Saturday, August 19, 2006

Getting Pretty

People who know me know I'm not the sort of person who goes out and spends a lot of money -- any, really -- on "beauty products." So they may be surprised to hear that I just bought over $40 on such items, plus $20 on a book on the subject.

Some background: Jacqueline, that random woman whose blog I read ;), recently posted a fairly controversial entry basically telling the many men who email her hoping to hook up that she is too "high-quality" for them, and that they should aim a little lower if they hope to get dates. I identify with Jacqueline in some ways (am young, educated, intelligent, independent, and interested in sci-fi and libertarianism), am working to be more similar in others (am watching what I eat, starting to lose weight, getting my "financial shit together," as she says :P), and would like to be more like her in the remaining ways (travel extensively, have cash inflow independent of physical location, volunteer, be more fit -- not just un-overweight, and be more attractive).

What's interesting about Jacqueline is that she says that, during college, she was overweight and dressed like a frumpy geek. Gee, I don't know anyone who might fit such a description... But then she decided she'd rather be attractive than frumpy, did some research, and gave herself a makeover. As you can see from her blog photo, she's not exactly a mud fence.

So, uh, a "friend" of mine -- not me, no siree, a "friend," yeah -- emailed Jacqueline and asked for advice or book recommendations, should I my friend want follow in her footsteps. Amazingly, Jacqueline responded the next day, despite being swamped by new traffic from her aforementioned controversial post. Among other things, she recommended The Beauty Bible by Paula Begoun and The Seduction Mystique by Ginie Sayles.

So I went to Borders and read/skimmed through half the book, culling what information I needed to start on getting rid of blemishes. (The makeup part will come after that.) The "Plan A" attack is the basic, over-the-counter line-up of products, the first thing to try. Hopefully I won't have to resort to Plan B or further down the list. I'd rather not get into prescription territory.

What I like about this book is that the author is very vocal about all the crap marketers try to sell consumers. She also addresses the root causes of zits and matter-of-factly says that if the products you use don't solve the root causes, it doesn't matter what you do to the pimples you have now. They form over weeks (about 3 weeks, she says), so you have to diligently keep up a routine for at least that long before you can reasonably expect to see results.

The first and obvious step is cleansing. "Irritation is bad, mkay?" says the author (although perhaps not quite in those words). Thus, she recommends staying away from anything scented (fragrances are apparently irritating) and using "gentle" cleansers that are liquid. Liquid in particular, because the chemicals that make products solid at room temperature tend to clog pores and just induce more breakouts in people already prone to them.

Apparently there is also bacteria involved with breakouts, which I didn't know about. So step two is disinfecting, with the popular over-the-counter solution being benzoyl peroxide. So I got some of that stuff, too.

Third, an exfoliator to help slough off dead skin cells so they won't go falling into your oily pores and gumming up the works. Bastards. (The author didn't phrase things quite that way, either, but I'm sure that's what she was thinking.) There are many active ingredients that perform this function, but the author recommends salicylic acid (BHA). This also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, which helps negate the irritation inherent in exfoliation.

Each of these steps is to be done in the morning and evening (although if the skin feels noticably dry or tight, you're supposed to cut back on the frequency). Additionally, the author suggests using a "facial mask" only in the evening to absorb excess oil in the skin. I had no idea what milk of magnesia was -- it's a laxative when ingested, but it's also used a facial mask. Weird, but whatever. At least it was the cheapest item, being the only one not in the beauty aisle.

As for why I'm suddenly interested in all this... It's not to attract new men (though unsolicited compliments from strangers is always nice). I have a boyfriend and am perfectly happy, thankyouverymuch. It's more about realizing that I'm 22 and still dress the same as when I was 12. I look around at adult women and I don't feel like I'm a "real" adult myself. I want my checklist of qualities to be as strong as Jacqueline's. I believe I'm capable in bettering myself in just about any area I put my mind to, so why not tackle being fit, healthy, and attractive? Nothing wrong with that.

So that's the latest craziness going on over here. Geeks in skirts, eyeing the makeup aisle. What's the world coming to?

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John Cowan said...

The "root cause" of zits is testosterone and other androsterones on one level; on another level, it's bacterial infection, typically staphylococcus.

Be a little careful with the benzoyl peroxide too. It's a high-powered oxygenation agent, and mixed with a lot of common household substances it can go BOOM.

Arthaey Angosii said...

Thanks for the warning re: benzoyl peroxide. I promise not to smoke while cleaning my face, nor will I try to embarrass it by slipping it a joy buzzer. ;) (Thanks, ICSC 0225.) Wikipedia seems to think that it's generally not a problem in the small concentrations present in over-the-counter stuff? (Seriously though, thanks for the heads up. I didn't know that about benzoyl peroxide.)

staticfoo said...

Nope, probably not a hazard in such small quantities. It breaks down in the same way as Hydrogen Peroxide (surprising, eh?), another seriously nasty chemical at high concentrations, but nobody is worried that a bottle of the stuff at household levels will explode.

Even at 10%, the strongest available concentration of which I am aware, your standard 40g tube of benzoyl peroxide would produce about 0.18 liters of oxygen, assuming all of the benzoyl peroxide were to break down at once. While such a quantity of oxygen might make a small flame a bit larger, it's not a terribly dangerous amount, even if a joy buzzer is involved. :)