Just a quick note to let you know that EVERYTHING (prints, shirts, iPhone cases, mugs, pillows…everything) in the K IS FOR BLACK shop is $5 OFF this weekend! There’s also FREE shipping (yes, worldwide!) on almost everything.
Just a quick note to let you know that EVERYTHING (prints, shirts, iPhone cases, mugs, pillows…everything) in the K IS FOR BLACK shop is $5 OFF this weekend! There’s also FREE shipping (yes, worldwide!) on almost everything.
I’ve been supporting Small Business Saturday (that’s the day after Black Friday, of course—this year it’ll fall on November 29th) for as long as I’ve known it’s a thing, and for many years now I’ve chosen to do all of my holiday shopping with independent artists, crafters and designers, both locally and online. One of my favorite parts of having a blog is opening up the comments to those independent sellers in my annual D16 handmade posts, and I love promoting my favorite sellers here and on my Etsy page.
It goes without saying, then, that I love what Etsy is doing this year in conjunction with Small Business Saturday: They’re connecting small shop owners with local Etsy sellers to host trunk shows, bringing products from the online realm into the brick & mortar world! This is such a great way for boutiques to draw in people who are curious about discovering things they can’t see anywhere else, and of course it’s wonderful for bringing local retail visibility to Etsy sellers. Very, very cool. The list of small businesses who have already signed up to host Etsy trunk shows in their shops this year is impressive, and includes a bunch of my favorite folks—including the ones I’ve pictured here.
I’ve been asked to help support this movement by promoting the event and encouraging other small business owners to participate in the Etsy trunk shows, and I am more than happy to oblige!
Are you a small business owner?
Would you like to host an Etsy trunk show in your shop on Small Business Saturday? Yes? I thought you might! Participating shops will receive a trunk show kit* that includes bags, promotional materials, presence on Etsy’s Small Business Saturday event page, and more.
Here’s how to participate:
1. If you haven’t already, apply as a member to Etsy Wholesale
2. Connect with a local Etsy seller to showcase their products and host them in your store for a trunk show
3. Complete the trunk show enrollment form, here
4. Start planning your November 29 trunk show
You can learn more about Small Business Saturday and Etsy trunk shows on the Etsy blog! And if you do participate, either as a shop owner or as an Etsy seller, be sure to let me know—I’m looking forward to attending the trunk shows local to me.
I’m SO happy and excited to announce the official launch of Schoon Soap! For the past few months, I’ve been working on designing the branding and packaging for an amazing new line of vegan soaps. (It’s been hard to keep my mouth shut about this project, believe me!)
Stephanie Klose has been making soap since 2005, but it wasn’t until this year that she decided to fully immerse herself (literally and figuratively) in the business of creating the perfect lather. After a lot of experimentation, she’s come up with a initial line of 12 varieties of soaps, including fragrance-free and fragrance-ful options. Schoon means “clean” in Dutch, and the name pays homage to the Dutch heritage of the New York regions both Stephanie and I have called home: Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, the latter of which was also my inspiration for the mountain-y logo.
One of the best things about working on the packaging for these soaps is that in order to fully appreciate their characteristics, I (naturally) had to use them. I’m usually a no-frills, unscented, liquid castile soap kind of gal when it comes to shower time, so making the switch to these truly luxurious bars was a pretty big upgrade for me. The first soap I tried was Bay Rum & Vetiver, which passed my smell test immediately: warm, earthy, spicy. The coconut oil and shea butter base felt so great on my usually dry skin, and I had no irritation at all from the essential oils used to give it its wonderful fragrance.
Most recently, I’ve been using the Pure/Unscented bar, which still feels fancy and luxurious even though it’s fragrance-free! Great news for anyone who can’t tolerate any kind of perfume. ALL of the varieties are free from any synthetic fragrances, parabens, or preservatives, and the entire line is totally vegan. (And they’re all made by hand right here in Brooklyn!)
I realize I’m totally biased in saying this, but they also look great in my bathroom—wrapped and unwrapped. Each soap wrapper has its own unique pattern and color, so they feel really special and personal. That was the most important thing to me in designing the packaging—I didn’t want the individual varieties to blend into one another visually (though they do also look nice together in a group!). The coolest part of the project? Seeing the logo I designed for Stephanie embossed into a finished bar. So satisfying.
To celebrate the launch of Schoon Soap, Stephanie and her husband, Rob (who handles the customer service side of things), are offering a 20% discount on all of their soaps until October 6th! Just use the code SCHOONTIME during checkout at Etsy.
And just for extra fun, let’s do a Schoon Soap giveaway! There will be THREE winners drawn at random, and each winner will receive any three bars of their choosing from Schoon Soap. Yay! International entries are welcome. Deadline for entries is 11PM EST on October 12th.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. I’ll announce the winners here and on Twitter tomorrow. The winners will also be notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered!
Here’s how to enter:
✚ Visit the Schoon Soap website.
✚ Check out the soaps!
✚ Leave a comment below letting us know which three varieties sound the most wonderful to you.
✚ That’s it! Thanks for entering. ♥
Congratulations on the launch of Schoon Soap, Stephanie and Rob! It was an honor to work with you.
It’s been a looooong time since I did a manicure post, but I couldn’t resist sharing this latest one. I’m a little bit obsessed with it! I can’t stop looking at my fingers.
I’m still really into Calgel manicures, but custom designs can get pretty expensive. Lately I’ve been getting solid-color Calgel (expect to pay ~$40 and for it to last about four weeks) and painting my own designs on top with regular nail polish. Last month I added white dots to a black base, and yesterday I took a little more time to paint black triangles on top of the palest, prettiest pink.
I wish I had process photos to share, but I did this at 1AM and I honestly wasn’t expecting it to look so nice! It’s easy to explain how to do it, though. You really just need two things: a bottle of nail polish and regular old Scotch tape! Use the Scotch tape to mask off the area you want to paint, carefully brush on the polish, immediately remove the tape (remove the tape strips in the reverse order of which you applied them so you don’t make a mess), et voilà!
A few things:
1. Painter’s tape doesn’t work well for this. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t. Stick with regular Scotch tape.
2. You can definitely do this on top of a regular nail polish base, but it needs to be really dry first. I’d suggest waiting at least 4–6 hours.
3. If you have a little smudge to clean up, just carefully use a clean orange stick dipped in non-acetone nail polish remover. Yes, even if the smudge is on the actual nail.
Last night I went to dinner with Evan and our very cool friend Rena, and we were discussing (in the context of Evan’s guitars) at what point a “collection” becomes a “situation.” I believe the number Rena proposed was 12, which means that I have indeed surpassed the point of having a tote bag collection and amassed (several times over) what really can only be described as a tote bag situation. I’m not sure how this happened, exactly. It definitely wasn’t intentional. As someone who pretty much always prefers the un-fancy things in life when it comes to wearables, tote bags just always seem to be the right answer. It’s easy to double (or triple) up if you need to, they’re perfect for carrying manuscripts on the subway, they don’t add extra weight to your load, and you can toss them in the wash when they get grimy. They also satisfy that ancient desire to silently express oneself to strangers through printed slogans, something I otherwise miss out on as a non-wearer of tee shirts.
A question for the ages for those of you with tote bag situations: How do you store them? I presently have five or six tote bags hanging from coat hooks and door knobs at any given time, and the rest are folded in half and stashed in a bin in the closet. This isn’t ideal, though, since I can’t easily access the ones on the bottom and many go forgotten and unused as a result. My tote bag-loving friend Lisa keeps hers on a long, horizontal hook, which seems pretty smart to me (I’d need several several hooks, though…)! I wonder if there’s not an even more practical solution I’m not thinking of, though. Any ideas?
For much of my adolescence, I lived in a house without a shower. The house was built in 1820, and when indoor plumbing was added, a bathroom was built on the second floor. It had a toilet, a chrome-legged sink, and a cast iron pedestal tub. My mother, two of of my sisters and I took turns taking baths every morning. The tub didn’t have a spray handle, so we kept a big plastic cup next to the tub for rinsing shampoo out of our hair with clean water. I’m not going to romanticize things: It sucked. It made getting ready in the mornings a huge hassle, and it sucked. I loved staying over at friends’ houses so I could take a real SHOWER. (And also so I could eat microwave popcorn and watch cable TV.)
When I was 16 or so, we got one of those shower enclosure conversion things, and life immediately got better. Showers! Every! Day! So! Clean! And do you think I ever took a bath in that house again? HELL NO.
Anyway, that was in 1991. Fast forward 17 years to 2008, when we were renovating the downstairs bathroom. Taking that shower out of commission meant that we were limited to taking baths in the upstairs bathroom for however many months (six…) it took us to finish the renovation. Fortunately we do have a hand-held sprayer so no plastic rinsing cups were necessary, but let me tell you…taking daily baths as part of regular grooming and personal upkeep is one thing, but bathing after a long day of demolition and sweaty, dirty renovation work is quite another. One bath to get the grime off, another bath to get the dirty water off, and then a cleaning session to get the haze of grime off of the tub. There was no lazing about in mounds of bubbles while listening to Mets games on the radio with the window open. No, none of that. All business, no pleasure.
So, naturally, once the downstairs bathroom renovation was complete and the shower was back in order, I quit baths like a bad habit. Until last month, I think I’d taken a grand total of maybe five baths in the past five years. How pathetic is that? We put all of this hard work into renovating the bathroom and spent a bunch of money having the clawfoot tub refinished, and I’m not even taking baths in it?!?!
Well, that’s all changing now, and you know what the incentive was? No, not a desire for relaxation, but packaging. Beautiful, minimal packaging from Herbivore Botanicals, who I first discovered via their Etsy shop. Seattle-based Julia and Alex started Herbivore Botanicals three years ago, and everything in the line is totally vegan and completely natural. Now, I don’t want to stereotype too much here, but as someone who is increasingly doing a lot of shopping in health food stores’ cosmetics aisles, I can tell you that “vegan” and “natural” are not usually words that I associate with incredible packaging design. And that stuff matters—it matters to me as someone who cares about design, and it matters when it comes to the perception of animal-friendly and natural products as being part of the world of luxury skin care.
Let’s talk about that Coconut Milk Bath Soak. It’s amazing. It doesn’t make bubbles or anything like that, it really is a soak. It has the most gentle, calming coconut/vanilla scent imaginable—not like one of those gross, chemical-y “birthday cake”-scented bubble baths. It doesn’t make the tub (or you) weird colors. After getting out of the tub, my skin feels so super-soft…not coated or oily, just soft and fresh. There is a subtle fragrance that lingers, but it’s nothing that would interfere with another perfume (if you’re into stuff like that). The Coconut Milk Bath Soak has turned me into a bath devotee. I am committed to taking baths in the evenings on weekends now!
I bought a couple of other products at the same time as the bath soak—Vetiver Cardamom Luminous Body Oil for me, and Men’s Face Elixir for Evan. We love them both! I use the body oil almost every day now, right after I get out of the shower (or bath). It’s much more viscous than body oils I’ve used in the past, so I do need to apply it while my skin is still warm. It’s done an incredible job of keeping my legs from turning into crocodile skin this winter. The cardamom vetiver scent does linger for a while, but it’s exactly the kind of warm fragrance I love when it’s cold out. When the weather gets warmer, I’ll probably switch to the Neroli Blossom version. Evan really likes the Face Elixir! He uses it every night, and was able to give up the very unnatural nighttime moisturizer he’d been using previously.
I have to admit that after having struggled for so many years to find a facial skin care routine that really works for me I am hesitant to change anything about it. I don’t think I can walk away from my prescription medications without my skin freaking out (the emotional distress of adult acne is something I’ve discussed before, I won’t get into it again now…), but I am going to try to phase out the other products—and phase in more natural, animal-friendly ones. I’m going to start by ordering the Pink Clay Soap and see how it goes. My skin is far too dry and delicate for anything like the Bamboo Charcoal.
How about you? Are there any natural, vegan, non-irritating face washes you’d like to recommend I try? Preferably ones that work well with a Clarisonic (not all cleansers do)—and bonus points if the packaging is nice. Of course.
I swear I’m getting closer to having my second Stockholm post finished up (I edited my photos down from 2000+ to 66! Progress!), but in the mean time, here are some really stupid boots I bought! OK, they’re actually not stupid at all, but since I can hear the creak of eyeballs rolling out of their sockets right now, I might as well acknowledge that they do appear to be the footwear choice of complete idiots.
If you (a) live in New York, (b) following someone who lives in New York on any form of social media, or (c) live in the US and own a computer or a television, then you are probably aware that we’ve had a whole lot of snowstorms here this winter. None of them have been devastatingly huge individually, but the sum total has been…well, it’s been exhausting, even for an avowed snow-lover like myself. Sanitation trucks can’t fit down the streets with alternate side parking suspended, so there are trash bags frozen to the sidewalk layered with snow and ice and more trash bags and snow with cigarettes and coffee cups on top (for garnish). Trash bag parfaits, if you will. It’s disgusting. It’s also tough to navigate the massive slush puddles* at every corner and the ice-encrusted streets, especially with wind and snow whipping at your cheeks and eyes.
*Bill Cunningham’s photo essay of men attempting to jump slush puddles is fantastic.
Anyway, yesterday it hit 51°F, and all of these giant hills of snow started melting with a vengeance, creating rivers of salt-brine and filth. And you know what? I was PREPARED. I was prepared because last weekend, in a fit of madness after discovering that my decade-old, much-loved brown Frye boots were apparently starting to dissolve from constant exposure to salt and snow, I ordered a pair of rain boots. Super-ridiculous high-heeled rain boots, mind you—Sorel Medina Rain Heels, to be precise. Short review: They are AWESOME.
I have a pair of serious snow boots that I wear when I’m upstate, but wearing them in the city is kind of silly. They’re overkill, and I wind up avoiding wearing them because my feet get hot and I don’t feel like dealing with changing in and out of them at the office (and carrying shoes with me, etc.). I don’t find regular rain boots comfortable enough to walk in for long distances, and again, I don’t really want to sit around in them at work all day long. Basically, if I can’t wear a pair of shoes from the time I leave my apartment to when I come home at night, they’re just going to sit in the closet.
The difference with these Sorel boots is they look like regular footwear, yet are totally waterproof (aside from the gusset, they’re completely rubber—even the heel is rubber-wrapped) and have excellent traction on the soles. I walked across patches of ice, went down slushy subway stairs, and stepped in deep puddles, and my feet and ankles felt steady and stable the whole time. No sliding, no slipping. (Funnily enough, the only time I had an issue was in my office, where the rubber soles skidded on the flat carpet and I almost tripped.) Because the shoe has a hidden platform, the heel height doesn’t actually feel very high—it’s comparable to walking around in my favorite boots in the whole world.* I’ve only walked about two sidewalk miles in them so far, but I don’t doubt that I could spend a whole day on my feet in them, just like I can in my Leslies.
*For some horrible reason, Frye has discontinued the Leslie Zip Booties! Tragic. They are the best boots. You can still get them on sale in a few sizes on Amazon, though. Sigh.
I have no doubt that these guys are going to become my go-to footwear every time it’s wet outside, regardless of the season. We get a lot of rain in New York, and I’ve gotta stop killing my leather boots—which I expect to have and wear for decades—by constantly subjecting them weather conditions they’re not designed for. High-heeled rubber rain boots, welcome to my world. Let the people laugh at us, I don’t care. I hope to get many years of use out of you!
Back in November, I wrote an update about my skin and what I’ve been doing to it. I mentioned that I’d had some some concerns about whether my much-beloved Clarisonic could possibly be harboring bacteria even though I’m super-diligent about keeping the brush head clean (and changing it regularly), but it turned out my skin issues were apparently more likely a result of needing a change in prescription medications.
The Swedish company Foreo contacted me shortly after I wrote that post, asking if I’d be interested in trying their facial-cleansing device, the Luna. I agreed to try it out and write a review, which meant setting aside my Clarisonic for about two weeks so I could fairly compare the two and decide which I prefer.
A few basics about each device…
✚ Retail price $125 (usually 20% off at SkinStore)
✚ Single speed (other Clarisonic devices have variable speeds)
✚ 1-minute cleansing cycle
✚ Must change brush head every 2–3 months (~$20 each)
✚ Must disassemble device in order to clean thoroughly and prevent bacteria growth
✚ Must charge device 2–3 times monthly
✚ Retail price $200
✚ Variable speeds
✚ Anti-aging facial massage mode
✚ 1-minute cleansing cycle
✚ No brush head to change
✚ Easy to clean; silicone does not harbor bacteria
✚ Single charge lasts for up to 450 uses (!)
On the surface, the Luna sounds like it would be the obvious winner between the two, right? That’s what I thought, and I was really excited to try it out. Reviews for the Luna on other blogs seem to be universally positive. I felt pretty certain that I was going to LOVE the Luna and be a total convert, and I was looking forward to never having to buy another disposable brush head again.
Unfortunately, it didn’t really happen that way. The first thing I noticed is that the Luna is uncomfortable to hold. The Clarisonic is ergonomically-designed and its contours fit in my hand easily, but the Luna is more like a disc. I felt like I was going to drop it, and even after two weeks of use I couldn’t figure out how to grasp it comfortably for a full minute. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker for me, though. What is a real issue is that the lack of ergonomics extended to the way the “bristles” (silicone nubs, really) made with my face. I had a really hard time maneuvering the Luna over the less-cushy parts of my face, like across my forehead and around my nose. I’ve always really liked the feeling of cleaning my face with my Clarisonic, but I found myself dreading using the Luna.
I would have put up with the discomfort if using the Luna made a positive change in the appearance of my skin, but sadly that was also not to be. Even on the lowest speed, the Luna seemed to be much harder on my skin than the Clarisonic. I don’t know if that’s a result of the ergonomic problems, but my face always looked red and irritated after use. After about five days of use, my skin became terribly dry. By the end of the first week, I was breaking out around the sides of my nose, which is exactly the area I was having trouble cleaning the most — and that’s not a part of my face where I typically have breakouts.
But still, I continued. I know as well as anyone that skin condition is not static, and I wanted to make sure that the negative changes weren’t the result of cold air or hormones or stress or dry heat in my house or whatever. There was no improvement into the second week, and on day 13 I officially put down the Luna and went back to my Clarisonic.
My skin pretty much immediately improved after going back to the Clarisonic. I think the difference really does come down to ergonomics more than anything — because the Clarisonic is so easy to hold and because the bristles easily accommodate facial contours, I naturally have a much lighter touch when I use it. I don’t use it like a scrub brush, I just slowly let it lightly glide over my face. I use the delicate brush heads, and never have any problems with over-cleansing or redness. Yeah, it’s kind of a hassle to have to take it apart and clean it every night (I use hot water and Dr. Bronner’s, then let it dry completely overnight, disassembled), but it’s not the end of the world. I don’t mind having to charge it more often, either. I would love to be able to quit spending $80–120/year (OUCH!) on brush heads, but given the incredibly positive effect the Clarisonic has had on my skin over the past few years, I feel like it’s worth it. Oh well.
I still feel pretty disappointed in myself for not liking the Luna. It’s the same feeling I have about not liking the oil cleansing method or mineral makeup — how come these things that seem to be universally awesome for everyone else are such duds for me? I don’t know. Maybe the problem is me!
Have you tried the Luna? Do you like it?
p.s. The skin care routine I wrote about in November is still working out really well for me. The tip of my nose is perpetually flaky in the winter cold and I’m forever battling dark underye circles, but everything else is about as good as its ever been — and continues to improve.
p.p.s. Um, this is probably obvious, but I feel like I should include a disclaimer just in case: Foreo sent me a Luna free of charge in exchange for a review, but this post is completely my own opinion.
If you’re going to be in New York City this weekend and you are a man, someone who knows a man, or a lady who (like me) wears men’s clothing, might I suggest you attend this year’s Pop Up Flea? Every December I somehow manage to miss it — either I’m upstate or I’m being lazy or I forget. Not this time! I am there.
Now in its 7th year, the Pop Up Flea is weekend-long indoor sale focused on new and vintage menswear. Some of my favorite handmakers and vendors from all over the country are going to be there this year, including my friend Matt from Wood & Faulk, Three Potato Four, Field Notes, Steven Alan, The Hill-Side and Ursa Major. It’s being held in SoHo at 82 Mercer, which is a pretty mind-bogglingly gorgeous space. I freely admit that half the reason I like going to events in NYC is getting to see the inside of fancy buildings.
Evan is a pretty snappy dresser (I’ve actually been encouraging him to start a men’s fashion blog — he should definitely do it, right??), and I’m sure he’s going to go nuts looking at all of the nicely-made button down shirts and heavyweight jeans. I don’t really like shopping for women’s clothing (that’s a major understatement…), but I love looking at men’s stuff and I love watching Evan shop. This is going to be a fun weekend!
Just about a year ago, I wrote a post about my skin, specifically about coping with adult acne at the (then) age of 37. It was tough to write, but I’m glad I did it. I have spent a lot of years of my adult life feeling ashamed for not having great (or even good) skin, and for not finding solutions in the simple, natural methods that have worked for so many. At the time I wrote that post, I’d been following a regimen recommended by my dermatologist for about six months — and my skin was looking pretty good. Not perfect, but I felt better about my face than I had in many years. The only prescription I was using at the time was a combination topical antibiotic/retinoid called Ziana, and it was working really well for me.
This past June (almost exactly one year after after I started the regimen and the Ziana), though, something changed. Suddenly my skin was getting lots of clogged pores, and I was started to get cystic breakouts again. It seemed like it was overnight, and it was very upsetting. First I worried that I’d developed an antibiotic resistance, then I worried my Clarisonic was harboring bacteria (even though I clean it thoroughly after every use and change the brush head as recommended)…I panicked. I waited a couple of months and blamed stress. I blamed lack of sleep. And then I stopped being dumb, and I went back to the dermatologist.
I don’t know why I waited so long. I guess it was that sense of shame again, like the doctor was going to tell me I was doing something wrong or that I was apparently untreatable and was destined to a lifetime of looking like a goblin. She didn’t say either of those things, of course (tip: if you doctor calls you a goblin, find another doctor), but instead said that she suspected the dosage of tretinoin in Ziana (.025%) was too low for me. OK!
So here’s what I’m using now. It’s been about two months, and HELLO! My skin looks pretty good, and every day it looks better. I still have a lot of discoloration from past breakouts, but it’s fading gradually and is relatively easy to cover in the mean time. I don’t think I’ll ever think I look good without makeup on, but at least now I don’t think I look diseased when I walk in the bathroom in the morning. At age 38, I can finally even bring myself to be around a friend (AT HOME! Let’s not get carried away…) in the evening after I’ve washed my face. That’s big for me. I think it’s been about five weeks since I’ve had any sort of breakout, and even then it was minor.
Anyway, here’s the current product lineup:
1. Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser
Yeah, on some level I still feel like this is chemical-laden, unglamorous garbage and I kind of do wish I could wash my face with, like, virgin coconut oil and fulvic-enhanced mineral water (heh), but it’s $5 and it works so I just don’t even care anymore. I use it twice a day, once in the morning, then twice at night — once to remove makeup, then again right after with my Clarisonic.
2. Clarisonic (20% off at SkinStore.com right now, FYI)
I always come back to my Clarisonic. Whenever I think it’s failing me, it turns out it was actually something else. Like I said, I’m diligent about keeping it clean and changing the brush head (I always use the ones made for delicate skin). I love my Clarisonic, and I feel badly for ever doubting it. I’ve actually had a couple of terrifying dreams in which I find myself Clarisonic-less, which is admittedly kind of sad but also very telling and let’s just blame stress for everything.
3. Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Complex
This incredible serum has mostly taken the place of my former favorite, Huile Prodigieuse, as a nighttime treatment. I still use Huile Prodigieuse during the day if my face feels tight, and it’s great in my hair, but the older I get the dryer my skin…and I needed something more intensive. I’d gone through a couple of sample bottles of the Midnight Recovery Complex when it was first introduced and really liked it, but I didn’t fork over the money for a full-size bottle until last June. It’s wonderful stuff. Magical, even. I only use it at night, and because I just need 2-3 drops to cover my whole face, one bottle will last a really long time.
4. Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado
Yep, my old standby for the past five years. As much as I hope to someday find an eye serum that can rid me of my undereye circles, this cream remains the only one I’d found that truly keeps my eye area hydrated in the colder months. No matter how many other eye creams I bring home samples of, I always wind up coming back to this one. Again, as with most Kiehl’s products, the price tag is offset by the generous amount of product. One jar of this eye cream lasts me almost a year.
On to the prescriptions…
5. Retin-A Micro
I actually use a generic version of this, which I think came out to something like $8 for three big tubes with my insurance. My dermatologist prescribed it in .04% retinoid strength, which is nearly double what I was using before in the Ziana (.025%). Unlike Ziana, it does not contain an antibiotic. I use it nightly only, never during the day. Retin-A works by increasing the rate of your skin’s cellular turnover, which means pores are less likely to clog, decreasing pore dilation and (of course) breakouts. It also boosts collagen production, so fine lines and sagginess are diminished. And it really works. Apparently I won’t see the full effects until I’ve been on it for the better part of a year, but it’s made an enormous difference in the clarity and smoothness of my skin already. There was an adjustment period in the form of breakouts and dryness when I started using it, but it wasn’t horrendous — probably in part because I’d already been using a lower dose of retinoids for a year before starting. I do have some adjustment advice, though…
Anna’s Retin-A tips:
✚ Wait at least 10 minutes (preferably 20) after washing your face to apply it. Really for real. Retin-A and water are not friends. If you don’t wait, you are just asking for over-dryness.
✚ ONLY USE A PEA-SIZED AMOUNT. That means a standard green pea, not a chickpea or a lima bean. PEA-SIZED. Squeeze it into your hand, dot it all over your face (avoiding the eye area), then rub it in. It’s not a spot treatment or a mask. Take it easy.
✚ If your skin is getting really dry, apply a light moisturizer first as a barrier. I always put my Kiehl’s serum on right after washing, then wait 20 minutes before applying the Retin-A.
✚ If you feel like you need to skip a night, skip a night. In fact, you might want to start out only using it every other night until your skin adjusts. Everyone is different. Pay attention to how your skin is reacting, and know that the adjustment period of flaking and breakouts is NOT forever.
✚ USE SUNSCREEN during the daytime. Retin-A increases your skin’s sensitivity to light. Don’t mess around with this one. Please.
6. Aczone Gel
Aczone gel is a relatively new medication, but its active ingredient, dapsone, has been used as an anti-inflammatory/antibacterial for a long time…including as a treatment for leprosy. And hey, if it’s good enough for lepers, it’s certainly good enough for me! Seriously though, I’m amazed by this stuff. It’s a gel formula that goes on really nicely, and it’s kept me totally free of any cystic breakouts that Retin-a alone can’t prevent. I use it twice a day (at night after applying Retin-a, and in the morning under my makeup). I saw pretty much immediate results when I started using Aczone — by the next morning anything inflamed on my face had calmed down, and I haven’t had a recurrence since. I don’t even have any tips for using Aczone because it’s so gentle and (at least for me) totally non-irritating.
One downside to Aczone is that it’s new enough that there’s no generic option, and the price tag ($200 for a one month supply!) is prohibitive if you either don’t have insurance or if your insurance won’t cover it (mine won’t, and I have really good insurance). That said, there are coupons you can download to reduce the cost (man, the prescription drug industry is soooooo, so super shady…). I was able to get a three month supply (90g tube) for $25, which is totally worth it. If the coupons stop working…well, let’s not think about that.
So that’s it, really. I still have not found a sunscreen I love, so I won’t share a recommendation. That said, if you have one you love that’s broad-spectrum and nice under makeup, I’d love to know about it! My favorite sunscreen (a lightweight spray from Paula’s Choice) was discontinued a couple of years ago, and I’ve been wandering aimlessly through disappointing alternatives ever since.
One more thing for those of you who have had to deal with similar skin issues: If something isn’t working (even if it used to work!), don’t give up. If you can go to a dermatologist, do it. There are so many options for treating problem skin, and I really, truly believe that improving your emotional health through dealing with those problems is incredibly important. It’s not just about vanity, and there’s not going to be one thing that works for everyone. This has been a very long struggle for me, and I am under no illusion that this is going to work for me forever. I have to do something, though, and it’s a massive relief to have found the right thing for me…for now.