Products aren’t everything

It was 2006ish.

I’d just gotten a promotion (yay!), and was wandering through a department store looking for a way to reward myself.

It was a “fat day”  – clothes were NOT something I wanted to be trying on. The shoe section was out, because I was pretty sure there was a hole in my sock. I had enough fake designer handbags to last me for at least two years. And I never could quite figure out how to wear scarves appropriately.

BUT – good news! I had to walk by the skin care section on the way to my car.

I’d made enough work friends to know skin care is a big deal for a lot of them. They bought lotions and eye creams and cleansers. They had favorite brands and salesgirls. They knew when the best gift with purchases were happening (who doesn’t want free stuff  – even if it is the wrong color and/or it smells awful?). Entire weekend days were dedicated to shopping for skin stuff.

I, on the other hand, spent my weekend days recovering from weekend nights, working out, and/or watching sports. In the name of efficiency, I bought skin care products at my neighborhood drug store.

But I was a Vice President now (or at least an Assistant one).

Clearly, it was time to upgrade my skin care routine.

First, I took an inventory. Up one aisle and down the next, I perused my options. I checked out brands and the staff working for each. Some were too high maintenance, others too smelly. They were all either expensive, overdone, cutesy, or just plain odd.

But then I reached the end of the line. Literally.

Tucked away in a small alcove and nearly out of sight was a brand that seemed natural. It had a tree on it as a logo, and the girls were regular sized. They all seemed to have actual skin underneath their makeup. And there was a gumball machine!

I approached.

The normal-looking girl in an unflattering green apron asked me how she could help.

I tried to act casual. (Turns out it’s hard to check prices, try testers, and pretend like you’ve shopped for fancy skin care at a major department store millions of times. While chewing a stale gumball.)

“Oh, I’m looking to switch up my skin care routine a bit.” Smack, smack.
That one sentence opened a floodgate. I found myself on a stool, at a sink, getting cleansers smeared on my hands. Then the cleansers got wiped off. My hands were rinsed. Patted. Dried. Tonered (is that a word?). Lotioned. Etcetera’d.

I was overwhelmed. And that gumball never got any better.

After twenty minutes of hellish “fun” my coworkers apparently loved to participate in, I realized the only way to get out of there was to make a purchase.

So I went for it. I initially picked two items…but ended up buying three (because for just a little more, I’d get a free gift!).

Cleanser, moisturizer, mask.

When I got home that night, I looked at all my new stuff. Opened the boxes. Smelled them. Lined them up. Read the labels. Rearranged them.

It seemed pretty straightforward…but the mask was confusing. When was I supposed to use it? How long should I let it sit? What did it do, exactly?

I tried them all out the next day.

Cleanser: Fun little beads floated in the pearly product. Seemed very luxurious. But damn! My face was super tight and itchy after I rinsed it off.

Moisturizer: Orange-y scented and fun to apply. Especially to a tight-itchy face. But – speaking of faces – mine still felt itchy after I put it on. I wasn’t sure this was normal, but I’d spent enough that it must be right. I wasn’t going to question it.

Mask: Still not sure about this one, but it was supposed to help with breakouts. Plus, it put me over the edge for that free gift. And masks seemed fancy. And I was an AVP (so therefore fancy). I applied the black goupey stuff, let it dry. But when I tried to wipe it off – it wouldn’t budge. I had to get BACK in the shower to rinse…and after I got out it still wound up all over my towel.

Grrr. This whole upgrading my skin care routine thing wasn’t working out very well.

But I was determined. The cleanser went in the shower, the moisturizer and mask went on the shelf. I even went back to the small alcove in the department store to buy more.

More, that is, except for the mask. Anytime a girl in the unflattering green apron brought up a mask to me, I smiled and told her I had a bit left…so would be back later for more.

I moved that bottle of mask at least three times over the next few years, before finally throwing it away. But I never used it again.

Ironically, I started esthetician school about six months after finally giving up on it. And a week after starting, I learned how to actually use the mask I’d thrown away. I also learned that the products I’d been purchasing were ALL WRONG for my skin type.


If only I had known.