Everyone has a “thing”. Yours might be weight, teeth, or hair. You obsess over it, check out everyone else’s, and are unfailingly judgmental of your own.

My thing is my skin.

When I was about twelve, I started to break out. Then it got worse. And worse. I tried tons of over-the-counter products, and doctor-prescribed antibiotics and creams. No improvement.

Finally by grade 10 (several long years later) my doctor referred me to a dermatologist, and I went on the miracle drug Accutane (which ranks right behind the morning-sickness drug Diclectin as my favourite pharmaceutical product of all time). There are many side-effects and Accutane is NOT for everyone, especially pregnant or nursing women. (Consider that my medical disclaimer.) Just to give you an idea of the seriousness of this: I had to take mandatory pregnancy tests at regular intervals throughout my time on the drug. Did I mention I was 15? Trust me, there was zero possibility, but the doctor wasn’t taking any chances.

Despite ridiculous dryness (to the point where I was coating my face with Vaseline!) my acne miraculously cleared up, and has been pretty much absent since then. When and if my daughters start to break out, I will be knocking down a dermatologist’s door for a prescription pronto, as I am painfully aware of what acne can do to a person’s self-esteem.

So, fast forward a certain number of years (okay, 18) and to this day I still hate my skin. There is rarely a bump, but the scarring (both discolourations and pitted spots) is oh-so-visible to me, and on top of that, my fair skin is starting to show my age (despite daily sunscreen since my early 20’s.)

After much research, I asked my doctor if I would be a candidate for Retin-A, as I believed that it would help with my two biggest issues: the lingering scars, and the appearance of fine lines.

It’s been a few months and I think the product is working (I’m so hard on myself that it would be difficult for me to admit I see improvement) but it created a new problem: excessive dryness, to the point where it was impossible for me to put any makeup on (even when I cut back to using the medication every third or fourth night). So the step I was taking to improve my self-confidence was actually having the opposite effect. I tried different moisturizers, but some weren’t powerful enough, and some left me greasy and shiny, which was not what I was going for. Changing the type of makeup wasn’t helping either, as no matter what I did, I ended up with flaky, peeling skin showing right through.

Recently I met (by which I mean the 2011 definition of “met”:  made acquaintance through the internet) Tracy Peart, the Toronto-based makeup artist to the stars. And when she says stars, she’s not kidding. She has worked with tons of television personalities, actors, and musicians, including Lisa Rinna, Bradley Cooper, Kelly Clarkson and…wait for it….even Justin Bieber!

I asked Tracy to help me out with my problem, as I would be willing to bet that a fair few celebs are Retin-A regulars, or have dry skin for whatever reason, so she must be used to getting them makeup-ready. She shared two important tips: 

1. I didn’t just need any old moisturizer, I needed a cream, and the thicker the better. Tracy recommended I check out Olay products, so I went to the drug store and picked up Olay Complete all day moisture creme with SPF 15 for sensitive skin.

2. With such excessive dryness, my makeup had to be a liquid or even a cream for better coverage, set with a little bit of loose powder if necessary. (No pressed powder or cream-to-powder foundations for me, as the powder will dry the skin.) Based on this tip, I purchased Maybelline Dream Liquid Mousse.
The verdict? Absolutely amazing. I put on the moisturizer right out of the shower, give it about ten minutes to sink in, and then apply the makeup over top. (Sometimes I put some extra cream on for good measure right before makeup application.) I haven’t had a problem with dryness since, and I feel so much more confident about my appearance.

So, my Retin-A regimen will proceed, as I continue to pursue the unattainable goal of “perfect skin”. In the meantime, I’ll fake it with my two new products.

Thanks, Tracy – especially for giving me tips that could be achieved at the drug store (total bill: $28.23). Be sure to follow Tracy for lots of other makeup tips and tricks, and feel free to leave me a comment about your “thing”…whatever it may be!

5 comments on “The One Where I Tell You What My Thing Is”

  1. I enjoyed this blog because I could relate to how you struggle with your "thing". You are right…we all have a thing and I find I focus on my "thing" all the time! So happy for you that you were able to have a happy ending!
    Krista S.

  2. I won't lie…my skin? Terrible. I went on accutane when I was 18 and that stuff was miraculous. My skin was flawless for the first time ever. It stayed that way till I had a baby and now at 30, I get breakouts all the time. It's embarrassing.

  3. I so hear you! I was on Accutane at 18 too… and did alright until I started having babies! And now I have the acne-riddled skin of a 15 year old. And to top it off, I am using Proactiv. And I still have horrible skin. Better than I would without it, but still awful.
    And now? I am in my mid-thirties, with acne and aging skin. It just doesn't seem fair somehow.

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