As much as I love my beauty products and the daily ritual of slathering them on my face, there have been times when I envy my S.O.’s low-maintenance skincare routine. Actually, I should clarify — he doesn’t even have a skincare routine. He never washes his face, unless he feels compelled to toss some extra body soap lather on his cheeks while he’s in the shower. I’ve seen him use moisturizer maybe two or three times, and that was only because he needed something to do with the extra bit of coconut oil left on his spoon. But here’s the kicker: he has gorgeous skin. It glows. It’s flawless. It’s infuriating.
Me, on the other hand, I’ve had to work very hard to get my skin to where it is. I’ve gone through all sorts of experiments before I decided on a specific routine. Here’s how mine goes. Every morning, I rinse my face with cool water, apply serum, and put on a non-comedogenic Obagi moisturizer with broad spectrum SPF 30. At night, I wash my face with a gentle cleanser, apply toner, serum, and organic coconut oil as a night moisturizer. Every third night I put on a thin layer of Retin-A, a topical cream that treats acne and hyper-pigmentation, right before my coconut oil.
This skincare routine has served me well over the years, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the multi-billion dollar skincare industry in general. 54 percent of men don’t use any beauty products at all on their faces (like my S.O.), while 35 percent of women use one or two products daily and 17 percent use three or four (like me). That’s a lot of money we ladies are spending on skincare. According to Lea Goldman from Marie Claire, “average women pay $151 billion in extra fees and markups that men don’t have to pay.” That means we often spend more simply because we’re just charged more at the counter. It’s a gendered business scheme, and it’s completely unfair.
So I wanted to find out what would happen if I copied my boyfriend’s skincare routine for the next week. I knew it would cost less. But would I find out that all those beauty ads have been lying to me when they promise brighter, tighter, less tired looking skin? Or would I find that my skin does, in fact, need a regimen to keep it healthy looking? Time would tell.
Here’s my face before the week started, with nothing more than mascara on and some nude lip gloss. Looks pretty good, I’d say. No zits or discoloration naked to the human eye.
Days 1 & 2
I didn’t wash my face with anything but water on Day 1. That night, it felt all shades of wrong to climb into bed without any moisturizer on my face. Everything felt dry and uneven, especially my cheeks. The next morning, my face still looked clear, but it was quite greasy, particularly in the T-zone, as you can see above. It definitely wasn’t the kind of canvas ready for BB cream or foundation. So I went that day without any makeup, and instead just rocked some mascara and lip gloss.
Let the drama begin. A zit appeared on my forehead in the morning. It’s small, but it’s there, and I can tell it’s going to be a juicy one. When something like this appears on my face, I never really stress about it because my Retin-A cream is always there to save the day. I usually dab a little bit of it on the zit and within two days it has dried up and faded away. But my boyfriend doesn’t use Retin-A. He doesn’t even know what the hell that is. So I braced myself for the worst and expected this pimple to stick around for the long haul.
Days 4 & 5
When we hopped in the car to go teach yoga, I witnessed my boyfriend do the strangest thing. He said, “My face feels a little dry.” He puttered around the car and found a small tube of hand cream I keep in the cup holder for, you know, my hands. He proceeded to unscrew the cap, squeeze a knob into his palm, and rub it into his face. LIKE A PSYCHOPATH. I suddenly had a flashback to Mean Girls when Cady gives Regina George a tub of peppermint foot cream to use on her face. Ew.
Much to my dismay, I realized I had to do the same thing. I was copying him all week after all. I pumped a little bit into my hands and rubbed it onto my face. It felt heavy, thick, and disgusting. I grimaced as I spread it on my forehead, where the zit was still going strong. I had an irrational fear that the hand cream would make my acne worse. But, hey, foot cream didn’t affect Regina George’s flawless skin, so maybe we would have the same fate.
The next day I learned that the hand cream didn’t have such a devastating effect after all. My skin was pretty much the same — greasy in some spots, yet dry in others. I still wasn’t really wearing any makeup. I was also pretty convinced that no matter how much practice I had under my belt, it would never feel right going to bed without a layer of moisturizer on my face.
My pimple is growing bigger by the second. It’s ripe as hell, but not yet ready for popping. The whitehead still sat just below the skin and I didn’t want to risk picking it off and subsequently scarring. After I got out of the shower I automatically reached for my serum. My mind was on other things so my body started functioning on muscle memory. As soon as I pumped a little blob into my fingers, though, I realized that this wasn’t permitted. I had to wash my precious serum down the drain. Money wasted, I thought to myself. Ugh. I momentarily hated my boyfriend and his lack of skincare routine and this huge pimple on my head that was totally, completely, 100% his fault.
Finally, the zit is conquered! The little sucker was ready to pop, so I gladly squeezed the nasty juices out. It’s still a little red and scabby, but that will go away soon. All in all, the pimple survived for five whole days, which is a lot longer than I’m used to. My skin was feeling particularly dry at the end of the week and every time I tried to put bronzer on, it looked streaky because my skin was uneven. I must say, I was really looking forward to getting my skincare back on track.
I don’t know if it’s because my skin has been trained over the years to respond only to the skincare products that are advertised and sold to me, or whether it’s just that my skin requires a little more pampering to be happy, but I can definitively say my face doesn’t do so well without my team of serum and moisturizers. Because I have sensitive combination skin, not using products that smoothed out the whole surface of my face didn’t have good consequences. I dealt with a greasy forehead but dry cheeks. And let’s not forget that honking zit that wouldn’t leave me alone all week.
As much as I love him, whatever my boyfriend does with his skin from here on out, I want no part of. His effortless routine — or lack thereof — may work for him, but I need more. Call me high-maintenance. Call me prissy. I don’t care. I’ll take that over pimply any day of the week.