I promised that this post would be superficial, and I wasn’t lying. Our Christmas provided a veritable cornucopia of fabulous skin products.
My daughters are pretty much obsessed with their pores. During one of our weekend trips to a soccer tournament in November, somewhere between game two and team dinner, M declared an emergency. She needed Bioré Pore Strips, stat. “Mom, please!” she begged, heedless of the rest of the carpool. “My skin right now–I’m looking really rough! I really need help!” Now, this child is blessed with pretty awesome skin for someone who is hip-deep in adolescence. I chided her a little bit, saying that I’m sure that plenty of kids would love to trade their skin problems for her “skin problems.” But I got her the pore strips, because I understand and completely agree that they are deeply, deeply satisfying. If you’re frustrated in your efforts to make the world a better place, well, you can instantly make your nose a better place! Just wait ten minutes and carefully remove a pore strip. And then, behold! Behold, I say! Observe the miniature stalactites of muck that you have extricated and know that your last ten minutes have been well-spent. Especially if you happened to be talking on the phone and folding laundry while the pore strip dried out. That, my friends, is magnificent multi-tasking!
So, yes. . . I get it.
Or I thought I did, until the girls took it to a whole new level. I picked up a couple of skincare-related frivolous gifts because, frankly, I was short on affordable gift ideas. Then M decided to buy some for J as a gift (“J always buys me a really great gift even though I never get her anything and it’s annoying!” the big sister huffed a week before Christmas. “So I’m going to get her a really good present.” Yeah, honey. That’s showing her.) And an aunt needed an idea. Next thing you know, we were acquiring a massive inventory. Like, if I were a character in Orange is the New Black, I totally could have scored some really amazing drugs or a gourmet meal from Red or something.
You might think that the bounty would make the girls blasé about these gifts. Nope. They were so excited. In fact, they were so deeply, dramatically excited that it became comical. My sister tried to make the gifts extra-fun by individually wrapping them and making it into a game of chance for who would get exactly what. They arrived while J was at gymnastics practice, and M was completely freaking out. She begged me to let her open them all, make her choices, and then re-wrap the leftovers for J. I said no. She was so full of giddy anticipation that I had to take a picture of her barely restraining herself from ripping into them:
It gets goofier. I thought that M was just excited to use the stuff and that once J got home, they’d have fun with the little game of chance. Oh, no. J hated the idea of leaving it up to chance.
“That’s not fair! What if one of us gets all the bad ones and one of us gets all the good ones?” J practically wailed.
“But there aren’t ‘bad ones’ and ‘good ones’,” I insisted. “They’re all going to be good ones. She’d only pick good ones. It will be more like, this one’s cucumber-melon and that one’s lemon-thyme.”
“Exactly!!” they both answered simultaneously. I am not kidding about this.
“Mom, Mom, please,” M was doing her best to be patient with my ignorant ass. “Will you just let us discuss how we’re going to do this, please?”
I may have rolled my eyes as I stepped away. They agreed that they should each unwrap half of the gifts with no obligations attached to the unwrapping process, and then they’d take turns picking their top choices and/or negotiate sharing deals.
Anyway, the good news about this is that they tried a bunch of products, and now I can tell you about the stand-outs.
A clear favorite is the Bioré Self-Heating One Minute Mask that arrived in their stockings because Santa was inspired by their love of the strips. Both girls liked that it was warm, and they felt like it really made a difference and “worked” on their skin. They also liked the Garnier SkinActive Clay Mask/Cleanser, deeming it “pretty good.” They were less impressed with the Pure Body Naturals Dead Sea Mud Mask, which is a bit surprising because its Amazon reviews are higher and it costs more than twice as much as the others. It was very pleasant, they said, but not particularly effective. In fact, when pressed by this reporter, they agreed that it was, in their opinion, the downright least effective mask. Now, adherents of this mask would probably argue that that’s because a high-quality mask which will bring all sorts of horrors to the surface, and what’s needed is commitment to the process. But we’re all about immediate gratification in this household.
When it comes to scrubs, M is a huge fan of the St. Ives Blackhead Clearing Green Tea Scrub, saying that the green tea smell is awesome, so that was one of her favorite new products.
M bought some facial mask packets from Target–I think the “Yes To” ones–and J found them to be pleasant, if not particularly effective.
I started looking at the tubes and became bummed out by the fact that the Garnier Skin Active Blackhead Eliminating Scrub contains microbeads. Dammit. I bought another product a while back that contains microbeads, because I had no idea they’re a bad choice. Which they are, because they’re teensy, teensy pieces of plastic that are so little the filters can’t catch them, and then they pollute the water supply and it’s your fault for encouraging them by purchasing the product. So, then what do you do? You’ve already bought the stupid microbeads, which was a bad choice, but then if you want to recycle the tube, you have to empty it, right? So you’re going to release the microbeads out into the world anyway, so why not exfoliate at the same time? Ugh, why is every choice fraught with peril?
And then, this made me look up animal testing, and pretty much most of these products test on animals. As do our daily favorites for skin, Dove, Aveeno, & Clean and Clear. Crap. Now I don’t know what to do about those.
However, these scrubby bath-time things are all lovely and cruelty free:
The girls liked these scrubs, and a surprise hit were the bath bombs from Lush. Now, I hadn’t even heard of Lush before M put their bath bombs on the list. But they’ve got a store in Crossgates, so I reported there for the holiday rush, and it was crazy. More like: It. Was. Crazy. I arrived on a Monday morning, and the shop had been largely cleaned out over the weekend, and the saleswomen were ripping open shipping boxes everywhere. There was a counter with bath bombs and the shoppers were basically forming a line to get access to the bath bombs.
Going to Lush feels a lot like going to a farmers’ market. Everything looks and smells fantastic and it’s all good for you and more expensive than you expected it to be. And yet you want it all. To emphasize this farmers’ market feel, some of products are created in giant wheels or cakes, and then they carve out a little portion for you and sell it wrapped up in paper (you can sort of see this if you click on this picture, although there are better examples. But M found it rather embarrassing that I took any pictures at all, so I was limited).
Anyway, if you know someone who’s a fan of, say, Ulta or Sephora, this is like their boutique liberal hipster cousin. We headed back after the holiday because after checking it out, I recommended a Lush gift card as one of M’s gifts.
The girls were so inspired by all of their gifts that they decided to do a spa day. J especially loves this. She’s found that, mysteriously, M is always patient and willing to “play” when the game is J-gives-M-massages-and-paints-her-nails. J decided M’s room needed ambience and snacks.
There’s also been a lot of follow-up, often consisting of a daughter sidling up to me and saying, “Mom, Mom! Feel my skin. Isn’t it soft and lovely? Smell me. No, really: Smell me. Don’t I smell awesome?”
Whatever the future holds, we’re facing it with some fantastic faces.