The Third Miracle
Day 29: First Aid Beauty
by Tania Sanchez
Look, I know the readers of this blog are looking for serious sainthood in their skin cream. As in Vatican-verified miracles. Well, the only miracle I’m asking for is that I get some moisturizing without irritation. Do I ask the impossible? Because I am dry, dry, dry. And then there’s my little moody skin problem. I don’t mean I get a zit once in a while or it stings when I wash my face. I mean if I put the wrong thing on I get eczema from forehead to collarbone, which I then have to attack with Protopic. And what is Protopic? Oh, it’s a chemotherapy drug, which they use to treat recalcitrant face eczema. If I don’t treat it, or I optimistically treat it only with shea butter and prayer, my eyelids peel. My forehead comes off in sheets. I look like I’m molting and going for my next instar on my way to pupation. The itch is so profound it feels as if I am being eaten alive by subdermal beetles. If I let it go too long, I have to take oral steroids. That’s Prednisone. It makes you hungry and puffy, you put on weight, and then you get actual ‘roid rage where you scream at your husband because he folded the kitchen towels wrong (and if you take it too often, say hello to osteoporosis). Also, after my skin calms down, because I am a brown person, I get to enjoy the sight of dark patches where the damage was for several months.
So this is not some little cosmetic vanity pursuit. This is a medical problem.
For a while I’d settled on Estée Lauder’s Vérité, an extremely mild line, far too expensive, which boasts of using no emulsifiers, since, according to Lauder, emulsifiers may make it easier for irritants to cross the skin barrier. I have no idea if this tale is any more scientifically valid than any of the other cockamamie skincare stories these companies dream up. All I know is that it has no fragrance and it feels cool and soothing, and it brings me the moisture without the problems.
But their moisture relief creme is $50 for 1.7 ounces. Which I move through in less than a month.
As a mere writer, and not a fictional Carrie Bradshaw writer capable of buying dozens of $400 shoes per year, I felt this expense could not possibly be warranted. Also, as a woman, I can never stop trying new things. So I moved on to Clinique’s Comfort on Call, a soothing balm with a butter-like consistency, olive-oil based. Cheaper? Yes. More effective? No. It was soothing, did not flare up my eczema, but alas, it brought on the zits. Tricked by Paula Begoun’s general praise and the company’s allergy-tested shtick, I tried several other Clinique formulas—Youth Surge (disaster), that yellow stuff (pointless oil slick), Even Better (stings! holy Moses, it stings!), Super Rescue Antioxidant Night Moisturizer (rash!)—and decided to cut that out. I tried a few nature-lovin’ hippie concoctions (Burt’s Bees, JASON, plain jojoba oil and vitamin E, Jurlique) to no avail.
I had entirely given up on finding anything new when Vérité was sold out everywhere and I was forced to try one more time. And there it was, in Sephora: First Aid Beauty, aka FAB.
FAB’s Ultra Repair Cream ($28 for 6 ounces!) is the cream of my dreams. I use it as a night treatment and for emergency dry patches. There’s no fragrance, no useless essential oils that might as well be live bees for all the good they do me. It contains good old colloidal oatmeal, that mainstay of DIY eczema emergency treatments and the effective ingredient in super-soothing drugstore favorite Aveeno, plus allantoin, a good anti-inflammatory soother. I ignore the eucalyptus oil, which could irritate, because it doesn’t me, but if you have a eucalyptus problem, avoid. There are ceramides, as in my favorite body cream Cerave, which is the only thing I put on after a shower these days. And for further barrier protection, there’s my old friend, dimethicone, which first did me so much good in Cetaphil, and which helps caulk up my skin’s patchy wall against the world. Hello, favorite ingredients!
I grabbed a tub of Ultra Repair before we took the kids skiing on their February break, fully expecting the combination of transatlantic plane ride (dry, dry, dry) and winter mountain air (thin atmosphere, UV damage, cold) to ruin my life. It never happened. I slicked on the FAB cream morning and night and carried it with me for the dryness emergencies that rarely emerged. It was just perfect. I had no trouble at all. No flakes, no redness, no itch. I beat the sun with a Lancôme 50 SPF lotion, and that was it.
My skin felt so nearly normal, I thought maybe I was cured miraculously and that my good fortune had nothing to do with the product at all. To test this exceptionally stupid theory, an airport security check robbed me of my jar of Ultra Repair, which I had mistakenly left in my carry-on bag, and which was way too big to take on board. I bought some innocuous scent-free moisturizer at a Greek pharmacy to hold me over for two weeks, while L was collaborating with a colleague in Athens. I could have joined a leper colony without skepticism by the end of my own experiment. As soon as we got back home, I bought another jar of FAB and went entirely back to normal.
I also noticed FAB had launched a daily face cream. At $18 for 2 ounces, I wasn’t sure it was as great a bargain as the jar cream, but it turns out I use but a wee amount (three pumps) to cover face and throat in the morning, and so far it works a treat. Again, it uses ceramides to keep skin soft and healthy.
FAB’s prices, in this delirious post-Creme-de-la-Mer era, are perfect for our lousy economic times. Their creams moisturize and cause no inflammation, which is all I ever wanted. And even though I never asked for any such thing, I see a reduction in the fine lines around my eyes and mouth, although maybe that’s just because I’m more cheered up and don’t spend so much time staring with despair in the mirror wondering where it all went wrong.
Anyway, please go out and buy a tub. That’ll keep them in business, which will keep me out of the doctor’s office. And that’s my entire reason for writing this article.
Disclaimer: I bought all this stuff myself at full price.
Credits: Melanie Parker/Veronica Lake in I Married A Witch