look kinda clumpy, so I didn’t use it often. My choices were to either have my hair stink or have faded color.
3- I’ve damn near ruined many purses with spilled lotions and perfumes. Any lady who smokes knows that you practically have to bathe yourself in fragrance after a smoke to douse the stench. It’s only a matter of time before one of your fragrances spills in your bag.
4- Fine lines are starting to appear around my eyes. I knew smoking dehydrated the skin, but for God’s sake I’m 29! I thought this was something I didn’t have to worry about till at least my 40’s! It is more important to me to delay the inevitable eye lift (let’s face it, we ALL know I’m going to get one eventually) than it is to save my health. Pathetic, huh?
5- I have burned holes in some of my very favorite shirts. And I have burned the ends of my hair trying to light a cig. I love my hair, and I love my clothes. You can’t play with fire that much and NOT burn something eventually.
6- My dermatologist says I’m good for business. Seriously, I am on a first name basis with the cosmetics nurse and the receptionist can always find time for a last minute appointment. That’s because I’ve spent thousands of dollars on my skin! If you’ve been reading my blog for any time, you know I had a long, ugly battle with acne. Now that we’ve finally got it cleared, my husband still cringes when he gets the credit card bill because I’m investing in fixing the horrible scarring it left behind. I did NOT invest all this money into my skin just to botch the whole thing with smoking!
I get it- I SHOULD have quit smoking because I was worried about my health. I SHOULD have quit smoking because I was worried about the environment Shoulda, woulda, coulda, whatever. I quit because I’m vain, proud, and want to be a sexy beast well past the age of 35. It just so happens that I feel a ton better and I won’t have to suddenly quit when my husband and I get knocked up!
It happened last night. One minute I was fine, having a wonderful time at a new hipster bar downtown celebrating a friends birthday, the next moment the floor was very anxious to meet me. I should have known our sweet waitress was the devil when she suggested the specialty cocktail after I ordered my simple gin and tonic. I should have known! Instead, I thought “Sure, I can have a slightly sweeter drink, no problem” and it all went downhill from there.
With the help of my husband and a girlfriend, I was able to discreetly leave the party before I ended up in some terrible meme about drunk chicks. I woke up remembering WHY I don’t drink like that, and thankfully the only damage done was a small amount of dignity lost and a dirty pillowcase from not removing my makeup. My skin, however, is another story. I will be pampering my face today as an apology for what I did to it last night. Ladies, take note- it’s the season for parties, so you need to know how to get back to your pretty self ASAP when things get a little too merry!
1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Alternate one glass of juice to two glasses of water. Aside from helping you detox fast, re-hydrating will instantly plum up your thin skin and also help prevent a weeks worth of dry, flaky skin (if you nip it in the bud, fast!) The sugars in the juice also help your body deal with any remaining alcohol.
2) Go for high protein for breakfast, and try to do it within 30 minutes of waking up. There’s a very good chance you scarfed some disgusting, greasy food at some point on your way home last night. Something you would never eat in your right mind. It seems like eating more would be counter-productive to losing weight, but by eating the right thing at the right time you actually kick start your metabolism. (And, after a drunk meal, you’ll need all the help you can get burning that off.) I opt for a protein shake because goodness knows I can’t stand the sight of food right now.
3) Detox teas are wonderful. Any time you add toxins to your body, weather it’s alcohol or food, your organs work overtime without pay. Your skin is the largest organ on your body, so whatever is going on inside will usually show up on the outside in protest. Think of a detox tea as the holiday hired help. Yes, it tastes like rancid licorice, but after what you ate and drank last night your not exactly a delicate flower, are you?
4) Get up, get your chores and work done, then go back to sleep. It’s already bad enough your hungover, don’t make it worse by delaying whatever you have to get done today because you’ll just feel guilty about it tomorrow. (And then you’ll get those worried eyebrows and need Botox.) Suck it up, get it done, and then get back to sleep to give your body the downtime it needs to repair the damage. And take that detox tea with you to work.
5) EyeDews are your best friend! These slippery little under-eye masks are your best friend for fine lines (dehydrated skin), dark circles (lack of sleep), and puffy bags (usually a reaction to histamines in alcohol.) If you can lay down for about 20 minutes with these bad boys on, it will brigten and tighten that eye area taking your whole face from drab to fab. Also good when your not hungover, but expecially good when you are!
Best Advice: Try to avoid drinking too much in the first place! If you know you’re going to be at a party for a few hours, stick to what you know. That was my mistake last night- I can’t drink sugary drinks because if I can’t taste the bite of the alcohol, it’s hard for me to gauge how much I had and I’m certainly not counting. “Drunk” is not a good look on anyone! Know yourself, know your limits. And, when mistakes like mine last night do happen, just go through this list to get back to beautiful fast.
Jersey Shore has scarred us for life. That bronze, golden tan we once coveted now gives us nightmares about skin cancer (tanning beds) or Snookie reincarnations. Well, my dear pale girl, this is your guide to glowing goodness without fear! Really read this blog and commit it to memory. It’s not much, but what I’m about to tell you will give you a tan and keep you from getting Tanged. (You know, that orange powdered drink thingy.)
Side Note- you know we do spray tans, right? Yup! We will come to you and hose you down for that wedding, event, or just because. And every single time, without fail, we get asked “I’m not going to look orange, right?” First of all, even if you were going to come out orange, if we are selling this service we sure wouldn’t say so, would we? “Why yes, you will. We call it the Oompa Loompa special.” No darling, you will NOT turn orange… IF you do EXACTLY as we say. If something goes wrong with your tan, 99% of the time it’s because you did not follow our instructions or complete our waiver form honestly. (So far, we haven’t had any orange tans, but we sure have heard about them!) Alright, time to get those fears under control! Top three ways to avoid a bad spray tan:
1) Be honest about your typical tanning abilities.
The most important factor we look at to determine what level of solution to use on you is your typical tanning abilities. For example, if your so fair that you burn to a crisp in the sun, we need to know that. You may think that if you tell us you “sometimes tan” or “always tan, never burn” that your going to get the darkest solution possible. And your right! If you tell us that you tan easily, we are going to assume that your skin is capable of handling the high levels of DHA in darker solutions, and will use those. Using too high of a DHA level for your skin is the number one reason why tans go orange.
2) Have squeaky clean pores and follow our preparation instructions to the letter.
It is. If you use deodorant prior to your tan, or didn’t full scrub your underarms, your going to turn green. That’s right, swamp green. Here’s why: DHA is actually a sugar that oxidizes. Think of an apple, when you bite into it, the sugar oxidizes and turns brown. So, when we spray this sugar-derived product on your skin, it will penetrate that top layer and turn your skin brown. If you have any other chemicals, such as aluminum very often found in anti-perspirants, that sugar is going to react to that product for a lovely moss hue. Lotion and perfume will act as a barrier on the skin, and the product won’t be able to penetrate. That’s why some tans can be splotchy. If you want an even colored tan, you need to start with squeaky clean pores.
3) Know the post-spray care, and stick to it religiously till the tan starts to fade.
Most tans take up to 8 hours to fully penetrate and work. Getting wet by showering, sweating, or cleaning before that is a quick way to ruin a perfectly good tan. Once your tan is showered off, life as normal can resume but with a few precautions: No soaking in tubs, no lazy long swims in chlorine, no scrub-a-dub dubbing for about a week. Spray tans usually start to fade about a week after (though some of our clients have said our product, Bronze Body, lasts a good two weeks.) Your tan will fade quickly if you do any of the above, because all those things exfoliate the skin. Since tanning solutions only penetrate the top layer of the epidermis, if you scrub or soak that layer off it’s going to take your tan with it.
It needs to be said that this is not a total and complete list. There is a chance you could do all of the above and still end up orange, depending on what product you use and who your tanning technician is. Here at Amelia C & Co, we use Bronze Body products because their base is olive-colored, and therefore very unlikely to turn brassy on us. But, if something does go wrong, chances are there’s something amiss in the common areas we just covered.
You glow girl!