After a lifetime of indifferent skin maintenance, over the last year (under threat of rapidly approaching middle age) I have finally gotten my life in order and dedicated myself completely to a nighttime skincare routine. But, you see, there’s a trick involved—a small treat to incentivize my good behavior. At the very end, I take a small jar and smear my entire face in something with a consistency somewhere between Vaseline and Carmex, and it makes me feel like an Old Hollywood star every single time.
There’s nothing really spectacular about my nighttime routine, generally, which is heavy on the CeraVe and a small tube of fairly weak prescription retinoid. Nor is the environment particularly glamorous. As much as I’d love to swan around a beautiful space full of expensive candles and gorgeous vintage tile, it’s just a narrow bathroom without much shelving where I don’t scrub the grout anywhere near often enough. But at the very end, I seal everything I’ve done to my face with REN Evercalm Overnight Recovery Balm, a substance so thick I have to let it warm on the tips of my fingers briefly so it’ll spread right. It ought to be completely gross—like I’m coating my face in whale blubber—but instead, it makes me feel like I’m under contract to MGM with a team of fixers ready to disappear any evidence that I was once briefly married to a used car salesman convicted three times for fraud. On black-and-white film stock, it would glisten beautifully, like melodramatic fake tears.
I use the stuff for very practical reasons, of course. I am prone to dry skin and it’s getting worse as I get older. I live in the Northeast and every winter is a nonstop assault upon my epidermis from cold weather and hot radiators. (Not to mention the air pollution from years of New York City living.) I am convinced that, had I stayed in my native Georgia, the fine lines would be moving slower. This balm isn’t magic, but I’m convinced it is, at the very least, some pretty good science. Plus it doesn’t have any perfumes, as far as I can tell. (I know opaque pump bottles are better, Beautypedia, please don’t yell at me!!!) Lately, for the hottest months of the year, I’ve temporarily replaced my balm with a lighter but still heavy CeraVe overnight cream, but I’m eagerly awaiting the overnight recovery balm’s return to my evenings because it truly gives me so much joy.
Of course, I am aware, even as I relish applying this stuff that feels like axel grease all over my face, that the old Hollywood beauty routine itself was always as much fiction as fact. Despite many years of faithfully consuming Turner Classic Movies, I know perfectly well that Old Hollywood Glamour TM was maybe 30 percent truth, 70 percent marketing. The cosmetic arts were less advanced, but even back in the day, it was more bone structure, doctors, and cinematic tricks than it was Ponds. But the image of the star smearing her face in cold cream retains a certain staying power—people had faces, in those days! and I laugh a little to myself every time I coat my skin from my hairline to the hollow of my throat.
My only quibble is that I wish it came in a beautiful, sleek, art deco container that looks as though it belongs on a mirrored vanity table in the background of a scene featuring a torrid embrace between two people, one of them in slinky satin nightclothes and the other in crisp black formalwear. I don’t expect Ren to oblige me, but a girl can dream.