By Samantha Wahl
Winter in 2020 means Hollywood award shows. But the biggest celebs of 2020 don’t walk the red carpet, per-se. In fact, they don’t even have legs. They come in bottles and tubes and are categorized under the monikers, “serums,” “oils,” and “creams.” They bring promises of facial perfection, effortless glows, and overall confidence. Desperate for superstar status, we fall victim to their intoxicating advertising without really knowing what exactly we’re slathering across our t-zones. And while CBD self-care blooms within the beauty market, it’s difficult to weed out the phonies.
Bad skin comes with one simple rule: don’t draw it any attention. I’ve had perioral dermatitis for the last few years. That means rough, red skin around my nose and mouth. It’s not cute, and therefore, I never talk about it. I wear makeup to mask it every single day and never take selfies in direct lighting for fear of my secret being exposed.
This is the kind of attention I would allow myself to bring to my face a month ago. I didn’t take myself seriously, because I didn’t think there was hope for my skin. I would laugh at myself before anyone else had a chance to.
When I was gifted a set of Aethera products, I decided to hone in on their Sunset Botanical Rejuvinating Serum with CBD, and change up my nighttime routine. I gravitated toward their packaging immediately, as it provides the minimal-color-on-white aesthetic I so seek. A turn to one side of the box showed a list of ingredients including, coconut alkanes, avocado, prickly pear, and guava, all beauty buzzwords that will hypnotize skincare enthusiasts. Another side of the box boasted 200mg CBD, skin de-stressing, and gentle exfoliation. This serum seemed like a good target for my symptoms from perioral dermatitis, so I decided to give it a chance.
But this time, I would kick it up a notch, and conduct a little experiment. Instead of the arbitrary game of eenie-meenie I typically played with the hodge-podge of products in my drawer, I’d adopt a strict routine: A 14-day long selfie analysis that would challenge both my skepticism toward spurious skin-care, and my reluctance toward showing my face to the world.
A test of such relevance required a control group and variable. Each morning, I splashed cold water on my face, pat it dry, and massaged with SPF as usual. Then, each night, I washed my face with an all-natural, gentle, oil-based cleanser. Next, I pressed Aethera’s serum into the areas in question. The directions on the packaging suggested following the serum with an oil, so I used rosehip.
I packed away my previous bi-daily routine under the bathroom cabinet with theatrical schmaltz. Goodbye, anti-aging eye cream. Goodbye, toner. And, photo-ready concealer, I think I’ll miss you most of all.
I swallowed my pride and took a selfie every morning. I tried to take them all around the same time each day, right when I woke up.
These photos are in order from day one to day seven. A month ago, I never would have posted these photos. I would have been too ashamed of the redness around my smile lines and beside my chin.
But each day I took one, the humiliation wore off, little by little. It became more of a habit. I woke up and immediately thought, time to document my face.
Not only that, but I swore I saw a difference between day one and seven. The redness and swelling seemed to reduce. Once dabbed on, my skin felt refreshed. It also smelled like a fruit bowl. So, yeah.
This week proved to be a huge improvement from the previous week. My skin looked brighter, and more even-toned. The swelling and redness almost completely disappeared. Toward the final four days, my skin glowed in a way only a full face of makeup could achieve. I even smiled in the final selfie, which I never do in any photo.
As I review these photos now, the perioral dermatitis that has plagued my self esteem for years appears insignificant. I’m embarrassed now to ever have thought of myself as someone with bad skin. I feel lucky to get to wear my own face every day, and that I have the privilege to take care of it.
And of course, other factors will ultimately affect the clearness of anyone’s skin, like weather, hormones, and emotional stress. But I’m starting not to let these factors control the way I see myself. Every body changes and will over the course of every lifetime.
This challenge was, yes, a product test. And Aethera passed with high marks. But it was also one of self-appreciation, in which case, I think I aced it. If a red carpet rolled my way, perhaps I might strut across, bare-faced and smiling.