Sunday, August 26, 2007

Oil of Oh Crap

When it comes to beauty and personal grooming I've always taken the "less is more" tack. I'm usually either too busy or too lazy to worry about it much, but I tend to follow the holy trinity of wash, moisturize, and avoid the sun like a vampire. Lately however, I can't seem to stop myself from fussing and fretting over wrinkles and flaws. I think I can safely blame it on a combination of turning 40 and having too much time on my hands, but every time I cross the threshold of our bathroom I make a pit stop on my way to or from the toilet/sink/shower to gawk and gasp at the coin-slot sized creases that have developed between my eyebrows.

One of my first purchases at the hardware store when we moved into this house was a magnifying mirror with an extendo arm. We had one at the old house too. Until recently I used it exclusively for between-wax eyebrow tweezing and mascara application, but now it's become a tool for close scrutiny and harsh criticism. It probably started the day I noticed a 5 foot long gray hair growing out of my chin. Holy shit! Has it come to this? How long has it been there? Have other people seen it? What else has been happening on this face of mine? I eyed myself suspiciously and looked for signs of a moustache (so far so good).
Where I used to fast forward through commercials (we have DVR on our cable) I have found myself lingering on the ads for anti-aging, creams, serums, regenerating, age defying, correcting, hydrating, derma-pod, repair, recovery, whatever it is I'm convinced I need it. The women in these commercials look so beautiful and confident but to actually go to a store to try to buy these items is completely overwhelming.

My mom uses Estee Lauder products, I thought, she's older than dirt and looks pretty good so last week I went to to poke around and see what they had. I immediately clicked on the link that says, "What's Right For You?" I don't know please tell me! The page says this:

"It's easy to be beautiful with Estée Lauder Skincare.Now, let's find your Beautiful Skin Solutions."

Then it says: "First tell us which concern sounds most like you"

And then there are radio buttons of choices:
  • I'd like to revitalize dry and dull skin.

  • I'd like to help prevent the signs of aging before they appear.

  • I'd like to diminish the look of wrinkles.

  • I'd like to have a more lifted and firmer look.

Yes, that. All of that. But there's no choice for all of the above or for that matter weird gray hairs on face. Dammit.

Then I looked at the prices for some of these products and shit a brick. $70 for 2.5 ounces of Advanced Night Repair - I have no idea what it's for. $20 for "rebalancing" face wash - I don't even know what that means. What I do know is that these magic potions are way too expensive for an unemployed crone like me. I moved on to look for something more affordable and more accessible.

I went to - it seemed like a similar schtick, but the website felt more navigable because I didn't have to sort through make-up options. It's only skin care stuff. Still overwhelming, but I noticed a little blurb in the corner of the page that said, "Need help? Talk to someone from our team of Olay Consultants." and thus began an online chat with Janet. It went a little something like this (you don't have to read the whole thing - just note the big long science-y words and bomb diffusing-esqe instructions):

Janet: Hi, my name is Janet. How may I help you with Olay?

Me: I'm old, ugly and confused and I want to be pretty again.

Janet: I'm happy to help you. What are your top three skin concerns?

Me: I've become a wrinkled old crone, I want my skin to all be the same color and to stop getting zits - I'm middle aged - enough with the acne. (I don't bother to mention the facial hair).

Janet: Cleansing is the best thing you can do for blemish concerns. I would recommend trying the Clarify and Cleanse line (fka Clarity). It contains salicylic acid or beta hydroxy to help unblock plugged follicles. I would also recommend using the Regenerist Microdermabrasion and Peel Treatment. This is a two step treatment combination of a microdermabrasion and mini-peel. Since fine lines seems to be your major concern, I would recommend our Regenerist boutique. Olay Regenerist with amino-peptides, regenerates your skin's appearance without chemical peels, cosmetic surgery or laser procedures by renewing the outer layer, one cell at a time.
After cleansing, apply the Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum all around the eye area. Moisturize your face and neck with the Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum and follow with the Regenerist UV Defense Regenerating Lotion.
At night, cleanse again and apply the Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum also. Follow with the Regenerist Night Recovery Moisturizing Treatment. Or you can try our new Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream contains the highest concentration of the amino-peptide formula to deliver skin that looks lifted & firmer.

Me: Chemical-Micro-derma-peel what? Are you fucking kidding me Janet?

Ok. So it didn't go exactly like that but it was pretty close. My text was only slightly more pathetic, but Janet's is verbatim. I thanked her for her help but her instructions were so complex that I actually copied and pasted our chat into Word so I could study it later and form a realistic shopping list. I am somewhat ashamed to say I purchased 5 of the 7 items she suggested for a grand total of around $90. (Have I mentioned that I don't have a fucking job??)

I have used these products night and day, religiously as instructed by Janet and have already performed at-home mircrodermabrasion and chemical peel on myself twice (as per package instructions). Just the sound of the words chemical peel, especially when referring to my face is frightening. Although I kept picturing Kathryn Helmond's character from the movie Brazil (above), it was surprisingly unpainful and my skin didn't peel off my face in bloody strips like I was afraid it might. It just got a little tingly and red for about an hour.

Are the products working? I want to say yes, but hell, I'm not even sure at this point that I needed them in the first place. I will use them until I am scraping the last drop from the containers with a toothpick because I really don't have $90 to throw out the window (or into my pores). In the meantime I have placed a post-it in the center of the magnifying side of the extendo-arm mirror that says "Hello Gorgeous" and flipped to the non magnifying side for good measure.

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