Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet
a.k.a. One Step You Can Take Today To SimplifyYour Skincare Routine
For many years of my life, I practically lived at my dermatologist’s office. Even though the responsible thing to do is to get your skin checked every year for any early signs of skin cancer (especially if it runs in your family, you’re very fair, you’ve had bad burns, etc. but EVERYONE SHOULD DO IT), that was not the schedule I was keeping. I was showing up at my derm’s office every few months. My frequency had much to do with the fact that my problem skin was ruthless and was in turn being treated like a mad scientist lab experiment. I’d be prescribed one stroooong cream after another, told to wait a few weeks and see what happens. Talk about suspense. With each new trial-by-tube, I was warned to expect things to “get worse before they got better.” Show of hands if you’ve heard this foreboding phrase before (you have, you have, you have). Really, things only ever got worse.
Am I the only one who thought this approach to skincare was completely normal?
It wasn’t until I read Adina’s first book, Skin Cleanse, that I learned this worse-before-it’s-better claim is totally false. Maybe you’ll experience a teeny-tiny period of adjustment, but if something makes your skin tragically worse, it’s not helping it, period.
What a relief. But also: what the hell are we doing, then?
Even though Skin Cleanse didn’t come rescue me ‘til way later in life, even then I knew something couldn’t be right. And I was running out of space in my bathroom cabinets. And my dresser drawers. And my purse. And my LIFE. My entire room looked like an explosion of failed beauty and skin products. And because I’d been through so many different brands and bottles, it was difficult to remember which ones I was supposed to be using, which ones had already done me dirty, and which ones still needed to be applied. I was basically rotating through an endless supply of unhelpful chemical combinations, finding zero relief and quickly burning through my insurance deductible for yet another year.
My skin had been bad for years. YEARS. Starting at my 10th birthday party (ohhh, I have the sad, sad photographic evidence to prove it) and staying steady through my early twenties, I was over my skin woes controlling my mood, my budget and my life. Heading out the door for yet another appointment with my doctor, I decided to do something drastic: I took a trash bag (think one of those big, industrial ones that college kids use for packing their clothes) and filled it to the brim with skincare products. I buckled it into the passenger seat of my 1992 forest-green-but-mostly-rust-covered Ford Explorer and drove with pissed-off purpose.
When I got to the waiting room and signed my name on the arrival sheet, the receptionist glanced at my looming trash bag accessory with some serious side eye.
“The doctor will see you … shortly?”
When I was brought back to the room by a slightly nervous looking nurse, I dumped out the bag of products onto the examination table.
When the doctor finally came in to see me (I think she was warned by the receptionist and the nurse that I was on the tear), I gestured to the graveyard of products. The sheer size of it could have been products I’d used in my entire lifetime (I was only nineteen or twenty at the time), but they were all things I’d been advised to use in only the last few years. None of them worked. Not even a little bit. I’d definitely experienced the getting-worse phenomenon, many times over, even adding new ailments to my already ailing skin. (You know what doesn’t make acne better? When your face starts peeling off entirely.) But nothing had even come close to making a positive difference.
Maybe my reaction to this entire situation was a tad strong and maybe that doctor still talks about me as her most dramatic (former) patient, but the truth is it was the first time we had an honest conversation about what wasn’t working for me. When I asked her point-blank which of these products I should keep using, we sorted through them one by one. When we were done, I walked out with one, surprisingly gentle over-the-counter cleanser. Everything else went back into the trash bag and into their office dumpster. Even though I felt like I’d wasted a ton of money and time, I also finally felt like I might be getting somewhere. I felt lighter. And way less obligated to a bunch of products that weren’t doing me any good.
So what about you? I’m not saying you have to overhaul your bathroom and make somebody else deal with it (hi). But I am asking you to be completely honest with yourself: what’s not working? And if it’s not working, why are you still using it?
A lot of times we have hope that something will eventually show results. Or we can’t justify tossing something with a serious price tag. Or everyone swears this one killer product is AMAZING and is PERFECT FOR ALL SKIN TYPES and will TURN YOU INTO A UNICORN and so we assume the problem must be us.
Nope. It’s not you, girl. And if you’ve given that product a solid go and it’s still letting you down, it might be time to say goodbye. Break up with it and don’t look back. It’s kind of amazing the relief you feel when you stop letting something disappoint you.
So maybe you go into your cabinets and only toss a bottle or two. Maybe you toss them all, Marie-Kondo-style. That’s really something you can answer for only yourself. But be honest. Give your skin and yourself a break. Start there and it really will get better. And a whole lot easier to organize.