I'll be turning 30 in a few months, and I confess, I'm less than thrilled about it. I'm not old, but I'm no spring chicken either. I'm at the point where things that happened 10 years ago aren't a hazy childhood memory, but bright shining images from my adulthood, albeit young adulthood. I understand now what all those adults meant when they said "it's like you're put on fast forward"...it seemed to take me forever to get to 21, and the time between high school and legal drinking age felt like a life sentence, made further humiliation with a rubber stamp emblazoned on my hand like the scarlet letter of my sheepish adolescence. But that's long gone. Long. Gone. As I climb the roller coaster hill toward 30, I want to go back in time and kick my younger self for not being more diligent about fitness, skincare and my overall health. I used to run on the sidewalks and now my hips ache when it rains. I never gave a thought to what I would look like when I got older, that was a long way off, I remember thinking, and I'll deal with it then. I think 30 is a hard age for women in particular-that's when you are no longer a young, beautiful girl, it's harder and harder to keep the weight off, cellulite arrives and wrinkles become a new factor-not to mention you still are dealing with acute acne!
It's hard to make the confession of vanity without seeming like a complete self absorbed neurotic indulgent, but, I will. I'm Kristen and I'm Vain. Kinda. I don't preen and stare at myself all day long, and I hardly think I'm the most beautiful thing, and there are definitely things I hate about my appearance, as well as things I've grown to appreciate, tolerate, and things I'm thankful for. I want to look good, and I see nothing wrong with that, so if you do think there is something wrong with a little vanity, you can judge me and snicker, and you can stop reading, because I doubt you'll like where this leads.
My vanity is weird, and I focus on areas of myself in lump sums. One month, I was freaked out about "jowls" because I didn't feel like my skin was as springy as it had once been, and my cheeks were fuller from being a little chubbier than I was used to, so I started drying my hair upside down, spending more time on my inversion table and spent money of creams that keep skin elastic. Another month I was worried about lip wrinkles, so I made a conscious effort not to pucker unnecessarily. I know what you're picturing, I'm walking around stone faced and kissing my husband by ramming my blank face and lifeless lips into his cheeks. No, not quite, I just didn't make pouting faces, or angry lips-I avoided the little meaningless things that triggered me to make a strange face where I clenched my lips, thus, leading to the inevitable lip wrinkles. I focus on my forehead, crows feet, sunken eyes and try to figure out how to bring my face back to it's once youthful life. know, I sound like a bit of a nutter, but I know I'm not alone. It's what girls do. We focus on our flaws and ways to improve them, hide them, ignore them and cope with them, real, imaginary, or exaggerated in our minds.
This week, I happened to be down in the ever fabulous Baltimore (for those who have an opinion on Baltimore based on John Waters kitsch and the Wire, there is a lot more to Charm City and it's surrounding burbs than you know!). I was doing a shoot, had a few meetings and was attending a party of the uber amazing Jennifer Grove of Sky Blue Events. While in Baltimore, I was staying with my good friend, client and beauty guru Madeleine Homes of La Papillon, who in my opinion (and many of our friends) should have her own television show. Madeleine is hysterically funny, refreshingly honest, humble, sweet and incredibly smart. She knows the beauty and skincare business like she's the matriarch of it all, and so I trust her with my face, which is the same as trusting her with my life, because I'm just that vain.
I've always been on the fence about plastic surgery, injectables, fillers and the like. On one hand, I'm very open to it because of the wonders it can achieve, and on the other, I love my cats, but I don't wanna look like them...
or like the artist formerly known as Kenny Rogers!
I prefer to age gracefully a la Demi Moore!
I was sulking about my skin and how I'm getting wrinkles and still dealing with clogged pores and the occasional zit, and Madeleine suggested I try a chemical peel. My mind immediately went to the episode of Sex and the City where Samantha had a peel and her face looked like Beef Carpaccio.
My heart began to flutter and nausea set in at the thought of chemicals eating away at a layer of my skin. I admit that my thoughts were fearful and completely and utterly ludicrous and irrational. "What if more than a layer of skin comes off?" "What if it gives me third degree burns" "what if it leaves me without a face, so I look like Skelator?
So, I asked Madeleine, who gently held my hand and explained to me that my skin was like an onion, and like an onion, the outer layer is rough, abused and often looks really undesirable, but underneath, the onion has fresh layers that are full of life and beauty. As I sat back on the table, my heart still racing, Madeleine gave me a Jack Sparrow fan to point at my face in case I felt a burn. I'm sure she could feel my heart pounding, since I was really nervous about the Chemical Peel. I was, after all, in virgin territory when it comes to sophisticated skincare and medical procedures like this.
My mind racing, Madeleine talked me through everything, giving me fair warning as to what I could expect. I always worry when I sign a medical waiver that I'll be the .0001% whose face falls off as a result of the procedure. First, Madeleine double cleansed my face to make sure it was free of dirt, debris and makeup. Then came the application of the chemical peel, which Madeleine explained was a combination of things that, coming from her, sounded perfectly normal and calming, although I missed some of it because my inner voice was yelping "OHMAGOSHOMAGOSHOMAGOSH", not because of any sensation, but because of something much worse-human anticipation! The peel went on gently, and Madeleine swabbed my face with it lightly. I could feel a slight tingling, and as the peel set in, the sensation mounted and all I can liken it to is that your face feels the way your mouth does when you bite unexpectedly into a medium hot pepper. It's not painful, it's not really a hot or heat, it's more spicy on the face. The peel is left on to activate over time, and Madeleine assured me that the peel self neutralizes, so I was in no danger of losing my face and becoming a walking skull. After the application, I got up and grabbed my things, feeling perfectly normal, face in tact. Madeleine told me to avoid touching or rubbing my face, and that I couldn't wash my face until the next morning, to really let the peel do it's job. She warned me my face might feel tight and that the peel could make me look a little yellower, although I noticed nothing major-just a slight yellowing, but nothing jaundicey by any stretch. She gave me a little at home care kit for cleansing, moisturizing and sun protection. Since the skin peeling will be revealing fresh new skin, that new skin will be very sensitive, so I need to be extra careful with the sun. And speaking of sun, Madeleine said the peeling would take a few days, and with the procedure performed on Thursday, I should be done "molting" by Tuesday or Wednesday, and that the peeling would be like a sunburn, but that I should not peel the skin, just let it naturally slough off, or gentle massage it while cleansing, or else I could hurt my new skin. The most difficult part was not peeling my skin off-since my face was basic molting like a snake, and the hardest urge to resist was to scratch, because my face did itch for a day or two, on and off, just enough to make me really want to scratch the bejeezus out of my fragile new skin. But I held strong, snuck a few little pulls of the dead skin, since I'm human and can't resist the urge to peel skin or pop bubble wrap, but all in all, I was a good little patient, following Madeleine's easy to follow instructions, and within 3-4 days, I was pretty much normal looking again.
I must say, I'm glad I took the plunge and let Madeleine have her way with me, because my skin is much more radient, it's softer, and those fine lines aren't so noticeable. All the nervousness and anticipation, along with the social stigma of getting my feet wet in the world of cosmetic enhancement was well worth it. In the end, no matter what number my age is and how I'm feeling, I have only this one face to present to the world, so I'd better take care of it!