Lastly, I hardly ever use any skincare products.
That’s right. In an age where “prep with me” content dominates TikTok and influencers are offering 30-step makeup routines, I’m stuck using three products a day. Less, if my perioral dermatitis is particularly severe: CeraVe cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen. (“Gentle cleansers and/or a gentle glycolic or sulfur wash and gentle moisturizing of ceramide-containing products are great, simple, gentle skin-care regimens,” Stevenson says.) Each costs $12 to $15. at CVS. So far this is the only routine that has kept my face in a reasonably clear state. Most people my age have a bathroom cabinet that rivals that of a top shelf. Mine, however, looks like a cosmetically clueless fifth-grader.
In fact, I used CeraVe from middle school through my early high school years. Hormonal, clumsy and knowing nothing about the beauty, i got it because my cool friend swore it was the best way to prevent breakouts. Little did I know that she was more unsure of her appearance than I was. She had recently started taking Accutane—CeraVe and Cetaphil, ultimately, are also safe choices for acne sufferers. In fact, its sweet reputation is the main reason why in 2020 the brand went viral on TikTok and flew off store shelves across the country.
As an adult user, I feel a new appreciation for these no-frills brands that are accessible, affordable, and a lifesaver for those of us with damaged skin. Still, it’s strange to step back from the high-end skincare craze when it’s continually being marketed to you. As a 30-year-old woman, my browser is littered with targeted ads for $300 miracle creams. Instagram post suggestions for bustling beauty startups with pastel interiors fill my feed. A sign reading “Getting old is getting old” stares at me in the metro.
I would be lying to you if I didn’t admit that I felt anxious when I read something about how skin care ingredients should be organic and all natural, or how someone my age should be under retinoids. I still feel strange not participating in an industry that society tells me, both subtly and overtly, that I really should be.
But then I remember Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer who became obsessed with finding the Fountain of Youth. The waters, he believed, would restore youth to anyone who drank or bathed in them. He searched all his life but never found it. Turns out the fountain was nothing more than a myth.