I am agnostic down to my soul, which is to say that I have a very strong belief in possibility. I am as set in my ways as one can be while acknowledging that those ways mainly consist of stumbling through life while trying to do what’s right but never coming close to having it all figured out. This is my approach to exploring the world, to work, to relationships, and especially to beauty, which means I’m frequently slathering stuff on my body in the hope that it will do something, anything to improve my life and/or appearance. I keep a steady hand while applying whatever cream, gel, or goop, but inside I’m flailing.
I’ve written at length about the ways I torture myself to stay young in the face. This product diary will be a reflection of much of what I already wrote there, but with new observations, new tips (I’ve gotten really into watercress in the past two years), and brand names (spoiler: my utilitarian lifestyle and frugal philosophy means that most of said brands aren’t very exciting). I also incorporated some of my anti-aging techniques in a gift guide that ran on this site in November. I don’t mean to repeat myself, but I imagine that if I am actually going to live to my target of 150, I will end up repeating myself a lot. It would be simply impossible to have original thoughts all the time for a century and a half! So this diary is not only a depiction of my practice for fighting aging, it is actual practice for what I’ll do to fill the time. Thanks for having me.
When it comes to sharing the fruits of my many complexes and anxieties that comprise my daily routine, I like to put it all into perspective by quoting words Madonna said at 1990 press conference after the Vatican had banned her from stopping in Italy to perform on her Blond Ambition Tour:
My show is not a conventional rock show, but a theatrical presentation of my music. And like theater, it asks questions, provokes thoughts, and takes you on an emotional journey portraying good and bad, light and dark, joy and sorrow, redemption and salvation. I do not endorse a way of life but describe one and the audience is left to make its own decisions and judgments. This is what I consider freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of thought.
Forever and ever, amen. Now let’s groom.
I’m not going to link to it, but remember that piece that was published earlier this year on another website that was like, “skincare is a scam”? Sorry, disagree. There was one sentence in particular that I really disagreed with, which claimed we don’t even know what moisturizer does. I do! It transforms me from my natural state of scaly, reptilian biped monster into something passably human. If any scientists want to study me, I’ll be hiding out in my underground hole.
So I moisturize a lot. The fervor with which my dermatologist has pushed Cetaphil on me for years suggests he owns stock in the company, but sometimes it’s nice to have someone to just tell you what to do (top me, skin zaddy), so I listen. I wash my face with the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which smells like nothing, tastes like nothing (yes, I tasted it to determine if the smell was lying), doesn’t make suds, and might actually be nothing. I try to use products that are free of perfume, because my skin is very sensitive and I will break out, but also because I want to smell like a single distinct fragrance, not an amalgamation of the many products I put on myself. Just like I don’t trust white men to cut my hair (they always fuck it up), I don’t trust toiletries to scent me. Pretty much the only cologne I wear is made by Comme des Garçons, and it’s always some weird mad-scientist shit with like astroturf on the base and then notes of cherry blossoms, wood chips for pet cages, French fry found between car cushion, and Red Vines. I love it.
I do use a deodorant, Degree Freshdeodorant Arctic Edge, which doesn’t smell much, doesn’t turn my white T-shirts yellow (thanks to its lack of antiperspirant), and keeps my underarms reasonably okay smelling for most of the day. I’m actually more ashamed about this than anything else in this post, just because deodorant seems so bad and unnatural. But what am I going to do? Rub a crystal on myself? I’ve never had any luck with crystals, those of the deodorant variety and otherwise. I have a friend who only puts on deodorant when he’s around straight people—I admire his gumption and I emulate it when I’m feeling bold.
I use a Cetaphil moisturizer (Fragrance Free Daily Facial Moisturizer) with an SPF of 15 (the sun will chew you up and spit you out like a rock band does a groupie), but before I put that on, I use Hada Labo’s Gokujun Hyaluronic Lotion Moist, a Japanese moisturizer that’s somewhere between a gel and a toner. Someone suggested I try this after I wrote the aforementioned anti-aging piece for Deadspin, and now I’ve come to hate the feeling of dryness spreading over my face between getting out of the shower and putting on my moisturizer so much that I can’t not use the Hada Labo shit, even though I really have no idea what it does and have a sneaking suspicion it actually does nothing. I guess this is what addiction looks like.
With my moisturizer, I blend a pea-size dot of Tazorac gel on weekdays (I give my face a rest on weekends). I don’t know much, I don’t even know if I love you, but I do know that Tazorac works. It’s the only thing that I actually, 100 percent believe in contained in this post, perhaps in my life overall. For our purposes here, it is God. Actually I don’t even believe in God, but I do believe in Tazorac. So Tazorac is beyond God. It’s a retinoid, available by prescription only in the U.S., and it got rid of my milia entirely a few months after I started using it. I used to go get facials once a month, which was expensive and left my face looking like a murder scene for at least a week after. Then I’d be pretty clear for two weeks and then I’d need one again. Over and over. My aesthetician was an enthusiastic Ecuadorian woman named Monica, who would ardently pick and pop while saying things like, “Lesbians have a lot of butterfly tattoos,” and, “You know how French people are: very chic.” While I miss her observations, I do not miss the havoc she wreaked on my face. I really think a dermatologist is a much safer bet than... Monica. On top of their anti-acne properties, retinoids are good for fighting wrinkles/keeping your face supple with collagen. I only wish I’d gotten on the Retinoid Express earlier in life, freezing my face into place when I was still an actual baby.
I also use an eye cream, but only because an aesthetician I talked to at a pride party one year told me to. I have no idea how eye creams work or if they work—never read so much as a study—but again, I don’t mind being told what to do. I will use any old eye cream, really, as long as it is cheap and doesn’t burn. Right now I am using the MD Complete Eye Wrinkle Corrector, which was sent to me for free and is endorsed by Marie Osmond. Sending me free face gloop is my second favorite thing Marie Osmond has ever done—the first was reciting a Hugo Ball poem on television in the ‘80s. Let’s take a break to watch Marie go dada:
I brush my teeth with Crest 3D White, which honestly has not gotten me any whiter than just-past eggshell in some 10 years of usage, but whatever. Gotta use some kid of toothpaste. I also floss everyday, using Listerine Cool Mint floss, which I find refreshing and durable. A lot of other brands will snap off between my teeth, which I never would have guessed are Pennywise-sharp, but apparently are inside my mouth?
I don’t mean to make this about you (it’s about me!!!), but please floss? Whenever I smell uncleared plaque between someone’s teeth, I think, “I guess nobody loves them.” Surely a loved one would have the mercy to tell these people that wafting out of their mouth every time they open it is the sweet smell of a rotting corpse.
I think you should floss. Right now.
I use Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream on my particularly ashy bits like elbows, knees, and, as of this winter, outer ankles (???).
And that’s about it. After the gym (which I generally go to after work) I wash with the usual face wash and moisturize with the usual moisturizer. Face business as usual, as they say. Before I go to bed, I wash my face again (I know, three times a day is a lot of times to be washing your face but I’ll let you in on a secret: I often fall asleep before I get the chance to wash my face this last time). When I do wash at night, I generally use the Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser for no other reason than the abundance of it I own. I had bought it BOGO at Duane Reade, but then decided it was a little too harsh (this one does create suds) to be using all the time. But it doesn’t burn or anything if I confine my use to only at night, and really, one of my most OCD qualities is my refusal to waste anything, so this would be burning a hole in my under-sink cabinet if it weren’t burning holes in my face (just kidding it’s not really doing that—it’s the leprosy). I’m nothing if not brand-loyal, so I decided to try the Hada Labo Rohto Goku-jun Hyaluronic Milky Lotion for a nighttime moisturizer since I really don’t need to go to bed wearing an SPF. It’s fine! Milky, I guess? I also mix that with a serum—for a while I used the Rescue Serum Concentrate because Naomi Campbell once recommended it on Watch What Happens Live. It contains stem cells (???) and may have been repackaged from a product Kathy Ireland was hawking a few years ago. I really don’t think it did anything worth $80 a month. In retrospect, what use could it possibly be to spread stem cells over your skin? So I’ve switched back to the Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate serum I’ve had for like two years now. Whatever. I don’t think this makes any difference, either, but it costs $62 a bottle, was a Christmas present, and I still have months’ worth left.
In my experience, it doesn’t really matter what you moisturize/serum yourself with before bed, just as long as you do. No matter what I put on my face before bed, I wake up as dewy as a football field in September, ready to take on an entire team.
What is the point of taking care of your exterior if you don’t take care if your interior? How in the hell is a product going to love you if you can’t love yourself can I get an amen? You can put moisturizer on a pig, but it’s still a pig, and this pig says, “Feed me antioxidants.”
My point is that for all intents and purposes, these things I put into my body are “products,” too. Let’s give them the respect they deserve in this entry of the hallowed “24-Hour Product Diary” series.
I take vitamins but I don’t really trust them, thanks to the New York Times’ tireless reporting on this matter. It’s really all just in case, and I only take Vitamin D, Vitamin B, zinc (which I do think helps make my colds milder, shorter, often nonexistent), and the most important vitamin of all, Vitamin Truvada.
Every morning I eat the following: two hardboiled eggs, at least a cup of raw broccoli, and some oatmeal with peanut butter and bananas. I told a friend about my breakfast and she said, “Doesn’t that make you fart?” I said, “Everything does.” At least this energy is clean energy.
I also make myself a smoothie out of watercress, ginger, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and water. After I read about a dubious study suggesting that watercress can eliminate wrinkles that I decided I believed anyway, I started eating a plate of watercress everyday, but then that got to be too much. The bitterness and mustard heat would have me in tears daily. So I decided if I was going to live this life, I might as well pour the hot hell of these greens down my throat, getting them out of the way as quickly as possible. My boyfriend who also drinks these with me suggested sweetening the shakes with frozen muscat grapes. We’ve been doing that and now they’re almost at the point of no longer being torture. I don’t mean to be some cutesy weirdo traipsing around carrying a basket full of little tips for life compacted into catchphrases, but frozen grapes make everything a little nicer, wouldn’t you agree?
I eat a lot of plants throughout the day. I’m kind of obsessive about produce. If people could hear my internal monologue in the produce section alone, I’d be banished from civilization or at least Brooklyn. The other day I happened upon a blood-red cluster of vine-ripened tomatoes in Whole Foods and what popped into my head without my consent was, “Look at those beauts!” Beauts! As though I were admiring fixed-blade knives at a Bass Pro Shop! But in my own defense, it is a really good time of year for tomatoes.
And blueberries! I don’t eat as much of them as I used to, but I still do a few times a week and I’m so glad the bland winter months of blueberries imported from Chile are past us. Things are looking up for blueberries, and by extension, me.
The last thing about produce that I’ll say is that I’ve been feeling a little lost since sumo citrus went out of season.
For lunch, I usually have some of the protein-packed vegan chili that I make a big pot of over the weekend, and then dinner is a salad with some kind of vegetarian protein. I try to avoid bread, sugar, fried food, and dairy as much as possible, but I’m not trying to Aunt Lydia myself over this shit. I made these rules; I can break them, too. I inevitably do at least a few times a week.
I drink a lot of water, which I know a lot of dumb celebrities say is, like, their beauty secret. But have you tried white tea? It’s delicious enough to make you a believer. I drink a lot of iced white tea with mint. I used to drink two liters a day until my nurse friend’s eyes turned horrified and nearly popped out of her head when I told her this. “You’ll get kidney stones,” she warned. After that I reduced to a liter, but I’ll tell you, it’s fucking hard. All I want to drink all day is unsweetened white iced tea with mint. I read that hibiscus tea is actually superior, health-wise, but it’s so expensive (and the blend I found at Whole Foods has stevia leaf in it, which makes it cloyingly sweet, like some woo-woo serene Kool-Aid) and there is not a chance I’d brew, like, a cup with a bag or two in it. No matter the time of year, my lifestyle does not involve drinking warm beverages.
Finally, I work out hard. I guess that falls in both the outside and inside categories. When I lift, I generally go high-reps, low(er)-weights with as little rest time as possible (per the trainer I see twice a month, I try to knock out 100 bench presses, 100 dips, 100 reverse curls, 100 close-grip bench presses, and 100 regular curls in less than 30 minutes), and when I do cardio it usually involves some kind of very light weights and high-intensity interval training, like this 30 minutes of straight torture. Or maybe a kettlebell-swings/burpee combination (swing 3/4 of your max 15 times, do 15 burpees, the set rep do 14 of each, and then countdown from there each set until you reach zero) or double-unders with push-ups (20/10 reps, 15 times). I’m not saying everyone should be attempting triathlons, but I do think that there is a point everyone can get to where they can sustain a routine for, say, 15 to 20 minutes while also feeling like they could drop dead at any point. Ride that edge!
I mean, really, who knows what works and what doesn’t. I just do what feels right, or what I make myself believe feels right, which usually means being as hard on myself as possible. Does meditation to ambient music (I love the new Hotel Neon album so much) count as a life-boosting “product?” Does gazing lovingly at my boyfriend? Does talking to my plants? Do repeated deep dives into Prince’s released (and bootleg) catalog? Does playing Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns at least once everyday, like I did pretty much all winter? Is sleep a product? Who knows, it all seems to make me happy and contributes to the anesthetic illusion that I am staying young at heart.
Bring ‘em home, Joni.