My obsession with skin care quickly ramped up in 2020. The isolation of the pandemic didn’t help. I stared at my skin all day on Zoom meetings. I became engrossed with beauty influencers who posted their skin routines and flawless selfies online. I asked everyone I met what they used on their skin, and promptly changed my own routine accordingly. I read about seven-step regimens, watched Gua sha massage tutorials, and researched expensive serums. There were new skin-care routines for every season, countless holy grail ingredients that people swore by, and an endless parade of influencers touting the benefits of botox, slugging, and ice rollers.
“Social media recommendations are often what we consider anecdotal evidence,” explains Dr. Elyse Love, M.D., FAAD, a Manhattan-based board certified dermatologist. “This means one person tried it and loved it. For aesthetics, this type of advice can be helpful, but it often leads those with true skin concerns (eczema, rosacea, acne) down a rabbit hole of trying product after product after product.”
I had taken up residence in this rabbit hole. Skin care was all I could think or talk about, much to my husband’s dismay. I switched cleansers, over-exfoliated, and wasted hours researching, trying, and returning products that weren’t right for my skin. I went to bed reading about one product, then woke up and ordered another one. I tried to keep all the buzzy ingredients straight—hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, AHAs and BHAs—but my brain was drowning in skin-care jargon. Were oils good? How many acids were too many? What was a peptide and ceramide?
“Our society has become obsessed with skin and skin care in an unhealthy way,” says Dr. Love. “The baseline knowledge of the average patient has increased in the past two years as people spend more and more time consuming content. The question, though, is how much does the average person really need to understand about skin care? Skin-care hacks are the new diet hacks, and they promote a superficial relationship with your skin and your body.”
My relationship with my skin was rooted in a fantasy of quick fixes and one-size-fits-all perfection. I would take any pill or try any product that promised to make my outsides look good. When I considered simply going back on Spironolactone even though my doctor had cautioned against it, I realized I was willing to jeopardize my health for my vanity. I thought about my skin constantly: In the morning, I pulled away from my husband to examine my face in the mirror. I I struggled to focus during conversations, wondering if people were judging my complexion. Eventually, my mental gymnastics pushed me to a breaking point. I was sick and tired of comparing myself to others, wasting money, and chasing one quick fix after the next. I needed help.