things I learned this summer

This summer I somehow found myself working for a beauty supply/esthetics school/spa, and it was a very Devil Wears Prada experience. I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to my looks, so when I started at the beginning of summer… my nails were cracked, my cuticles were bleeding, my ends were split, and my skin was a hot mess.

And being surrounded by all these beautiful women with perfectly coifed hair and beautiful ageless skin and outfits only made my… “differences” more obvious. It was a very Sesame Street moment–one of these things is definitely not like the others.

I honestly have no idea why I was hired in the first place. But, it turned out to be a really educational experience–I learned a lot about myself and my face. Since it was all mostly new information to me… I thought it might be beneficial to pass what I learned along to y’all.*

  1. A skin consultation is the best thing that will ever happen to you (and your face).
  2. Microdermabrasion and chemical peels–er, clinical exfoliations–work. And they aren’t nearly as scary as they sound.
  3. Masks are the bomb. Exfoliation is awesome.
  4. Wear sunscreen every damn day. You should wear at least a teaspoon of sunscreen on your face daily. And, no, the SPF in your foundation isn’t enough.
  5. Nail oil, cuticle butter, and a good hand cream are fucking essential. Invest in these immediately, especially my fellow Edmontonians–the dry winter is on its way and we all know the havoc that can wreak on our hands.
  6. Your late-20s is when the skin cell regeneration starts to slow down. Now is the time to nip the skin aging process in the bud–that means moisturizing, exfoliating, and WEARING SUN SCREEN.
  7. The difference between skin purging and breaking out. Purging refers to that old adage “it gets worse before it gets better”–skin reacts to treatments by pulling all toxins to the surface. Break outs are, well, you know what breakouts are. They last longer than a purge and if you think your skin care is causing them, switch it up (but keep in mind that the best thing you can do for you skin is maintain a consistent routine).
  8. Charcoal is great for detoxifying and pumpkin has anti-inflammatory properties–both are great for acneic skin (which I have, sigh). Citrus is also a breakout-busting superstar, but be careful–it can also make your skin sensitive to the sun. So WEAR SUNSCREEN.
  9. Biting your nails (or in my case, cuticles) stimulates growth, but not in the good way if y’all keep chowing down. So, biters, leave them the hell alone. Same goes for my fellow cuticle-pickers. Instead of biting/picking, moisturize! I found that the only thing that has kicked my cuticle-picking habit is replacing it with a cuticle-moisturizing habit.
  10. Pedicures can save lives. Pedicurists get all up close and personal with your feet–a part of your body you might not get the opportunity to examine all too often. And they know when something is up–if your pedicurist suggests you visit your GP, you’d better get to steppin’.

I think that about sums it up, beauty-wise. But I also learned another very valuable lesson along the way–the beauty industry has a really bad rap about being obsessed with what’s on the outside. But beauty isn’t about just looking good–it’s about taking care of yourself, and feeling good. I still rock my perm-bun everyday and I brutally ripped off my gel nails 7 days after they’d been meticulously applied (don’t worry, my cuticles are still intact). And there’s definitely some bullshit beauty products out there (do your research, please, and be critical of most studies conducted or funded by beauty companies) but getting into the routine of taking care of my skin and nails and cuticles and self makes me feel like I’m worth something. Not to the rest of the world, because y’all know those beauty standards don’t matter… but I’m worth something to me. And in the end, that’s what beauty is all about.

*I feel the need to add that I am in no way qualified to give this advice and all of it is based purely on my experience and research. If you have skin/nail/beauty questions, the best place to direct them is a certified dermatologist, aesthetician, or your GP.