“Oil, water and antifreeze are to a car, what cleanser, toner & moisturiser are to your face” is an annual Facebook posting of mine reminding my friends to look after their engines. It normally occurs late autumn, early winter. (Note to self..it is important to securely replace the oil cap though.) The truth is that I have a fairly slapdash approach to my skincare… errrr “routine”. ‘Routine’, would be stretching the truth somewhat. Routine implies something that happens in an orderly and regular fashion. Often by the time my skin gets in contact with some moisturiser, I can positively feel it drinking it up, slurping at it, like a starving man with a giant soup bowl and a straw. It is not that I don’t care about my skin. It is not that, I am not vain and have no regard as to how I look. I do, I do. It’s just that it is a bit of a faff really and it is not dramatic enough. I like drama if the truth be told. So rather than a regular and boring but effective nightly, gentle, mild cleansing, toning & moisturising routine, I take somewhat of the industrial clean, power tool and brillo pad approach. This involves at least an hour in a locked bathroom. My skin is scrubbed and exfoliated to a millimetre of its epidermis. Some pungent face mask is applied to make me look like Marcel Marceau on steroids and then armed with an arsenal of creams and serums, I proceed to slap on so much moisturiser that that my face looks like a frosted meringue. It is a bit like binge drinking for the skin.
I once gave‘ Small’ the fright of her life, when she happened upon me in the bathroom in the full facial ‘de rigueur’ required for this operation. I had forgotten to lock the door. At this stage my face was so immobile I couldn’t verbally communicate.The bathroom was filled with the fumes of the anti mould cleaning spray, steam was rising from the steam cleaner yoke (c’mon if I’m going to be spending an hour in the bathroom I’m going to be multi-tasking). I had a plastic bag on my head as I was also re rejuvenating my hair colour (i.e. attempting to get rid of the ever increasing proportion of grey) and it was trickling down my forehead just a bit. ‘Small’s’ look of abject, petrified horror as I attempted to mouth “Out you go darling, it’s just Mammy, doing some cleaning” as she about turned and fled, is not one of my best parenting memories, especially as she woke up with a nightmare that night.
I have realised the thing about skincare is that, it is a bit like housework. You get one part of the house in order and it just shows up the mess everywhere else. It is somewhat like that, once I start on the face. There it is, after withstanding another onslaught, all pink and glowing through the tonne of cream and I will be pleased, triumphant even. Then I’ll make the mistake and lean in that little bit closer to the mirror. If the mirror could talk it would be bending my ear big time. This mirror is a failed wannabe fairytale kind of mirror, I wouldn’t dare ask it any of this ‘whom is the fairest of them all crap’. Being a passive aggressive type of mirror it just silently lets me stare into it and announces in my brain “hmm who do you think you’re kidding?” ,“laugh lines are wrinkles by another other name” and “ha yes that is another lovely bit of over achievement in oil production breaking out there on your chin”. Even if it is the middle of summer, that bloody mirror will beam images of Christmas and turkeys if my gaze dares to drop below chin level.
“What do you expect?” I’ll ask myself , time marches on and a whole heap of other cliches about tides & time and spring chickens do a mash up in my brain to Mr. Dylans ‘Forever Young’. I valiantly fight the urge to do the full military style, clinical inventory of the rest of my body cells and pull my robe belt as tight as it will go. With no small amount of resigned chagrin I accept that just about all my body parts are moving south. The truth is I’m lucky to get an hour in the bathroom and I’d need at least a full weekend ensconced in there to begin to address the rest of my largest organ (hence the annual spa, escape break with the women and Gideon for those laugh lines).
As I wipe the steam from the mirror and the dissolving creams out of my eyes I contemplate that sometimes it’s okay to know the general direction you’re headed. My innate philosophical optimism will begin to filter through (although I do think at this stage that I deserve some respite from having my face signposting my monthly hormonal changes) and I’ll think, could be worse and at least I still have good eyebrows and all of my teeth are my own. I certainly occupy my own skin with a good deal more confidence than ever before and bonus the bathroom is clean. If I am true to form, in another decade, I will be wistfully looking back at photographs of myself now. I’ll be thinking, God be with the days…. Look. I only had crows feet and not eagle’s talons and there’s no soakage in this crepe paper of a skin at all. I might even be nostalgic for spots. Now go check your oil & water levels.