I recently started worrying about my skin—the sort of small worry wrapped up a larger worry about aging and death—but not enough to do anything extreme about it. Do I do enough to keep it healthy and clear? Is my routine too lazy and in need of a wider variety of products? Will I look old and weathered by the time I’m 40? Is Cetaphil even good? I have no answers, but I do have this diary.
After my alarm clock goes off, I tap the button that stops the ringing, then the button responsible for dimming the horrible light that accompanies it. Have you heard of the Philips Wake Up Light? You probably have, because people like to talk about how it’s the best gadget (outside of their smartphone) that they’ve ever bought. This sort of person also loves to rave about Roombas, which I find impractical and terrible wastes of money. Buy a Dyson for the same price! Not that I have a Dyson, but let’s not dwell. Did you know the Philips Wake Up Light actually sucks? I bought the cheapest model (don’t come at me if the expensive ones are better, because the cheap one should be illegal to sell), and it is one of the worst items in my house. The glow is unpleasant and nothing like a sunrise (the light it claims to mimic), the alarm noise is tinny and painful, and it’s ugly! It’s so ugly! But I can’t return it, so every morning, off it goes, telling me to wake up. So I do, and then I walk to the bathroom.
Toilet. Flush. Toothbrush. I own a metallic gray Quip, which I received for free as a perk of hosting a podcast that runs ads. I love its gentle buzzing more than I loved my previous electric toothbrush, a mid-tier Sonicare that was a pain in the ass to find space for. Quip sends me a new brush head every three months, along with a new battery (an Energizer) and tube of mint toothpaste! You can either believe me when I tell you it’s a joy to brush with, or you can assume I’m only complimenting it because they gave it to me for free. What you do is none of my business!
After going to the gym, where I rarely stay for more than 30 minutes, I return home, turn on a podcast through my phone’s speaker, and hop in the shower. I proceed to wash my face with plain old Cetaphil (a product I use out of sheer habit) and body with a fragrance-free Dove body wash. My fiancé and I share few beauty and bathroom products, and that body wash is one of them. I ordered a four-pack on Amazon thinking it was the kind I typically buy at Rite-Aid, but upon receiving it I discovered it was actually a completely different variant which is, yes, fragrance-free, but far too runny for my personal tastes. Oh well! What’s done is done. We will continue using it until running out, at which point we’ll probably try something new. (As of this writing, there are two bottles left.)
Some years ago, my barber made fun of my scalp and told me not to wash my hair every day, so I don’t! But I do condition it every morning with OGX Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco Conditioner. I bought this particular brand because it was cheap if bought in a two-pack, and also because it is paraben free. I do not know what parabens are, but at one point read they are bad—one of the many “bad things” I’ve cherrypicked from the enormous, nearly infinite list of “bad things” as something I have decided to actually avoid. Smoking? Bad thing! I don’t do it! Alcohol? Bad thing! But I drink it! Red meat? Bad thing! I don’t eat it! Fried food? Bad thing! I gotta have it! It’s funny how we find ways to rationalize these decisions, isn’t it? Like doing enough good things will balance out the bad things, as though our DNA isn’t out here making decisions all its own. (Paging Barbara Ehrenreich!) But let’s return to the OGX Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco Conditioner. It smells good! Great, actually. I leave this in my hair while washing my body and shaving.
When I first started working from home exclusively, some 18 months ago, I decided I would stop shaving every day. Why bother, I thought. Only like three people and two cats look at me on any given weekday! Over time, however, I learned that shaving every third day is rough as hell on my pale, sensitive skin, and also that I look absolutely disgusting when my facial hair grows for more than 36 hours. As much as I’d like to grow a beard—or even a mustache, honestly, because I guess I’m becoming my father—my follicles are unable to oblige. The hair comes in in patches—the neck is dark, some splotches on the cheeks are too—but the rest is, like what rests on my crown, blond. More accurately, it’s the color of my flesh. Some might even call it clear! (Former The Soup host Joel McHale preferred “creepy flesh colored beard” when describing Spencer Pratt.) Anyway, I shave in the shower because of the steam and easy cleanup, with the help of a “fog-free” mirror that inevitably fogs up because science has its limits. I recently switched to a well-reviewed shaving cream called Cremo Original Shave Cream after reading about it on The Strategist. It smells lovely and has a luxurious texture that makes me feel like I’m treating my skin to a spa day.
After rinsing off the shaving cream and enjoying the hot water as it soothes my recently shaved skin, I rinse out the conditioner, turn off the water, and step out for a quick dry on my years-old IKEA bath mat. It is perfect! I tried switching to a cedar one that was suggested to me a year or so ago, but I found the drips sort of disgusting and always worried I’d slip on the wood and crack my head open. That more people not die in the shower boggles my mind.
Once dry, I comb my hair (no product yet) and apply Cetaphil SPF 15 moisturizer, mixed with a little squeezy squeeze of The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone to my face. (I will buy SPF 30 moisturizer when this bottle runs out, but for now, this will suffice.) If I plan to be outside for an extended period of time, I apply whatever SPF 30-or-above sunscreen I have laying around (I keep bottles upon bottles in the apartment because I fear UV rays) to my neck, upper chest, and arms. If I have razor bumps in my sideburn area (this happened when I shaved less frequently), I apply a little High Time BUMP STOPPER-2, which I think might just be creamy acid. But it helps with redness and bumps when either appears! Another form of occasional spot treatment has to do with my acne, which has fortunately gotten better since middle school, but occasionally flares up because stress is real and the devil—along with my former dermatologist—is a liar. I apply little dots of Clearasil Rapid Rescue Acne Spot Treatment Cream if I notice a zit forming on my face. I have two today! This crap usually makes them less red by the afternoon. It also makes all my towels splotchy! I do not complain because it’s better than applying acne medication every single day, as I did in high school, college, and a large chunk of my twenties.
It is now java time. We keep a big box of Grady’s Cold Brew Concentrate in the fridge, and I mix six ounces of concentrate with six ounces of cold water and a splash of milk every morning. It is obviously cheaper than going to a coffee shop every morning (a luxury I have limited to roughly two mornings a week), but is also around the same price (if not cheaper!) than making homemade cold brew with decent coffee beans. Easy! Affordable! Perfect! If you live in NYC (the only region the cold brew concentrate box is available, unfortunately) and drink iced coffee every day, it’s an incredible option. Along with the java, I have a big bowl of Siggi’s plain 0% milkfat yogurt. (Even their comparatively healthy fruit versions have added sugar! Gross! Another “bad thing” I’ve decided to avoid!) If I have blueberries in the fridge I’ll occasionally toss some in, but normally I eat it plain and 0%. This sounds disgusting—and it is! Until, suddenly, it isn’t. Why am I writing about food? No more of that.
I do not apply product to my hair until leaving the house, which is something I do at least once every day to keep my sanity. Typically, this outing is either a trip to the grocery store, post office, my favorite local coffee shop (where I sit for an hour or two for my afternoon work while drinking a large iced black tea), or a combination of the three. But the hair product! I have tried several in the seven-ish years I’ve had this haircut (an undercut, don’t @ me), but have never found one I fully love. There was classic Murray’s Beeswax? Eh, fine. Murray’s Beeswax Cream? A little better, but I used it for longer than it deserved. Crew pomade of all varieties? Worse. About four months ago I bought a two-pack of Old Spice pomade because I was traveling and desperate. It’s greasy and weak and terrible but I continued using it because, ugh, it was there. But then, a free sample of V76 Texture Paste came into my life. Despite the fact that it’s the best hair product I’ve ever used, I felt uncomfortable spending $22 on an entire jar and instead took the recommendation of website I can’t recall, and bought Uppercut Deluxe Pomade, which was six dollars cheaper. I have not used it long, but am happy with both its scent—a subtle coconut—and the strength of its hold it so far. Should I have spent six more bucks? Probably. Oh well! There’s always next time. I rub a little in my fingers, apply it all over my hair in a manic, almost comical hurricane of a move, and then use a small black comb for smoothness and to nail down the part. Once that’s done, I set the comb down and do one final run-through with my left hand to add a hint of messiness. It never looks as good as it does when I leave the barber, but with both the V76 and Uppercut stuff, it’s pretty close!
Oh, I failed to mention deodorant! Though I just suggested I was a cheapskate with regard to most things in my product diary, I do splurge on deodorant. I haven’t used ant-perspirant in over a year, partly because aluminum is a “bad thing” but mostly because I hated how it stained every single one of my shirts. Instead, I use Baxter of California Citrus and Herbal-Musk Deodorant. It is like $18 but smells so good! And feels so good! And the bottle is nice! And also, why would I care about under-arm sweat when I’m literally soaked everywhere else after walking around in the humidity for 10 minutes in the summer?! As far as I’m concerned, the only form of anti-perspirant that is worth a damn is sweat gland botox. Go big or go home, as they say.
When my worthless, boring day is finished, it’s time to return to the medicine cabinet. After another brush with my free Quip (again, this is not an ad), I pull out 12 inches of Cara Cara Orange Cocofloss, which my dentist all but forced upon me during my last cleaning. I was resistant at first, but now that I’ve just run out of my second pack (each one lasts three months), I’ve found that using Oral-B Pro-Glide (the other brand in our medicine cabinet) is like flossing with air. I miss the texture of Cocofloss! I miss how it gets stuck in my molars! I miss wondering whether or not it’s scratching through my enamel! I will buy more at my next cleaning, which is next week. Was I scammed? I don’t know, they’re dentists...so, probably?
I then wash my face with Cetaphil again, and maybe—If i think about it—apply The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane even though I’m not sure what it does. I would do it every day, but frankly I’m not used to serums yet and don’t necessarily know why I’m bothering. Then it’s time for sleep, so I begin my nightly ritual of reading a few pages out of a book, watching Instagram stories, and dreading the moment my terrible alarm clock goes off again.