Being a place to start before you even start.
“Men don’t age better than women, they’re just allowed to age.”— Carrie Fisher
(Before we get started, I need to do a general disclaimer for this post, and for my posts in general. Whenever possible, I’m going to be linking to articles, videos, etc. where I got information. However, I started on this makeup journey long before I decided I was turning this into a blog, and I was not exactly keeping track of things as I started researching and synthesizing material. So there will be times that I say things and I don’t have research to back that up, and that will be because it is either entirely my opinion, or something I learned that I can no longer trace the provenance of. If I say something and you go, “Hey, that is taken from so and so,” PLEASE LET ME KNOW in the comments. I value intellectual honesty very highly, and I never want to be taking credit for work that is not mine. (I also want to be giving credit and views to anyone who has helped me develop my ideas, because internet content creation is an insane hustle and we need to be looking out for one another). Also, if anything I say sounds weird to you– go with that instinct. Do your own research. I’m an internet rando who keeps changing my pen name, there are definitely more trustworthy and authoritative experts out there.)
Today starts the first topic miniseries, Liberal Foundation. In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about what I see as some of the foundational (get it?) issues and questions that need to be addressed when you are getting started on a makeup journey. Some of them will be practical issues, like “buying brushes” and “figuring out what the heck someone means when they say they are ‘baking’ their look.” Some of them will be some of the more difficult, philosophical questions about makeup: How much should we trust YouTubers? (A lot, also not at all.) Does more expensive makeup actually work better than cheaper makeup? (No. Also yes.)
Hello and welcome to The Feminist Lipstique. I’m your hostess; today you can call me Berry Rich Fisher. I’m a feminist in my early 30s who recently became obsessed with makeup, and is planning to travel back in time and physically harm my 21-year-old self for not starting me on a path to good skincare when there was a small possibility I had good skin.
I never started a skincare regime in my teens or 20s for a couple of reasons. First, I absolutely refused to give in to the pathological fear of aging that the beauty industry and culture at large try to infuse in women. Growing up, at least half of the beauty industry ads I a saw were promising me they would halt the aging process. I knew the phrase, “fights fine lines and wrinkles” long before I knew what fine lines and wrinkles were. And I didn’t understand the fuss at all. People age. That is what we do. And no beauty cream in the world can lengthen your shrinking telomeres, so we’d best just get used to it.
Second, the chances that I ever actually HAD good skin that I was supposed to be protecting are slim to none. I think I’ve literally always had dark circles, even as a child. I genuinely don’t remember what I look like without them. And I’ve pretty much always had acne, and when you have acne AND Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, what you have a lot of are scabs. And scars. I would look in the mirror at my blotchy, acne-ridden-and-pocked face, with the deep purple shadows under my eyes and the wobble of extra flesh under my chin, and think, “THIS is the fantastic skin I’m supposed to be protecting? THIS is the best skin I’ll have in my life? No fucking thank you. I’ll save $50 a month on skin cream and just buy books instead.” (We’ll delve more into my complicated relationship with my body, appearance, and self esteem next time, so look forward to that exploration of my psyche!)
And that was just the bad skin things I KNEW about.
You will not truly know what state your skin is in until you start using a lot more products on it. Your under-eye area? In addition to being dark, it is full of tiny fine lines, like the bed of a dried-out lake. You’re presumably fine cheeks? Tons of pores that you didn’t know you had, and lots of little hairs to boot. Your eyelids? How is it even possible for skin to have these many creases? Who is responsible for this? I want to talk to the manager.
On top of this, your skin is basically destined to get worse once you start getting into makeup. Three things are certain to throw your skin into a bizarre freefall: hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy, gender transition, getting on or off birth control), stress, and starting a new makeup regime. You feel like you are going crazy. Your skin gets simultaneously too dry and too oily. You are blocking some pores, which gives you pimples, which you feel like you have to cover with makeup, which leads to more pimples. It’s a vicious cycle.
I had started to get a bit into skincare shortly before I got into makeup but… damn have I had to up my game. This Cosmopolitan article describes the order in which you should apply skincare and makeup. There are 14 steps. Nine of them are skincare.
My new lord and savior, makeup artist and Youtuber Robert Welsh, constantly advocates for the importance of skin care. He even says crazy things, like doing different skincare before your makeup than you do in your morning and evening routines. I don’t know what kind of put together human being has time to do skincare in the morning that is different from the skincare they do right before their makeup, but I am not that put together human. So I do one skincare routine in the morning, then put on my makeup. Then I do another skincare routine at night. I’ll walk you through my routines, trying to follow the Cosmo advice order. But a few pieces of general advice, first:
- The first and best skincare thing you can do is drink enough water. You need to be well-hydrated inside and out to get the best results out of your skin. Am I drinking enough water? That is between me and my addiction to Diet Dr. Pepper. (No, no I am probably not).
- If things start going wrong, talk to a dermatologist. For goodness’ sake. If you start getting concerned about how your skin is reacting to your skincare or to your makeup, talk to a medical professional. I am a random person on the internet. Do not take my word as gold.
- Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, use exfoliating products with plastic microbeads. and be careful of products with exfoliators like walnut shells. Microbeads are often too small to be caught by water treatment facilities, so they go into the oceans and rivers, and then fish eat them, and then their bellies get full of plastic, and then they starve, and then other fish eat them, and then THEIR bellies get full of plastic, and then THEY starve, and IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT, STARVING FISH? Anyway, it’s bad for the environment, most companies have stopped using them, just double check. Be careful with products that have physical rather than chemical exfoliators as well. As explained in this Bustle article (but it’s you know, Bustle, so… grain of salt) most dermatologists prefer you to use products with chemical abrasives rather than physical abrasives, like walnut scrubs. Chemical abrasives are usually a bit gentler on your skin, and have smaller particles that are less likely to cause microtears or overly irritate your skin. But all exfoliators and abrasives are… you know… exfoliators and abrasives. They are designed to take parts of your skin off. Things are going to feel weird, and again, if things feel too weird stop using them for a while and TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.
- Do your best to stay within the skincare brand for all of your skincare. No, I am not a shill for Big Skincare. But brands put lots and lots of different things in their products. The products are designed to work well with other products in that line, not necessarily to work well with products from other brands. And some ingredients really shouldn’t be mixed together, or mixed in certain quantities, which is a possible result of combining product lines and brands. (You will notice that in my routine, I’m describing some products from different brands. Do what I say, not what I do.)
- If possible, stay in a skincare routine for at least a week or two before you start a new makeup routine. As any scientist will tell you, the more variables you add to an issue, the harder time you will have figuring out a problem if one arises. Just adding skincare to a routine when you’re not used to it can seriously make your skin go crazy, and you won’t know if it is your makeup or your skincare. Let it settle a bit before you start adding makeup to the mix.
- Pay attention to SPF in products/Pay attention to whether products say you shouldn’t be out in the sun. A lot of primers and foundations now come standard with some SPF protection (The one kind of skin damage I don’t really need to worry about as much, as I am a Pale Cave Dweller) but it is good to have at least one product with some SPF protection. You also need to pay attention to warnings on products as some of them, especially some related specifically to acne, actually make you more susceptible to sun damage.
- If at all possible, leave a brief window of time between putting on skincare and doing your makeup. Again, do as I say, not as I do. But as you’ll notice from the steps in the Cosmopolitan article, you are throwing a lot of things on your face in quick succession. Give your skin a chance to settle and breathe before you start throwing more things at it.
All right, that should be it… now on with the show. (Disclaimer: None of the brands I mention have given me any money or product in exchange for what I’m saying. I bought these products with my own money, sometimes because people on the internet told me to, like God intended.)
My routine in the morning:
- Cleanser: I currently use Clean & Clear’s morning burst facial cleanser. It is oil free, and has Vitamin C and Ginseng. The Vitamin C is apparently supposed to help prevent UV ray damage, promotes collagen production, and diminish fine lines and discoloration. I cannot attest to any of these things. This cleanser cleans my skin. I don’t know what the ginseng does. It’s ginseng. (I only do one round of cleanser, Cosmopolitan is way intense.)
- Toner: Toner supposedly is good for additional cleansing. tightening and cleaning pores, and smoothing your skin. I use it because the internet and one of my friends told me it is important. I use Thayers Witch Hazel Aloe Vera Formula toner, which is alcohol free and supposed to be less harsh than other, more astringent toners.
- Spot cream: I currently don’t use any spot cream, because I usually pick at any acne before it can be treated, and thus I’d be spot treating a scab and not a pimple. Yes, I’m working on controlling my OCD impulses. No, I don’t think this particular one is going to improve any time soon.
- Serum: To be totally fair, I bought my first serum like yesterday, because I was pretty sure it was a scam that Big Skincare was using to make us buy more things. From what I can tell, it is meant to basically be an intensifier, either helping you concentrate treatment on certain areas or boosting your moisturizer. I bought Neutrogena Hydroboost multivitamin booster. It has hyaluronic acid. From what I can tell, that is good for the same reason the Vitamin C was good. (I am not a scientist, I don’t know what you want from me).
- Eye cream: Kind of what it says on the tin, it is cream that is specially made for your problem areas around your eyes. Like I said earlier, the skin around your eyes IS A JERK that tries to ruin your entire look. It is also the thinnest, most delicate skin on your entire face, so you have to be careful with it. Until recently, I was using Olay Eyes ultimate eye cream, but I am pretty sure that 90% of the reason I thought it was working at all is because it is slightly tinted in my skin tone and it was basically acting as a concealer before I had concealer. I just switched to Neutrogena Hydro Boost gel cream, partly because it was highly recommended and partly because I’m trying to get more of my products to be of the same brand type, and Neutrogena as a whole has been pretty highly recommended as an affordable skincare product. Optional addition: a lot of people used eye masks, rollers, etc., in a combination of cold things, caffeinated things, etc. One of my friends suggested putting spoons in the freezer and then pressing them over your eyes. I haven’t tried that yet, because I keep forgetting to put the spoons in the freezer.
- Moisturizer: …Do I have to explain this one? Moisturizer is very, very important, because a lot of makeup will end up drying out your skin. I’m trying to become as fancy as my lord and savior Robert Welsh, so I currently have two moisturizers (though I will probably cut down to one when the non-Neutrogena product runs out): I have Olay Total Effects Whip with SPF 25. I just bought Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost water gel with hyaluronic acid, in the hopes that I will someday be fancy enough and good enough at time management to have a separate skincare regime for my morning and my pre-makeup periods. Remember, like foundation, you should be putting this on your neck as well. Unlike foundation, you should give your neck its very own dose of moisturizer, not just the extra that is left over from your face. (Some folks also say you need to put some on your chest and upper body, which they refuse to stop calling décolletage.) According to popular culture, I will someday be concerned about having loose, wrinkly neck skin. I look forward to being self conscious about a brand new thing.
- Oil: Apparently this is supposed to help more with moisturizing? I don’t use this. The last thing I need to do is add oil to my face. What I do instead of putting oil on my face: This is generally where I put on lip scrub and lip balm. I use a sugar scrub from Diva Stuff. It is edible, and it tastes like caramel sea salt, and it is very, very dangerous for my self control. I use Burt’s Bees lip balm.
- SPF: apparently it is a thing to add SPF as its own thing at the end of your skincare. I trust my Olay Whip and my general lack of going outside to protect me, but I will probably add this in once I have run out of the Olay Whip, as I don’t think my Neutrogena products contain SPF.
- Primer: This is kind of between skincare and makeup, but for today’s purposes we’ll call it skincare. Primer is what you put on your skin before your makeup to try and create a better, more even base for your makeup, that causes pigments to stick better and your products to go on smoother. There are roughly 432464 different types of primer. I have about… 7. From Nyx, E.L.F., and Wet n’ Wild. I cannot truthfully attest to any of them doing what they are supposed to do. The pore blurring ones do not seem to blur my pores. The blemish treating ones do not seem to treat my blemishes. The matte ones… I guess make my face matte? My face was kind of already matte? The hydrating luminous ones… well they make my face wet, mostly. They do at least seem to help with making my makeup go on smoother, and making my makeup adhere better. I will report back after I have experimented more with primer.
God, I get tired just writing that. Good thing it’s time for my night time routine!
- Makeup remover: I use Neutrogena makeup removing towlettes, and also Neutrogena oil free eye makeup remover. I prefer using the towlettes, because they are usually quicker and easier, but the liquid remover can be necessary for things like eyeliner and mascara. Also, as someone who is entering the Delicate Skin Years of My Early-to-Mid-30s, towlettes and wipes should apparently be verbotten, as they are harsher and more likely to contain alcohol than a removing liquid. I’ll try to cut down, but they can fully pry my makeup wipes from my cold, dead, lazy hands.
- Cleanser: No matter what parts of the internet try to tell you, USING A MAKEUP REMOVING WIPE IS NOT THE SAME THING AS WASHING YOUR FACE. I can’t believe I even have to say that. This is the world we live in. I use Clean & Clear Night Relaxing Deep Clean Face Wash. It has sea minerals and sea kelp extract. Sea kelp apparently is supposed to help moisturize and soften your skin. Go sea kelp.
- Moisturizer: You are supposed to use different moisturizers for the day and for the evening. I am not totally convinced that it isn’t another scam by Big Skincare, but people on the internet claim it is legit, so it must be true. In general, night creams seem to be heavier, and with slightly different ingredients– less emphasis on SPF, more emphasis on skin repair and firming. I use Olay Total Effects 7 in One. Do I remember what the 7 things are supposed to be? Of course I don’t.
Other things I use occasionally:
If I want a deeper cleanse, or if my skin feels particularly rough, I use Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Scrub. It claims it can be used daily, but I try to use it somewhat sparingly. Especially when you are using a lot of other products, or your skin is delicate for other reasons, deeper exfoliatiors can irritate or even harm your skin. Most articles I’ve looked at say that you should use an exfoliating scrub between 1 and 3 times a week.
I have also started an extra eye regime, because it seems like my dark circles are resistant to any and all scientific intervention. I started using Golden Lady 24K Gold Under Eye masks. They are supposed to be hydrating and help with dark circles and puffiness. Mostly, they are shiny. And a little sting-y. People with more sensitive skin, or people who put them on directly after their cleanser, have reported a bit of a burning sensation. I get that occasionally with them, but not consistently. But beauty is pain, or whatever. (Mostly I paid money for them and I don’t want to give up on them until I’ve given them a thorough try, and I am desperate to take care of my dark circles.)
So, that is what keeps me young and beautiful. Or at least young. Or… this is the stuff I put on my face, ok?
One of the things that I find really, really important in beauty blogging and beauty vlogging is an upfront discussion of prices. All of this stuff can get really expensive, really fast. Skincare maybe most of all– I tried to follow a few links for “top serums and moisturizers” and wound up on sites where bottles that hold less than 3 ounces of product are over $150 by themselves and I had to go take deep breaths for a while. Most of the time, the influencers and celebrities who are peddling skincare are not using that skincare. You think Kylie Jenner uses her own products? Of course she fucking doesn’t, she’s nearly a billionaire. She probably goes full Elizabeth Bathory and bathes in ethically sourced virgin blood, or something. She’s not using a $30 bottle of moisturizer. So for my posts, I’m going to do my best to provide a general cost (It might not be specific, if it has been too long since I bought certain products and can’t remember their price, or if the online price for it has been inflated because it has been discontinued, etc.). I’m also going to try to provide a sense of how often you will go through the product and how often it needs to be replaced– you may be able to splurge on a product if it’s going to last you three months, but if you have to replace it regularly you could decide it isn’t worth it. Finally, I’m going to try and provide a general sense of whether I think the products work and the price is worth it. (This last bit may sometimes be scattered throughout the post, and not saved for the end. It depends on what I’m writing about).
Rough cost of all skincare products combined: About $170
How often they need to be replaced: It’s pretty inconsistent. The moisturizers I probably go through once every month or two months. The serum, eye cream, lip scrub, and eye mask I’ve only had for a couple weeks at the most so I haven’t had a chance to run through them. The primer I’ve bought at various points over the last six months, and I haven’t run out of any of them yet.The toner and cleanser I’ve had since August, and they’re still going strong. And I’m pretty sure I’ve had this tube of lip balm for over a year.
Are they worth it? I think so? This is another “Do as I say, not as I do” things. While I had started the basics of my skincare routine weeks before I started playing around more with makeup, a lot of these things have been added within the past couple weeks as I’ve noticed weak points in my skincare game or things I’m still not fully satisfied with. So my variables are kind of up in the air, and I can’t necessarily pin certain problems or improvements on certain things.
However, I think they are mostly improving things. My acne has stopped breaking out quite as much, and I think my dark circles have decreased in intensity, though not completely disappeared. My skin seems to be firmer and for the most part, softer. My existing problem area is a lot of dry skin around my lips and nose, which I attribute to a mix of the drying influence of my makeup and my sleep apnea machine hugging tight to my face/blowing air at my face all night. (Yep, I have sleep apnea, too. I have ALL THE FUN PROBLEMS). That is one of the reasons I bought the serum; I’m hoping if I do more targeted moisturizing, it will help with that problem.
So that is what I have to say on skincare. Join me next time, where I discuss the next Liberal Foundation topic, figuring out what you will and won’t change when you start a makeup routine.
Berry Rich Fisher