distraction: a compelling case for sunblock

On August 23, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

Artist Thomas Leveritt set up an ultraviolet camera and viewing monitor in Prospect Park to reveal the hidden effects of UV light on skin. I’m fully converted to the virtues of sunscreen so this video is preaching to the choir, but this is a powerful message. 

His description, “We showed people what they looked like in ultraviolet, & wondered aloud if they wanted to put on some damn sunscreen already.”

Great song, too.

image and video from Thomas Leveritt via becauseimaddicted

freckles

On June 15, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

When I was a child I liked the idea of having a number of features I did not have. I didn’t necessarily dislike the features I did have, quite the contrary, it was more that I wanted to have some others, too (sort of simultaneously, or interchangeably). Why, for example, could my eyes not be one of my favorite colors, purple or gold? At least some of the time? And shaped more like almonds, please?

What pleasure if I had had auburn hair that fell in loose waves. Why could I not be a bit older? Say, 37?* Some of it was a greener grass thing (wanting straighter hair, for example, which I would not have for anything now), but for the most part they were just preferences plucked out of who knows where. Some chimera of admired people and characters. I remember ardently wishing I had copper scales instead of skin at one point, for a long while.

*For some reason I was very keen to be 37. I don’t know how I came upon this number (at around age 8 or 9 this would have been), or why it stuck, but basically I’m still curious to see what happens, and have high hopes for 37.

And why, why, could I not have even a smattering of freckles?

I have zero freckles.

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This was my favorite blanket, elaborately cross-stitched with Raggedy Ann and Andy. It’s rather raggedy itself now but it survives. I am maybe 6 here. Already showing a penchant for capes. I think all children instinctively understand the appeal of the cape.

I have only a few so-called beauty marks which could not be mistaken for freckles by any stretch. And hyperpigmentation from scarring, which let’s not even talk about.

Freckles are decidedly in at the moment and a lot of fine examples are showing up, reminding me of my old wishlist.

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There is such charm in freckles. Often associated with youth but I have found them wonderful on older skin as well. Older women, especially. Older mixed race women especially. They fall now solidly into that category of things I think excellent on other people.

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I have since learned that I can fake all of the things I once wanted the option of having (I still want those options, basically – I am so consistent as that**), provided I am willing to put in the effort. Which usually I am not, but once in a while, for fun…

I didn’t realize then how easy my concept of interchangeable features would one day be to implement.

**It hasn’t escaped my notice (well, not now, but it did escape my notice for many years), that freckles, purple eyes and wavy auburn hair describe Barbie’s friend Midge, which doll I wanted in a certain incarnation for a few years running, and found unutterably beautiful.

At the same time isn’t it a fine thing to be just as I am? Just more-or-less-with-a-few-tweaks-here-and-there-because-after-all-there’s-always-room-for-improvement as I am?

I think so.

Faux freckles are on the horizon. For one afternoon, at least. Golden eyes, too.

One thing at a time.

images via pinterest

history: grooming is my favorite pastime

On February 27, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

Sure painting and drawing, sure knitting and crafts, sure cooking and organizing and shopping and eating, sure hanging out with friends and writing and photography, sure calligraphy and wine and Shakespeare and the 19th century novel…but what I really love? What I do whenever I get the chance? What I find maximally calming and therapeutic and satisfying? What I put hours of attention and effort into, and investigation, and all the money it takes?

Yasuyuki Tagaki, Untitled #10, Forest. 2011 (via artligue.fr)

Yasuyuki Tagaki, Untitled #10, Forest. 2011 (via artligue.fr)

Grooming.

I groom.

O how I groom. O the tools. O the unguents. O the potions. O the experimentation. O the time.

No centimeter of my body escapes care.

Like weeding a garden, editing a text (I find editing to be a fitting metaphor for much of my life), cultivating a path through the wilderness…

Yasuyuki Tagaki, Untitled #5, Forest. 2011 (via artligue.fr)

Yasuyuki Tagaki, Untitled #5, Forest. 2011 (via artligue.fr)

 

This means clipping and trimming, oiling and treating, masking and exfoliating, cleansing and brushing and smoothing and massaging and just…addressing in the most comprehensive way.

I liked what I heard someone say recently, if you had only one suit to wear for your whole life, imagine the care you would take with that suit. I like this way of thinking about the body, particularly the skin.

into: face oils

On February 16, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

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I have naturally oily skin but I like to treat it as if it is sensitive, dehydrated skin. Oily ≠ hydrated.

My preferred method of hydrating, protecting, and nourishing my skin is: face oils. For years now they have nearly taken the place of moisturizer altogether, especially at night, and my skin hasn’t been this soft and healthy since…before puberty. The lighter oils aren’t any greasier/heavier than a standard sunscreen, and many absorb completely within half an hour or so. They are also extremely soothing after exfoliation or skin treatments and rarely cause the stinging that the chemicals in some moisturizers can.

A good quality oil is often cheaper than a good quality moisturizer, and a little goes a long way. Most can be used for your hair or in the kitchen as well (not to mention as makeup removers and cleansers). I find dropper bottles the most convenient. Not too fussed about brands here, I just look for organic, 100% pure options and go for whatever is reasonably priced. Different oils provide different benefits, and I like to rotate several depending on how my skin is feeling on a given day.

argan oil.  Healing and nourishing, antioxidants, fatty acids, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard. Lightweight, absorbs quickly, no scent. I like this one and this one.

apricot kernel oil. Vitamin A & fatty acids. Healing and good for especially sensitive skin. Also quite light, and, like argan oil, good for when the skin is blemish-prone.

rosehip seed oil. Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, good for skin regeneration and treatment of scarring. You can go not so cheap(though I found this one discounted at TJ Maxx), or you can go really not so cheap. Downside that this dyes your pillow orange, upside is your skin the next day. Thick and rich, can really only be used at night or on isolated dry patches.

jojoba oil. Similar to the skin’s natural oil so it absorbs beautifully and has no distinct odor. Trader Joe’s has a good price. Inexpensive enough to use all over the body as well.

sweet almond oil. I tend to use this on my body rather than my face as it is especially moisturizing, inexpensive and has almost no odor. Absorbs well into the skin (unlike, say, baby oil, which is basically mineral oil, which provides a barrier of protection  but is difficult for skin to absorb (like petroleum jelly)). Great carrier oil for making your own blends. I like to add random essential oils to scent it (many of which also have skin benefits, but do your research first). Recommend frankincense (go smell frankincense), patchouli (not just for the 60s anymore), chamomile, lavender, peru basalm, ylang ylang.

Then there are blends, which can be very expensive indeed. Watch for cheaper blends bulked up with cheap oils like safflower. They will moisturize but don’t have the benefits a concentrated, high quality oil will. I have some of these but they are for the oil-guzzling body, not the face.

I don’t regret acquiring the Clarins rebalancing oils, which are precious but smell amazing and are packed with great nutrients. The Blue Orchid one smells especially awesome. Kind of a sweet, light, compelling patchouli. [Men, go put this on your face and just see what happens.] If, like me, you have a thing for cardamom, try the Santal one. Or, you know, choose one based on your skin concern. Smell before you buy, is what I say about these.

I’ll do a separate post about the oils I like for my hair, which are many. Will also soon experiment with olive oil, avocado oil, hazelnut oil, and castor oil in various contexts. We’ll see how it goes.

N.B. I didn’t like evening primrose oil, which, without heavy dilution with some nice-smelling stuff, smells actually rancid. Some oils should be stored in the refrigerator as they will go rancid, but this one smells unbearable anyway.

SKIN LOVE: the things I do for my skin [face]

On February 8, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

I decided a long time ago that one of those things I want in life, one of those things I will do whatever it takes to achieve (insofar as I can achieve it with the raw materials) is beautiful skin.

[Probably because mine is, in its natural, neglected state (and in its ineptly handled state), pretty awful.]

Beautiful skin is, to me, beauty. You know, the kind that is not on the inside.

So, I:

  • drink water
  • change my pillowcase every other day, or more
  • sanitize my phone regularly
  • buy it presents
  • eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts
  • cleanse gently and thoroughly, taking my time with lots of massaging
  • treat with products tailored to how it feels that day, spot-treat dry or spotty areas
  • use various masks as inspired, for different effects
  • use broad-spectrum sunscreen daily
  • take birth control (this is a drastic step but has made a tremendous difference in the quality of my skin, which is prone to hormonal acne. Probably the single most effective step in combating my problem skin, and nowhere near the most expensive. Luckily I don’t experience any negative side-effects)
  • take vitamins to strengthen and nourish skin. On rotation (not every day): lysine, flaxseed oil, biotin, evening primrose oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, coconut oil
  • nourish with vitamin C serum at night (topical vitamin C and other citrus products make the skin especially sensitive to the sun), and various nourishing (alcohol-free!) toners in the day
  • drink more water
  • nourish additionally with various natural oils (see face oil post)
  • make decisions about which products to use based on the premise that my skin is sensitive (though it’s technically not in the way that skincare companies mean…really all skin is, particularly the face, neck, and chest), and should be treated gently whenever possible
  • avoid touching unless hands are freshly washed, and even then
  • clean and sanitize any tools or products that touch my face as needed (with makeup, work clean, and sanitize where relevant)
  • exfoliate gently and regularly and
  • treat with products that promote cell-turnover and regeneration to avoid congestion of the pores (my skin needs help with this)
  • treat with products that lighten or break down the melanin of hyper-pigmentation and balance skin tone
  • add extra oil or moisturizer if I it is especially cold, dry, or windy, or if I know my face is going into harsh conditions
  • ask what it needs, and watch for signs of distress
  • drink more water

Now that these are all habits I don’t consider them laborious but, writing them out, I guess it is a lot. I find it easy to keep up with regimens that show definite results, however, and each step has a purpose (and concordant logic). One thing I enjoy about skin is how individual it is [Naturally your skin will not need everything mine does.], and how attention to detail is rewarded. Give your skin what it needs and it will show.

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